SAMMYS 30th Anniversary Celebrates the Central New York Music Community

Second gallery by Alix Kohli for 315 Music

The Syracuse music community braved a winter storm warning Friday night to descend upon the Palace Theater in Syracuse for the Syracuse Area Music Awards. 63 artists were nominated among 14 categories out of a total of 233 submissions from artists throughout Central New York.

Founded 30 years ago by Frank Malfitano and Liz Nowak, the first edition was held at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, and while it hasn’t been held every year, it has since become an annual highlight of the Central New York music calendar.

The two-day event included a Hall of Fame induction dinner upstairs at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Willow Street on Thursday night. This year’s inductees were Larry Hoyt, a musician, promoter, photographer, and long-time host of “Common Threads,” heard each Sunday on WAER-FM; Carolyn “Dessie” Kelly, a blues and gospel singer who has fronted her own band as well as the Roosevelt Dean Band; Doug Thaler, a promoter, manager, and musician who performed in Ronnie James Dio’s first band during his days in Cortland. Thaler also managed Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and others throughout his career.

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Irving Kaufman

The Lifetime Achievement Award was posthumously given to Irving Kaufman, a pioneer of early recorded music and vaudeville who made over 6000 recordings in a career that spanned from 1914 to 1974.

The Music Educator of the Year was Kevin Dorsey, a music teacher at the Seymour Dual Language Academy in the Syracuse School District.

An award for Best Single was new this year and won by alt-rock band All Poets & Heroes for their song “Give it to Me Straight.” The band couldn’t accept their award in person as they have recently relocated to Nashville. They were, however, in attendance via Facetime.

This year’s ceremony also featured the youngest SAMMY recipient ever, Dylan Michael. The 13-year-old shredder won the Brian Bourke Best New Artist Award. He commented as he approached the podium that he may need a stool. His father and playing partner, Mike Spadoro, gave him a boost as Dylan dedicated the award to his deceased mother.

Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night was when 23 SAMMY Hall of Famers made their way to the stage for the presentation of the Founders Award, presented by SAMMYS founder Frank Malfitano to his partner at the first SAMMYS and current president of the SAMMYS board, Liz Nowak. Nowak’s speech gave credit to the ceremony’s longevity to the musicians gracing the stage and those in the audience. She was accompanied by her daughter and Nashville musician, Kim Monroe in what truly was an emotional moment for all in the house.

Neil Daley took home the Jack O Bocchino Spirit of the SAMMYS Award for his dedication to the Syracuse area music scene and Jane Stebbins-Skowron was the recipient of the Community Spirit Award.

The night was punctuated with stellar live performances from 2022 Best Rock winners Not Robots!; Trauma Cat, winners of the 2022 Best Alternative SAMMY; 2013 and 2015 Best R&B recipients, Brownskin Band; and newly inducted Hall of Famer Carolyn Kelly and her band.

The full list of this year’s winners and photo galleries from the celebration are below.

The Syracuse Area Music Awards takes place on the first Friday in March each year. An independent panel of music industry professionals and educators from around the country, led by James Abbott, reviews the submissions and makes their selections based on their merit within their genre.

2023 SAMMY Recipients:

Best Jazz: London McDaniel – The Christmas Album

Best Americana: John Cadley – I Never Knew

Best Other Style: Tom Rasely – Nylon

Best Jam Band: Adam Brooks – Ain’t All About You

Best Pop: Cloey Tierno – I Fell in Love with the Rain

Best Hard Rock: Stone Thrower – This is Permanent

Best R&B: Shawn Seals & SMX – Session Files #1

Best Hip-Hop or Rap: Slick Fashionz & Queeto ABF – The World Is Yours

Best Singer/Songwriter: Paul Case – This Love

Best Electronic: Everett – Alien’s Attempt

Best Country: Steven Cali – Own Kinda Fix

Best Rock: Glass Image – Mixed Emotions

Best Alternative: Bell & Sgroi – Candy Apple

Best Single: All Poets & Heroes – “Give It To Me Straight”

Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist: Dylan Michael

People’s Choice Best Artist or Band: Cam Caruso

People’s Choice Best Event or Music Series: Oswego Harborfest

People’s Choice Best Academic or Musical Organization: Oswego High School Marching Buccaneers

People’s Choice Best Venue: Gibby’s Irish Pub

Jack O Bocchino Spirit of the Sammys Award: Neil Daley

Community Spirit Award: Jane Stebbins-Skowron

Founder’s Award: Liz Nowak

Hall of Fame Inductees:

Carolyn Kelly

Doug Thaler

Larry Hoyt

Lifetime Achievement: Irving Kaufman

Hall of Fame Music Educator: Kevin Dorsey

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