While country music originated in America’s South and has maintained its popularity across the States since the 1920s, the genre has expanded its global reach in recent years – even making it to the Top 40 Chart.
The power of the internet may have played its part in that, but here in New Zealand, a local event has been fostering and promoting country music for all age levels, since 1976.
The New Zealand Country Music Star Awards are held annually in Tauranga, comprising of two days of competition held over Labour weekend at the Bethlehem College Performing Arts Centre.
The awards are the biggest in the North Island, and second only nationally to the Golden Guitar Awards held in Gore each year.
Ashley Tipping is the Secretary and Funding Coordinator for the New Zealand Country Music Star Awards. She says that after an interesting year trying to find ways to deal with Covid-19, the charity were extremely happy with their entrant numbers.
“This year we had a total of 139 entrants coming from all over the North Island. On audition day we ran two venues with two of New Zealand’s leading country music award backing bands – Pure Dixie and Smoking Gunz.”
Entrants compete in age groups including Junior, Intermediate, Senior and Veteran and in sections of Vocal, Gospel and Country Rock, Western, NZ Song, Duo/Group and New Country. There is also a section for songwriters, encouraging New Zealand written country music.
Singers audition their song with a backing band in front of three high calibre judges – familiar faces in the New Zealand Country music scene. The two highest scoring acts in each section become finalists who compete in the premier finals concert on the Sunday afternoon.
With cash prizes, trophies, recording opportunities, and even an invitation to perform at the NZCM Entertainer of the Year up for grabs, the event is popular and has grown year-on-year.
Ashley says it was great to see the public support for all entrants and finalists.
“Our auditions are open to the public and this year we had a great turn out of people coming to watch and support our entrants.
“Our finals premier concert also had a fantastic turn out of public who came to watch – almost 200 people sat in the audience. It’s always so exciting to see our finalists turn up and perform to the best they can. At the end of the day we had our five overall winners which will now represent our awards at the 2021 NZCM Entertainer of the Year Awards.”
Some of the winners this year included Alyssa Martinovich, who won the Open Songwriter Overall, Ngakau Robson, who won the Junior Overall, and Tauranga local Rererangi Twaddell won the Intermediate Overall.
TECT has supported the New Zealand Country Music Star Awards since 2015 with $20,000 in funding. This year a further $4,000 was approved to help run the event.
Ashley says TECT’s support has been vital to running the event of the years.
“It takes a great deal of time and effort to run and organise our awards, a process which starts in March. I have a great committee behind me but there is so many more people that help add to the magic of the weekend.
“We rely heavily on grant funding and sponsorship. We are incredibly thankful to TECT for the continued support of our awards and look forward to continuing that relationship. Their funding helps us with backing bands, accommodation, website & domain names, newspaper advertising, catering, our printing needs for weekend programmes, certificates & toners.