People always seem to talk about the plethora of tremendous musicians operating in the state, and the New Mexico Music Commission is ready and raring to celebrate some of these fine creators with the upcoming Platinum Music Awards at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in July. “We’re basically going to recognize lifetime achievement; the elder statesmen of New Mexico music,” president of the New Mexico Music Commission Foundation and chairman of the awards, David Schwartz, tells SFR.
The New Mexico Music Commission was technically founded in 2005 but wasn't a part of state statute until 2009. It operates as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and its overall mission is to promote and preserve music created in the state and to develop opportunities for appreciation and education throughout New Mexico. The Platinum Music Awards is the evolution of the commission's Platinum Achievement Awards, established in 2013, which also recognized musicians, though its current iteration is a bit more involved and fleshed out. "It's a lot like the Kennedy Center Honors," Schwartz says, referencing the awards ceremony that recognizes the lasting legacy a musician has formed in the industry.
If it sounds a lot like the similarly named and arguably more well-known New Mexico Music Awards, that's because it is—though the process is different and it doesn't cost anything for submissions or nominees. The period for nominations is open through Feb. 15, and any individuals, businesses or organizations may nominate deserving musicians or industry pros. "They don't have to have been born here, but they'd need a substantial part of their career to have taken place in New Mexico," Schwartz says. "What we're trying to do is identify musical art in the state at the highest level, and we want to see deserving people rise to the top."
This also means that nominations are not limited to just players and/or writers themselves. "Some of the nominees may not be musicians per se," Schwartz points out. "They could be someone who is influential to the music of New Mexico, like an opera director or a professor at UNM. … It's really open to anyone who has had an influence, and it's genre-neutral." Of course, there's more to the nominations process than simply typing in a name, and the online form includes provisions for the number of years nominees have lived in the state, the number of years they've operated as musicians here and more.
Once nominations are closed in February, an anonymous jury of industry experts appointed by the commission will sift through the offerings and name five recipients. Then, come July 21, the Music Commission Foundation (an offshoot of the commission itself) plans to produce the celebratory event at the Lensic, with plans to benefit the Solace Crisis Treatment Center, a local nonprofit that aids and advocates for trauma survivors, and the New Mexico Music Commission. Schwartz says the commission's cut will go toward music-based educational programs spearheaded by the commission such as Art to Art, a series that invites musicians and visual artists to schools to discuss their artistic processes. "In our strategic plan, there are a number of desirable programs that range from scholarships to bringing music into schools," Schwartz says. "This could fund many great educational opportunities across the state … We've got a long list of plans."
The New Mexico Music Commission is also on the lookout for volunteers to help them continue the good fight. "We're looking for people who want to get involved at all different levels," Schwartz adds. "We want people who like the idea of what we're doing and want to find a place in it. … We're building."
In the meantime, we'd like to see some unexpected musicians get nominated. Maybe a hip-hop MC or a metal shredder? Either way, this means young people will probably need to get involved and, according to Schwartz, all genres will be considered. "If we end up with something that's very esoteric, if that's what the people want to see, then it's worthy," he says. "We're attempting to be a broad-based as we can be."
Where to go for nominations: Visit newmexicomusic.org