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By Naomi Richard on January 26, 2011

The 26th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards were absolutely outstanding and never failed to deliver on their promise. Top Gospel artists from around the country were present along with corporate sponsors, promoters, publicists, record label executives, Gospel announcers, the media, fans and many more. Events began Wednesday January 12 and continued through Sunday January 16. One attendee made the comment, “there are so many good things going on, it’s hard to make a choice.” Central City Productions (CCP) ran a well-organized and action packed week of top quality Gospel functions. This article only represents a few of the highlights.

The Stellar Awards are the premier Gospel music event that recognizes and honors African-American artists. This one-of-a-kind award show has showcased top Gospel artists and many television and film stars. This year, the Stellar Awards returned to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. With 40 years of successful and innovative television production and marketing experience, CCP is a leader in African American targeted television.

This year, CCP selected Pastor Donnie McClurkin to host its 26th Annual Stellar Awards celebration. McClurkin, a Gospel icon in his own right, has won 3 Grammy® Awards, 4 BET Awards, 7 Stellar Awards, 2 Dove Awards, 3 NAACP Image Awards, and numerous other honors. Beginning as a keyboard player for his church youth choir, McClurkin’s life was changed after meeting the legendary Andrae’ Crouch. McClurkin has now risen to the top of the Gospel music industry as an artist across many projects. In spite of his successes, McClurkin declares, “at any moment, I might cease making music to concentrate fully on my passion for ministering.”

An incredible partnership with CCP and Verizon brought to this year’s Stellar lineup the How Sweet the Sound (HSTS) Boot Camp for choirs, directors, musicians, praise leaders, pastors and anyone involved in the music ministry. For the first time, attendees were able to literally sit down in an informal setting and learn more about The Business of Music, an Introduction to Production & Building a Solid Band, Foundational Principals of Worship, The Gifting of Music, and how to have their choirs participate in the HSTS Choir Competition. CCP and Verizon joined to offer the Boot Camp sessions with such talent as Judith McAllister, President of the International Music Department of the Church of God in Christ, Stellar Award winner Earl Bynum, President of Light Records James Robinson and others. Those attending this first time event were quite impressed by the sessions and the final event of the week, an award ceremony where every attendee received a Certificate of Completion.

Other highlights of the week included a star-studded concert, Everything Fresh, produced by Carlos Hale, one of the founders of the Urban Soul Café. Many guest stood for over 5 hours listening to back-to-back performances by newcomer artists, independent artists and major record labels. BMI held its 12th Annual Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards Luncheon, hosted by Catherine Brewton, BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, and Del Bryant, BMI President & CEO. The audience was moved to their feet as BMI honored Commissioned and Shirley Caesar at this “Invitation Only” event.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston, TX) presented Central City Productions CEO and founder of the Stellar Awards Don Jackson with a proclamation celebrating the establishment of September as national Gospel Music Heritage month. The Gospel Announcers Guild, under the direction of Al “The Bishop” Hobbs, Bishop Sam Williams and Donna Grady Creer, held their Annual Gospel Radio Announcer’s Reception.

Additionally, those attending the Stellar Awards had the privilege of attending a film screening of “Jumping The Broom,” a Tristar Pictures and TD Jakes production, scheduled for release on Mother’s Day 2011.

CCP held a Stellar Award Pre-Show Friday night, hosted by Byron Cage and Karen Clark Sheard. The grand finale was the Stellar Award taping on Saturday evening, led by a Red Carpet Entry of presenters, performers and Award nominees. Among the performers were Marvin Sapp, Beverly Crawford, Deitrick Haddon, VaShawn Mitchell, The Soul Seekers, The Williams Brothers, The Rance Allen Group (RAG), forever Jones, JJ Hairston and Joshua’s Troop. There was an All Star Choir tribute to Kirk Franklin and the 2010 Verizon’s HSTS Music Competition winner, The Voices of Destiny, performed in tribute to Donald Lawrence.

Award presenters and other participants included J Moss, Dorinda Clark Cole, Hezekiah Walker, Andrae’ Crouch, Vickie Winans, Lisa Page Brooks, DeWayne Woods, Wess Morgan, Myron Butler, Yvette Nicole Brown and many more. Of course, no Award’s show would be complete without the many after parties to celebrate the momentous occasion!

Texas won big this year. Houston’s own James Fortune & FIYA led Texas wins with 3 Stellar Awards for Group/Duo of the Year, Contemporary Male of the Year and Contemporary CD of the Year. Dallas superstar Myron Butler & Levi won Contemporary Choir of the Year. Houston’s Aaron Lindsey won Producer of the Year, and Kirk Franklin from Dallas won the coveted Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award.

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