NASHVILLE—The Country Music Association recently presented industry honors to six highly-deserving individuals during the organization’s Board of Directors meetings.
During the organization’s virtual December Board meeting, Brooks & Dunn’s Kix Brooks, a long-serving CMA Board member, was honored with the J. William Denny Award, while influential industry executive Bud Wendell was honored with the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence.
During an intimate CMA Board reception, Country icon Dolly Parton as well as Music Health Alliance's Tatum Allsep, Founder/CEO, and Sheila Shipley Biddy, COO/Certified Senior Advisor, were honored with the CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award. Tiffany Kerns, CMA Vice President, Community Outreach and CMA Foundation Executive Director, was surprised with the CMA Chairman’s Award from Mary Hilliard Harrington, Senior Manager, Red Light Management and CMA Board Chairman.
In addition, Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, presented mementos to Harrington and Jim Beavers, Songwriter at Big Yellow Dog Music and CMA Board President, in recognition of their service to the CMA Board of Directors. Harrington was presented the crystal gavel while Beavers was presented the crystal globe.
KIX BROOKS – 2021 J. WILLIAM DENNY AWARD RECEIPIENT
The J. William Denny Award was created in recognition and appreciation of a lifetime of dedication, distinguished service, and meritorious contributions to the CMA Board of Directors. It is named after longtime board member J. William Denny, who has served on the CMA Board since 1961.
As one half of the superstar duo Brooks & Dunn, Kix Brooks has not only sold 30 million albums, garnered 20 chart-topping singles, 80-plus industry awards, and decades of sold-out shows all over the world, he has also been a tireless advocate and supporter of CMA and its members.
Brooks joined the CMA Board in 1998 and quickly became one of its most dedicated and influential members, having chaired several committees during his tenure. He was elected President of the Board in 2004 and Chairman the following year, becoming only the third artist, after Gene Autry and Tex Ritter, to hold those positions. CMA established the Artist Relations committee in 2006 and appointed Brooks the committee chair. That same year, Brooks learned of funding cuts in Metro Nashville Public Schools for arts education programs and approached the Board about establishing a charitable arm of CMA that could help fill the void and provide much needed instruments and supplies to music classrooms. It was his leadership and vision that laid the groundwork for what is now the CMA Foundation, which has invested more than $27 million into music education programs across the country. Brooks was given the inaugural CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award in 2014.
Ever an advocate for artists and musicians in Country Music, Brooks was also an early proponent of developing affordable health insurance options for CMA members. Throughout his more than two decades of service on the CMA Board, Brooks has maintained his commitment to CMA’s mission and vision, and has worked diligently to bring that vision to life.
BUD WENDELL – 2021 IRVING WAUGH AWARD OF EXCELLENCE RECIPIENT
The Irving Waugh Award of Excellence is given to an individual who has exhibited ideas and actions that have dramatically broadened and improved Country Music’s influence on a national or international level for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
Bud Wendell, a visionary music industry executive who saw the billion-dollar potential of Nashville and the history of Country Music became the manager of the Opry in 1968. Wendell’s guidance would help the Country Music landscape reach new levels of significance with modern solutions for the genre. He oversaw the Opry’s move from downtown’s Ryman Auditorium to a new facility on the edge of town in 1974 and was named WSM Vice President and General Manager of the Opry and the Opryland theme park that same year. He became President of WSM in 1978 and Chairman in 1980 before Gaylord acquired WSM and Wendell was named President and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment in 1991. Wendell retired in 1997, but remained active behind the scenes, serving as President of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s board of trustees for many years.
DOLLY PARTON, TATUM ALLSEP AND SHEILA SHIPLEY BIDDY – 2021 CMA FOUNDATION HUMANITARIAN AWARD RECIPIENTS
The CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award recognizes individuals who have served as humanitarians through community leadership, financial support, personal volunteerism and advocacy. The individuals honored have evidenced commitment to worthwhile causes that are important to the Country Music Association and the Country Music community.
Music Health Alliance’s Tatum Allsep and Sheila Shipley Biddy, and Country icon Dolly Parton have been at the forefront of COVID-19 relief and innovation throughout the past 20 months.
Under Allsep and Biddy’s leadership and guidance, Music Health Alliance developed a COVID-19 Relief Plan based on the immediate needs of the music community. The three primary areas of support Music Health Alliance focused on were COVID-19 Financial Assistance, a relief grant for immediate financial support, Solution Series, simplified solutions to timely issues like the loss of group health insurance, and Resource Database, a comprehensive list of resources ranging from temporary employment to healthcare. To further MHA’s efforts, CMA provided additional funding as a part of its Music Industry COVID Support (MICS) initiative, a $3 million long-term commitment to non-profit partners focusing on food insecurity, health care and mental health. Allsep and Biddy were presented with the award at the 2021 CMA Board Reception on Dec. 1, 2021.
Last year, through a show of unmatched generosity and philanthropy, Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to aid in COVID-19 vaccine research. Parton announced in the spring via Instagram that she made the donation after her friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation, told her about the “exciting advancements” they were making to create a vaccine. Known as the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund, Parton’s contribution helped fund initial vaccine research led by Dr. Mark Denison, a professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt. While the federal government eventually invested $1 billion in the creation and testing of the vaccine, Dr. Denison notes that it was Parton’s donation that funded the crucial early stages of the Moderna vaccine’s development. Parton was thanked for her donation by name in a Moderna preliminary report issued in November 2020.
“I was honored to receive the CMA's Humanitarian Award,” says Parton. “I'm sorry I couldn't be there to receive it in person, but I'm always there in spirit.”
TIFFANY KERNS – 2021 CMA CHAIRMAN’S AWARD RECIPIENT
This award, given at the discretion of the incumbent Chairman, is not an annual award, but given when the Chairman feels an individual or individuals, through outstanding service to CMA, merits the recognition.
Over the last two years, Tiffany Kerns has effectively and efficiently guided CMA members and the larger Country Music community during a truly unparalleled time. Through her work in establishing the organization’s Music Industry COVID Support (MICS) initiative, CMA has been able provide aid in three categories: food supply, health and wellness, and career services. By connecting industry professionals with appropriate nonprofit partners, CMA was able to act as a portal, offering key resources to those in the music industry suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March of 2020, CMA has made a $3 million long-term commitment to fund multiple nonprofit partners including Music Health Alliance, Musically Fed, MusiCares, MuttNation, Notes for Notes, Porter’s Call, The Store and Touring Professionals Alliance Kitchen. Kerns has also been influential on both the local and national level, bringing together leaders and legislative officials to create dialogue around policy reform, and ultimately position CMA to advocate on behalf of the music community, while educating policymakers on the impact of COVID-19 to our industry.
Additionally, through her work with the CMA Foundation, Tiffany has led the way in supporting and ensuring the survival of music education in schools. More prominently, though, is her work advocating for equity and access to quality music education for all students in the United States. As a result, the CMA Foundation has become one of the nation’s leading music education nonprofits, with an extensive network of music education advocates across the country. This network allows the CMA Foundation to work strategically to provide music programs with essential resources through grant distribution and professional development. Most recently, she led the charge in the launch of the CMA Foundation Artist Ambassador program, which engages artists like Ashley McBryde, Jimmie Allen, Lindsey Ell, Russell Dickerson and more, to program a set of virtual activities using their unique musical experience to share the organization’s awareness and advocacy efforts in support of music educators, students and parents as they continue to encounter challenges due to the impact of COVID-19.
About the Country Music Association
Founded in 1958, the Country Music Association is the first trade organization formed to promote a type of music. CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize artists and industry professionals with Country Music’s highest honor. Music industry professionals and companies across the U.S. and around the globe are members of CMA. The organization serves as an educational and professional resource for the industry and advances the growth of Country Music around the world. This is accomplished through CMA’s core initiatives: the CMA Awards, which annually recognize outstanding achievement in the industry; CMA Fest, which benefits the CMA Foundation and music education and is taped for a three-hour network television special, “CMA Fest”; and “CMA Country Christmas." All of CMA’s television properties air on ABC.