Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DEB BOYLAN Tommy Zito displays hand-crafted walking stick presented to him as recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award at 14th Annual Lehigh Valley Music Awards. PRESS PHOTO BY DEB BOYLAN Tommy Zito displays hand-crafted walking stick presented to him as recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award at 14th Annual Lehigh Valley Music Awards.

Tommy Zito receives honor at 14th LV Music Awards

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by DEB BOYLAN Special to The Press in Focus

The 14th Annual Lehigh Valley Music Awards (LVMA) Dec. 2 at Musikfest Café, ArtsQuest Center, SteelStacks, Bethlehem, offered a rare opportunity for working musicians to get together under one roof.

The roughly three and one-half hour show consisted of live music performances interspersed with close to 100 award presentations. Nominees and winners were determined through online ballots cast by fans and those in the music business. Additional honorees were selected for outstanding achievement by the board of the Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association (GLVMA).

Twenty-year veteran awards and Community Involvement Awards were handed out to several long-standing movers and shakers in the Lehigh Valley music community.

Veteran performer Tommy Zito, "The Piano Man," was bestowed the biggest honor of the evening, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Zito has continuously performed regionally and nationally for more than 50 years, beginning his professional career at age 8 as "Little Tommy."

Other big winners of the evening were the James Supra Blues Band, which took home seven awards. James Supra was awarded Best Harmonica Player award for the 14th consecutive year. He is the only award winner in the history of the LVMAs to win his category every year since its inception.

Popular 1960's cover band, The Large Flowerheads, received five awards, including Best Entertaining Band and Best Cover Band, also won at last year's event.

Lead singer, keyboardist and songwriter Jennifer Miklus of Beyond Eden was presented with the Special Recognition Award at LVMA 14.

Each year, the LVMA pays tribute to a youth guest of honor. This year, six-year-old Braden James Sell, a lymphoma survivor, was the focus of a performance by The Girls: vocalists Bev Conklin, Lori Donovan-Roberts and Sara Ayers.

Zito performed in the rock bands Uproar, Magnum and Aviator from the 1960's through the 1990's. Uproar charted in Billboard magazine. During the 1980's while Zito performed as keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter for Magnum, the group was the top band on the Miller Rock Network. The group Aviator was managed by the legendary Tommy Motolla and Mike Appel.

Zito has opened and performed with Chubby Checker, The Platters, The Coasters, The Shirelles, Survivor and The Turtles.

Zito was also presented with a proclamation from State Sen. Pat Browne (R-16th). The LVMA presented Zito with a hand-carved and embellished walking stick created by local craftsman Scott Nocek.

After the awards, a visibly-moved Zito said, "I've been blessed. I never said I was the best at anything, but I am the hardest-working. I got recognized for at least having the longevity of playing since 1959. That seems like a long time ago, but you must understand I was eight-years-old.

"It's not easy having a group and it's not easy being the leader of a band. I was with Uproar for 14 years, Magnum for the same amount of years. When Uproar dissolved, the next day I was already working in the group Magnum.

"You have to love it. This is a love-hate relationship [the music business]. The good feeling you get is when you are recognized by your peers and the fans."

Zito performs with the Main Street Cruisers, The Tempo Band and Tower Suite & Friends. Once a month he appears at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

"The bottom line is a lot of people have their nine to five jobs and they're not happy. They come home and they have to unwind. I work an opposite nine to five, but I'm doing what I love to do and that's about as good as it gets."

Each year, the GLVMA, parent organization of the LVMA, works to book diverse music to showcase during the award ceremony. This year was no different and in addition to the sounds of Mitch Nur: Sacred Sound Spiritual Gong, there was folk, rock, funk, Americana, soul, urban, blues, solo performers and Latin acts sharing the spotlight. Urban stylists DeXperience and 10-piece funk outfit Pitch Black were just two of the many acts that had attendees on their feet dancing in the aisles.

This was the second year in a row that the LVMAs were held at Musikfest Café. The venue offers plenty of seating as well as two areas on either end of the room for folks to mix and mingle. There is also an upstairs loft which provides table seating, a bar area and a bird's eye view of the festivities.

Organizers of the event have gotten the planning and execution of such a massive presentation ceremony down to a science. The ceremony started on time and continued for a reasonable duration. Awards were given out in between live music performances and acceptance speeches were limited to awardees in special categories. This format eliminates boredom and assures the audience will remain engaged.

Transition between performers was smooth owing to precision stage direction and clear sidelines which allowed each act to enter and exit the stage without obstacle. Gloria Domina, Executive Director of the GLVMA, and Geno Barron, Executive Producer, along with the board and volunteer staff deserve credit for their meticulous planning and execution of such a large-scale production.