Musicians and workers in the music industry from all across the county gathered last Sunday to celebrate the Lehigh Valley Music Awards 20th year of operation. With over 50 categories, including 27 in which fans vote for a winner, this awards ceremony recognizes the musical talents that bring joy to our community every day. Among those nominated were several of Charter Arts own students, whom I had the privilege of interviewing before the event began.
To start off the evening, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts alum, Jillian Rossi, sung a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Her unique take on the song helped to create a sense of unity across the audience and made me feel even prouder to be an American.
Next, we were introduced to the host of the ceremony, PBS39 news reporter Tracy Yatsko. As the host of her talk show “Your Take,” Yatsko has taken on the challenge, along with five university students from across the Lehigh Valley, to tackle relevant topics within our society such as social media, immigration, mental health, and millennials. During high school, Tracy suffered from a concussion that ended her athletic career, which has since inspired her to become a brain injury awareness advocate and public speaker. I had the opportunity to speak with Yatsko for a little bit during the event, and her optimistic attitude and passion for what she does left me inspired. She was a pleasure to talk with and did an excellent job hosting the awards show this year.
The mood of the awards show shifted slightly towards the middle of the night when the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley showed a video on Wyatt Newhard’s life. Wyatt, who was well known throughout the local music community as being a charismatic warrior, lost his battle to neuroblastoma cancer at age fourteen, November of last year.
To honor Wyatt for being a symbol of hope and inspiration, the Lehigh Valley Music Awards presented a plaque in his name to the foundation. A raffle was also held that gave one lucky audience member the chance to win a Martin & Co Guitar; the raffle ticket proceeds were donated to the foundation to further help the families of children that have cancer. These moments were bittersweet for the entire audience because our community lost someone that was dear to our hearts, however, even though Wyatt is no longer here, his legacy is continuing to help kids with pediatric cancer all around the Lehigh Valley.
There were several performances throughout the night that covered all genres of music. Whether it be Jake Kaligis and Julia Sommers acoustic performance of her hit single “Sundial” off of her first EP “Roots,” or Roi and the Secret People’s rock set, nobody left the awards upset about the entertainment. The lineup was cohesive and kept the audience entertained throughout the entire evening.
Four current students at Charter Arts were nominated for a Lehigh Valley Music Award, one of them being Jay-T Lord, a sophomore instrumental major. Growing up, his great grandfather served as inspiration for him when he first began showing interest in becoming a musician. “He would always say that I had a bright future,” Jay-T stated in our interview. It would appear that his grandfather was correct, for here he was years later being nominated for 2 Lehigh Valley Music Awards; Teen Performer of 2019 and 2019 Discovered Artist Award.
When asked about how he felt about these nominations he stated, “it warms my heart to see that people are finally opening up and seeing what’s happening in regards to my music.” Back in August 2018, Lord had released a single titled, “Absolutely Nothing” which has had success on all music platforms. This, along with his other accomplishments such as being an opener for several shows at One Centre Square and being the only Lehigh Native nominated for the Discovery award foreshadows how successful he’s going to be in the future; I’m happy to call him my friend, and one of my inspirations.
Another Charter Arts student that I had the privilege of interviewing was my friend Payton Renee, a junior vocal major. Her music career officially began a few years ago when she started performing at open mic nights throughout the Lehigh Valley. These shows allowed Payton to connect not only with the fans but with the members of the music community also. This outreach has made her well-known across the county, which helped her to get nominated under the “Teen Performer” category.
When asked what makes being a musician in the Lehigh Valley so special she replied, “being a singer/musician in the Lehigh Valley is special to me because of the community. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by people who are so supportive and passionate about music as I am.” Although she didn’t end up winning the award for the category, Payton feels like all of her work was recognized, and to her, that was the most amazing feeling ever.
“I felt like my music was heard and people wanted to listen, which was a great feeling,” she said. Continuing forward, Payton revealed that she’s currently working on her own music which will be released soon. Her goals? To play bigger shows in her near future. “My advice to anyone who wants to take their shot in the music industry is doing it. Go out and find other artists and venues. Put yourself out and there and don’t hesitate, ” she said.
Apart from Jay-T and Payton, Julie Williams and Grace Rosario were also nominated for a Lehigh Valley Music Award last weekend. Grace, a senior instrumental major, was one of the four recipients of a scholarship given by the Lehigh Valley Music Association, an award that she deserved for all of the hard work she has done in the music community, as well as at Charter Arts. The biggest winner of the night, though, was Jordyn Kenzie, a senior vocal major. Her freshman album “Jordyn Kenzie” offers listeners a new take on country-pop, along with endless inspiring messages.
After winning the award for “Outstanding Female Artist” Jordyn stated in her speech, “I do have to say that this one is cool because there are a lot of powerful females right now, not only in the Lehigh Valley Music, but in general. I believe John Moser said in his article that it has truly been the year of the female. So, to be a part of that is incredible. This goes to all of the females in the Lehigh Valley who are killing it in music right now. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that.”
Jordyn’s uplifting spirit and her ability to connect with her fans on a personal level have helped her to become popular around the county, and I cannot wait to see what she does next!
My experience at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards was like nothing I had ever known before. The purpose of this event is to bring the community together to celebrate the one thing we all love; music, as well as acknowledge the hard work of all of our artists. I left the event feeling inspired, and to me, that means it was a successful night. I cannot wait until next year!