May 5, 2015

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama State Council on the Arts

Seven Special Alabamians to be Honored on May 20 - Celebration of the Arts Awards

Montgomery, Ala. - The Alabama State Council on the Arts will honor seven outstanding Alabamians at the Celebration of the Arts awards ceremony on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. The event will take place at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, located at 1 Festival Drive, Montgomery. A reception will immediately follow the awards ceremony in the lobby of the theatre. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations and tickets are required.

The Council's “Celebration of the Arts” award program shines a spotlight on the arts in Alabama and individuals who have made important contributions to our state’s rich cultural landscape. Al Head, Executive Director of the Council stated, "These individuals represent the scope and breadth of artistic diversity, talent, leadership and generosity that is an integral part of the cultural landscape of Alabama."

The 2015 edition of “Celebration of the Arts” highlights the work of a legend in the music recording industry, a world famous and award winning author, two major patrons and community leaders in the arts, a much beloved traditional musician and a nationally respected choral director, instructor and critically acclaimed vocalist. This year's recipients are:

Theresa Harper Bruno, Birmingham – Jonnie Dee Riley Little Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Everett McCorvey, Montgomery/Lexington, KY – Alabama’s Distinguished Artist Award
Rick Hall, Florence/Muscle Shoals – Governor's Arts Award
Mack Gibson, Troy – Governor's Arts Award
Winston Groom, Mobile/Point Clear – Governor's Arts Award
Herb Trotman, Birmingham – The Alabama Folk Heritage Award
Jim Hudson, Huntsville – The Special Council Legacy Award

In offering his congratulations to this year's recipients Governor Robert Bentley noted, "The arts make our state a better place to live for all citizens. They play an important role in our economic development efforts, in our enhancement of education both for in-school students and in the process of life-long learning, in stimulating community revitalization and in efforts to promote cultural tourism. I have also had the opportunity to witness how the arts help us celebrate our cultural diversity and time-honored traditions in Alabama."

The Jonnie Dee Riley Little Lifetime Achievement Award named after the late Jonnie Dee Riley Little represents recognition for an individual who has devoted significant leadership, service, and support to the arts in Alabama. The 2015 Jonnie Dee Riley Little Award recipient is Theresa Harper Bruno of Birmingham. Bruno, a Juilliard-trained musician, has spent her life immersed in the arts. When her career as a concert pianist came to an abrupt halt, she directed her creative energies into helping others benefit from the arts.

Bruno has served as chair of the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center at UAB, one of the Southeast’s premier cultural venues. Bruno has led the Alys Stephens Center through a major reorganization, working to strengthen its focus on excellence in arts programming. The Center presents world renowned artists in music, dance, theatre, and comedy. Under her leadership, the Alys Stephens Center established ArtPlay, an arts education and outreach initiative. Through ArtPlay, K-12 students across central Alabama have the opportunity to learn from world-class artists and see live performances. Altogether, more than 70,000 Alabama children, and adults, have benefited from ArtPlay’s workshops, classes, residencies, master classes, school shows and other activities.

Bruno has also taken the arts into another transformational space--the hospital--with UAB’s Institute for Arts in Medicine (AIM), which places artists-in-residence throughout UAB Hospital to provide creative experiences designed to help patients heal. Theresa Bruno has indeed made a significant impact on the arts in Birmingham and Alabama.

The Alabama Distinguished Artist Award honors a professional artist who is considered a native or adopted son/daughter of Alabama and who has earned significant national acclaim for their art over an extended period. The 2015 Distinguished Artist Award recipient is Dr. Everett McCorvey. Dr. McCorvey is a tenor soloist, conductor, and professor of voice at the University of Kentucky. He is the founder and music director of the American Spiritual Ensemble, the director and executive producer of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, and president of Global Creative Connections, a production and management company for musical and theatrical events. Dr. McCorvey is also the artistic director of the National Chorale.

Dr. McCorvey, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, received his degrees from the University of Alabama, including a Doctorate of Musical Arts. He has performed on stages ranging from the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, Aspen Music Festival, Blossom Music Festival, Whitewater Opera Company, Radio City Music Hall, Birmingham Opera Theater, Teatro Comunale in Florence, Italy, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, England, to performances throughout Spain, the Czech and Slovac Republics, Austria, Japan, China, Brazil, Poland, Portugal and Hungary. Clearly Dr. McCorvey is a most distinguished artist from Alabama.

The Governor's Arts Award honors individuals who have made unique contributions to the arts in Alabama. Three awards will be given this year: Mack Gibson of Troy; Winston Groom of Mobile/Point Clear and Rick Hall of Florence/Muscle Shoals.

2015 Governor’s Arts Award recipient is Mack Gibson. Gibson is the board chair of the Johnson Cultural Arts Center, Inc. in Troy, Alabama. Under Gibson’s generosity of time, resources and leadership, the Johnson Center for the Arts, The Studio, and The Annex, an arts complex located in downtown Troy, were all created.

During his tenure as board chairman, the Center has established a remarkable record of community support and participation, producing an outstanding educational program and a series of exhibitions featuring the work of local, state and regionally recognized artists. The Center, a state-of-the-art-facility housed in what was the main Troy Post Office has seven galleries and more than 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Studio is a renovated warehouse across the street from the Johnson Center for the Arts and is used as a rental facility for special events. The Annex is used primarily for arts education and is often the home to art classes and performing arts practices. Mack Gibson personifies the kind of community arts leadership that allows monumental dreams to become a reality.

2015 Governor’s Arts Award recipient is Winston Groom. Groom's earliest ambition was to become a lawyer like his father, but his experiences as a literary editor in college led him to become a writer. Groom attended the University of Alabama, where after graduation he served in the Army from 1965 to 1969, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. Upon his return from Vietnam, he worked as a reporter for the Washington Star covering police and courtroom activities. Groom retired from journalism at age 32, and began writing his first novel, Better Times Than These which was about a group of patriotic soldiers in the Vietnam War. His next novel, Conversations with the Enemy (1982), also with a war theme was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1984.

In 1985, Groom moved back to Mobile, Alabama, where he began to work on the novel Forrest Gump, published in 1986. However, it did not make Groom a best-selling author until it was adapted into an Academy Award winning film starring Tom Hanks in the title role of Forrest Gump. The film propelled the novel to become an international best-seller. Winston Groom’s on-going critical acclaim and status as a writer resulted in his winning the Harper Lee Award in 2011. Groom has without question become one of Alabama’s most popular and successful authors.

2015 Governor’s Arts Award recipient is Rick Hall. Hall is a record producer, songwriter, music publisher and musician who is best known as the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Hall's life and career were profiled in the 2013 documentary film Muscle Shoals.

Hall’s earliest successes include co-writing songs with Billy Sherrill and co-founding a music publishing company known as Florence Alabama Music Enterprises or FAME. When the partnership dissolved, Hall obtained all rights to the FAME Studios and expanded it with a new studio band, which came to be known as the Muscle Shoals sound. In 1966, Hall helped license Percy Sledge's When a Man Loves a Woman, to the Atlantic Records label. This led to Atlantic Records sending musicians on a regular basis to Hall's Muscle Shoals studio to record. Hall produced hits for Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Otis Redding among others. Hall gained a reputation as a white Southern record producer who could consistently produce hits with black Southern soul singers.

In the early 70s, Hall turned his attention from soul music towards mainstream pop, producing hits for The Osmonds, Paul Anka, Tom Jones, among others. In 1971, he was named Billboard Producer of the Year, the year after having been nominated for a Grammy in the same category. Later in the decade Hall moved back towards country music, producing hits for Mac Davis, Bobbie Gentry, Jerry Reed and the Gatlin Brothers. In 2014, Hall received a Trustees Award Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Rick Hall is internationally known and respected as a “legend” in the music recording industry.

The Alabama Folk Heritage Award was established to recognize master folk artists who have made outstanding contributions in the arts in Alabama. The 2015 Folk Heritage Award recipient is Herb Trotman of Birmingham. Trotman has been a central figure in Alabama’s old-time and bluegrass music scene for over 50 years. He is a highly regarded banjo player and guitarist, who could have easily made a career as a professional musician.

During the 1960s, he often appeared on stage with Jim Conner and Richard Lockmiller at the Lowenbrau Haus pub in Homewood helping make it an important venue for folk musicians from the early 1960s through the early 1980s.

Trotman’s legendary business, Fretted Instruments, is known for its high-end Martin and Collins guitars. As a superior traditional musician, an instrument repairman, a teacher and supporter of music education, Trotman is the center of a large community of acoustic musicians. Trotman immediately saw the value of the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell when it was founded in 2007. He serves on the Board of Directors and volunteers his time to its programs and often teaches the bluegrass and guitar sessions.

The Herb Trotman Band centers student energies on bluegrass music, but ventures into other genres with equal ease. He is a master teacher, performer and promoter of traditional music and culture in Alabama.

The Special Council Legacy Award was established to recognize individuals who are not necessary an artist or from the arts world, but have had a great impact on the arts in Alabama and leave a significant legacy as a result of their contributions. The 2015 Special Council Legacy Award recipient is Jim Hudson of Huntsville. Hudson is co-chairman of the board of directors of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville. The non-profit research institute uses biotechnology to improve human health, stimulate economic development and inspire Alabama’s youth to seek careers in science. He also serves as vice president of CityScapes LLC, a company focused on downtown revitalization projects, particularly those appealing strongly to young professionals.

Hudson is a passionate advocate for local arts and entertainment. In 2001 he purchased Lowe Mill -- originally a textile mill-- and gave new life to what was Huntsville’s first suburb. Lowe Mill supports a diverse community of artisans and businesses dedicated to the free expression of the arts. The venue features several entertainment and exhibition events each month, as well as nearly 100 individual studios where the public is encouraged to interact with the artists. Lowe Mill serves as a state and national model for adaptive reuse of an old structure as a multi-purpose arts center. Lowe Mill is now the largest multi-discipline arts center in the United States. Jim Hudson is a perfect example of private sector leadership creating an innovative public use facility serving artists and an expansive diverse audience.

The Alabama State Council on the Arts promotes Alabama's diverse and rich artistic resources while highlighting excellence and education experiences. Complimentary Tickets are limited and are available on a first come, first serve basis. To reserve tickets, please contact: ASF Box Office at 334-271-5353 or the Alabama State Council on the Arts at 334-242-4076.


  • For more information, visit http://arts.alabama.gov
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