There are many great musicians in Sacramento. For the past 26 years, we have spotlighted them with our annual SAMMIES awards. The concept is simple. After gathering input from readers and experts, we nominate musicians in 20 to 30 musical genres. And then, the voting begins. Thousands of votes come in. Finally, we announce the winners and write about the latest in Sacramento’s growing music scene.
A SAMMIES nomination can provide a much-needed boost to an artist or a band. Many musicians have told us how their SAMMIES award helped them get additional bookings or make connections. Shining a light on the Sacramento music scene has made local bands a bigger draw and encouraged bars to book more local music. The popular downtown Friday night concert series, which draws thousands of people to Cesar Chavez Plaza all summer, began as the News & Review SAMMIES Concerts in the Park. In the years it was run by the News & Review, the performing bands were all SAMMIES award winners.
In addition to covering stories ignored by the mainstream media, SN&R has worked since 1989 to support arts and culture in Sacramento. We worked with local art galleries to launch Second Saturday, which we supported for many years with an arts supplement and a Second Saturday map to the galleries. We launched the JAMMIES awards for local high school musicians, and showcased their music at the Crest Theatre and Mondavi Center. These events and, more importantly, our arts coverage, have helped support the local arts and music scene.
But much more is needed. In years past, the Sacramento Bee arts coverage focused on the more traditional arts organizations and larger acts, and the News & Review focused more on the smaller music venues and local artists. Now, with the Bee’s cutbacks of their arts staff, we are obliged to expand our arts coverage.
We would like to do more. Much, much more. We would love to have several more music stories every week, and more theater stories and reviews. We need to do more stories on local artists as well as more shows at the Crocker. The literary arts need more coverage. Sacramento has a diverse population with many phenomenal cultural events that often go under the radar.
There is no lack of arts to cover. The problem is how to finance it. Hiring writers and paying to print the extra pages to cover the local arts and music scene costs money. But advertising alone doesn’t pay for this.
In the last several years, our community has spent almost a billion dollars to improve our arts infrastructure: the building of the Golden 1 Center, the expansion of the Crocker, the transformation of the Music Circus Tent to the Wells Fargo Pavilion, the new Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom, the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, the Guild Theatre in Oak Park, the remodeling of the Memorial Auditorium, the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center in Natomas and most recently, the new B Street Theatre. And now Sacramento plans to implement a $125 million dollar expansion of the Community Center and a second upgrade at Memorial Auditorium.
These are wonderful projects which have already significantly improved and will continue to improve our region’s art scene. We need to redirect a small percentage of this funding to to support local artists, and yes, the coverage of those artists.