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The 2003 Washington Area Music Association Awards will be given out as planned on Feb. 15 at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Va. But that’s no testament to the punctuality of the association’s members: They submitted so few “Wammie” nominations, says WAMA President Mike Schreibman, that the original Nov. 6 nomination deadline was extended by about two weeks.
And this isn’t the first year it’s happened. Because the group wants to collect nominating ballots from as many of its members as possible—usually around 20 percent of its roughly 1,000 members—before compiling a voting sheet, the deadline gets pushed back. “If you keep reminding them about it, they eventually get to it,” Schreibman says.
Eventually they did get to it, this year nominating 533 musicians, producers, engineers, songwriters, executives, recordings, studios, and Web sites in 83 categories across 21 genres. Schreibman expects a better voter showing—around 25 percent—for the final ballot, which went out on time last month. (“The final ballot is much easier, because you just check a box and send it in,” he says.)
Unlike the Grammy race, in which voters are encouraged to nominate only within their own field for all but the most general awards, the Wammie process allows WAMA members to nominate anyone to any category, regardless of expertise. Schreibman acknowledges perennial talk of switching to a Grammy-style system, but WAMA’s board hasn’t deemed a change necessary, bowing to the preferences of what he deems “a wider, wiser group.”
This time around, that wider wisdom led to a slate of nominees for Musician of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Album of the Year that’s heavy on roots, blues, and folk artists and light on rock, electronic, go-go, and hiphop. Schreibman sees this as a reflection of WAMA’s membership base. “No matter what you do, you’ll always be wrong,” he says of complaints about nominees. “It’s a problem that every organization that does something like this has.”
The problem might be best reflected in the competition in the Rock Duo/Group category, where the shortlist features such bands as frat-boy favorites O.A.R., arena-rock stowaways the Nils Lofgren Band, and modern rockers Good Charlotte—all only marginally local.
Absent from the Rock Duo/Group list are genuinely D.C.-based bands that have signed to labels, embarked on national and international tours, or released albums to nationwide critical acclaim. Many of those snubbed, however, are taking the rejection fairly well:
•Amy Domingues, singer and cellist, Garland of Hours “Oh, it doesn’t really affect me….I’m not surprised that I’m not nominated, so I could hardly be disappointed.”
•Randy Scope, drummer, Washington Social Club “Well, I guess it’s just an honor not to be nominated….We’re not running off to the music store to pawn our equipment yet. We’re going to press on.”
•Justin Moyer, singer, bassist, and drummer, El Guapo [via e-mail] “El Guapo has never been nominated for a Wammy, and I’m not sure how that whole thing works anyway…so…no big deal? Also I’m in the Bahamas, so it’s even less of a big deal.”
•Mike Scutari, drummer, the Carlsonics “I’m kind of nonplused. I didn’t even know anything about it…but I don’t want to talk smack about Good Charlotte. They seem like nice guys. They seem pretty centered.” —Mike DeBonis