‘Wammies’ Awards Fête Back At F.C.’s State Theatre Sunday

indiaarieThe Little City will welcome big names from the Washington, D.C.-area music scene this Sunday night for the 24th annual “Wammies” award ceremony, being held for the sixth-consecutive year at the historic State Theatre in the City of Falls Church.

Big Names in D.C. Music Light Up Little City

The Little City will welcome big names from the Washington, D.C.-area music scene this Sunday night for the 24th annual “Wammies” award ceremony, being held for the sixth-consecutive year at the historic State Theatre in the City of Falls Church.


MUSIC SENSATION India.Arie (right) is seen recording last month at Cue Recording Studios in Falls Church, which has been nominated this year for a “Recording Studio” Wammie Award. With Arie are musicians Idan Raichel (left) and Dobet Gnahore (center). (Photo: Aubrey Gemignani)

The Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) holds the Wammies every year to recognize local musicians, producers and countless others from a myriad of musical genres.

WAMA President Mike Schreibman told the News-Press he expects the event, which already has people talking more so than in previous years, to sell out again this year.

“There’s been more of a buzz this year about the Wammies,” said Schreibman, who’s already been inundated with e-mails, in addition to what he called a visible chatter circulating the Internet.

Regardless of the hype, State Theatre’s owner Tom Carter said the 600-person attendance cap is necessary after opening the floodgates to an unlimited audience years ago. He said extra tables and chairs will be brought into the venue this year to accommodate the crowds.

“We learned the hard way a couple of years back when we didn’t put a cap on it, so that show got a little crowded,” said Carter, but added the State Theatre has never encountered a rowdy crowd of fans during the Wammies. “Then again, we’ve never really catered to a crowd that’s been too rebellious.”

More than 90 awards will be handed out to this year’s nominees, one of those hopefuls being F.C.’s very own Tom Principato. He’s nominated this year for Blues/Traditional R&B Instrumentalist.

The 23-time Wammie award-winning guitarist will be up early Wammies day, Feb. 28, to play a 12:30 a.m. concert at JV’s Restaurant in Falls Church, alongside Dave Chappell. Though Principato continues to be busy, with concert dates lined up through July in Germany, Switzerland and France, one thing he isn’t is expectant of a victory.

“It’s always a pleasure to be nominated. If I win, that’s nice and if someone else gets it, that’s okay too,” said the Wammie veteran.

Principato added that it’s always hard to say who will win, but that he “usually does win in that category” and “there’s a good chance” he’ll be taking home the title again this year.



Kojo Nnamdi (Photo: Courtesy Lauren Zumpano)

He’s especially pleased WAMA has chosen the State Theatre as its venue once more. Principato inherited the house he grew up in on Annandale Road from his parents and can recall seeing movies at the nearby theater in the 60s, making it especially nostalgic to be winning awards at the same venue as an adult.

Schreibman called Principato a “good artist” who’s “been there since the beginning with WAMA,” but couldn’t give any details regarding who of hundreds of nominees this year he thinks has a good chance of winning in any of the categories. He told the News-Press, however, that the votes were tallied as of last Thursday and confirmed this year’s Wammies will bring multiple wins for some nominees and ties for others.

“There’s a lot of surprises this year. People who have not won before are winning,” said Schreibman of the ballots, closed as of Jan. 7.

Nominated for a Recording Studio Wammie is F.C.-based Cue Recording Studios, which has served names like Mariah Carey, Dave Matthews Band and the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, to name a few.

Cue Recording Studios Owner Jeff Jeffrey said it’s great to be nominated, having just found out the news when the News-Press contacted him for comment last week.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have been nominated for the last 20 years, and even won three times back in the 90s,” said Jeffrey, adding, however, that “a lot of the same people win year after year who seem to be in [WAMA’s] inner circle.”

“[Cue Recording] doesn’t just work with WAMA people; we work with so many others, so that Association is kind of a clique,” he said, noting local producers such as F.C.’s own Jim Ebert continue to go without nomination.

Chief engineer of Cue Recording and George Mason High School graduate, Ebert mixed and recorded for Meredith Brooks’ Blurring the Edges, featuring the popular single “Bitch” that ranked No. 1 on the Top 40 Mainstream and No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100 charts in 1997. He also produced Honor By August, nominated this year for Modern Rock Group.

Though Jeffrey said WAMA “recognizes a small group of people,” he went on to laud, “I’m a big fan of WAMA and what they stand for to perpetuate the local music scene.”

WAMA, a non-profit organization, was established in 1984 to raise the profile of the D.C. music scene in order to compete with historically musical cities. A founding member, Schreibman said he wanted to “let people in the community and the industry outside Washington know there was great music in D.C. much like Nashville, L.A. or New York.”


Bill Wax (Photo: Courtesy Ross Herosian)

Hosting this year’s event are three area broadcast personalities: Kojo Nnamdi of “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” and “The Politics Hour” on WAMU’s 88.5 FM, as well as the “Evening Exchange” broadcast on WHUT-TV; Bill Wax of B.B. King’s Bluesville on XM Radio; and Jim Bohannon of Westwood One’s “America in the Morning” and “The Jim Bohannon Show.”

Performers slated for this year’s Wammies include Afro Bop Alliance, Be’la Dona, Tabi Bonney, Marti Brom, Elikeh, Hotspur, Patty Reese Band, Rosslyn Mountain Boys and The Dede Wyland Band.

Schreibman said that, unlike previous years, the live entertainment will be what stands out at the 2010 Wammies.

“The performances are going to be wonderful this year because of the mix of artists,” he said, adding that Prince George’s County, Md.’s Be’la Dona is one to watch.

“Be’la Dona has been making a lot of headway this year,” said Schreibman.

The all-girl group is nominated this year for New Artist of the Year (Solo/Duo/Group), as well as Urban Contemporary Duo/Group.

Unlike previous years’ Wammies, which received no support from the City of Falls Church, the F.C. Economic Development Authority (EDA) Board of Directors has granted $3,000 this year to help fund the Wammies.

The Falls Church News-Press will also host an exclusive VIP pre-event reception at Argia’s, and the Bangkok Blues Café will throw an after-party. The EDA’s Tatyana Schum has also organized simultaneous meet-and-greet pre-parties at Dogwood Tavern, Applebee’s Restaurant, Hoang’s Grill & Sushi Bar, Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Ireland’s Four Provinces, where nominees and fans will have a chance to mingle.

Carter called local support rolling in for the Wammies a “symbiotic relationship.”

“Everybody feeds off everybody else. Even without the Wammies, when [the State Theatre] has a big show, it feeds into other local businesses and restaurants,” said Carter. “We’re all working as a sum of our parts.”

• The Wammies award ceremony kicks off at 8 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 28 at the State Theatre. Ticket prices vary. For more information, visit