A Brief History of the MAMAs
The Madison Area Music Awards was conceived in the summer of 2003. Rick Tvedt, the publisher of Rick’s Café, a Madison-based newspaper dedicated to local musicians and artists, had been thinking about a local award show that would better represent the sheer volume of talent he was discovering while getting Rick’s Café off the ground. It was May of that year and Tvedt was expressing his frustration over a recent Madison Music Awards show promoted by one of the city’s radio station and how it didn’t do justice to the breadth of artists in the area. At the time, Stephen Ellestad, a recent transplant from Baltimore, was assisting Tvedt with graphic design. The two were talking with Mark Adkins outside his now-defunct Brokenshit Studios on Winnebago Avenue. Adkins and Ellestad were convincing Tvedt that he was the catalyst to get such an award show off the ground. In August, the formal plans had been committed to paper for what was to become the Madison Area Music Awards. Almost immediately the organization was set up to benefit a charity, the decision being made that there was no better cause than music and kids.
The first MAMAs were held at the Orpheum Theater on Sunday, March 28, 2004 and made an instant impression on the Madison area community. Tvedt formed a production team that included an elaborate stage set, ultra-professional lighting and a complete television crew with a remote production vehicle parked outside. The show was one of the largest productions ever conceived on a local scale and came off without a hitch. Ten cameras captured the event and a one-hour edited version was made available on DVD and broadcast on UPN-14 television. Though the show was a success, it was a financial drain on the newly-formed MAMAs organization and Tvedt found himself in the red to the tune of $12,000.
Despite the success of the first MAMAs, there were doubts that there would ever be a second. The first event was almost entirely a volunteer effort and efforts to build the show into a self-sustaining event were extremely difficult. Without a board of directors Tvedt found it difficult to contract sponsors. But through sheer determination, the core group of organizers moved forward and planning began for the second annual MAMAs. Ellestad left the organization during this process and the show struggled with survival pains and growing concerns that the selection process was too democratic. Despite incredible obstacles and personal sacrifice, the second MAMAs were held on March 26, 2005. The show was moved to the Wisconsin Union Theater and the event occupied the entire Memorial Union over spring break with an elaborate VIP pre-show gathering in the Lakeside on Langdon Cafeteria and a post-awards show in the party atmosphere of der Rathskellar. The show was again a success and although most of the debt had been erased, there were still no funds to make cash donations for the organization’s charitable purpose. Thankfully, Good-n-Loud Music stepped up to the plate that year, becoming a MAMAs sponsor and donating nearly twenty guitars and basses and some amplifiers to the Madison Metropolitan School District.
During the second year, Roy Elkins, president of Broadjam, Inc. expressed his interest in getting involved with the MAMAs. Elkins’ involvement solidified MAMA, Inc., board members began to commit and the registration and voting processes were moved online to take advantage of systems that were already in place at Broadjam, Inc., who handles those functions for the Academy of Country Music. The third year saw many technological advances as a result, the institution of membership in the organization and an improved selection process that let voters rate the music. The third annual Madison Area Music Awards were held on March 18, 2006, again at the Wisconsin Union Theater, following a similar format to the previous year’s show. Memberships generated $3,200 in funds to be donated to the school music programs. The MAMAs organization was now very well entrenched in the community with an increased credibility.
There has been no time off for the organizers of the MAMAs, who immediately began appealing to the community for volunteers and continued to actively pursue board members. The summer of 2006 has seen the formation of subcommittees, which target specific areas such as legal, financial, outreach, school committees to get students and teachers more involved, and genre committees to secure more registrations. The board is currently comprised of seven members with Elkins as the chair, and Tvedt serving as Executive Director. The 2007 campaign promises to be the breakout year for the MAMAs, with a major television marketing campaign in production and new partnerships with sponsors including Einstein Wireless. Einstein approached the MAMAs to help them promote a new cell phone that was capable of downloading music. The Wisconsin-based corporation wanted to promote Wisconsin musicians with their marketing campaign and an agreement was reached which makes Einstein a major supporter. A compilation CD, Jam Packed: Music for your Mobile Lifestyle, Vol. 1, was produced in tandem with Einstein and was released in July of 2006. MAMA, Inc. will now establish four events (including the awards show) to be spread out across the year to help raise funds and awareness.
The forecast looks sunny for the MAMAs. The event has been moved to the more appropriate Barrymore Theater where it is sure to sell out. Plans are underway for another elaborate show that will once again highlight local talent with various performances spanning many genres of musical style. Each year the MAMAs also feature a live performance by a youth group, highlighting the organization’s commitment to fostering the next generation of musicians.