The Bahama Village Music Program’s young musicians perform at the organization’s fundraiser at the Green Parrot Bar, which was also a tribute to Key West jazz legend Fats Navarro. RALPH DE PALMA/Contributed

Despite the ongoing nominations and feverish voting, the real winner in the 2022 Bubbas: Key West People’s Choice Awards is the Bahama Village Music Program.

Each year, the awards benefit a dedicated local nonprofit that helps families, friends and neighbors, and the BVMP is no different.

The nonprofit program, which provides free music lessons to Key West kids 6 to 16, launched in 1999 to honor Ellen Sanchez, a beloved music teacher in Bahama Village, whose retirement left a void in the community. 

The program’s founder, Robin Kaplan, used the momentum of Sanchez’ stewardship to establish the Bahama Village Music Program. From modest beginnings in the closet of a school gym, the program now resides in the Frederick Douglass Skills Center, a refurbished historic building owned by the city and located in the heart of Bahama Village.

Kawana Staffney now leads the Bahama Village Music Program as executive director.

Its primary aim is “to create an effective learning environment for developing music skills and self-esteem, all while nurturing a strong sense of community among young residents. Participants are encouraged to explore many aspects of music, from learning notes, rhythm, tempo and style to perfecting their performance skills in piano, guitar, violin, percussion, steel pan, woodwinds, choir, dance, steel pan and musical theater. Professional music educators, adult volunteers and talented high school students teach private and group lessons throughout the school year.”

Students in BVMP perform free concerts and recitals for their families and residents of Key West throughout the year. 

“These young performers sustain the program’s belief that music can remove barriers, unite diverse cultures and uplift the spirits of our community,” states the organization’s website at bvmpkw.org

Funding for the program comes from board-sponsored fundraising activities, private donations grants — and now, the 2022 Bubbas: Key West People’s Choice Awards.

The ukulele is just one of the instruments that Bahama Village Music Program teaches kids for free. RALPH DE PALMA/Contributed


Nominate your favorites now through June 20  

Log in to Keysweekly.com now through Monday, June 20 to nominate your favorite people, businesses and charities in each category. Voters can vote once per day for all categories, and must fill out 75% of the ballot to cast a valid submission. So visit often, or daily, throughout the nomination process to propose your favorite finalists. 

The top three nominees in each category are placed on the finalists’ ballot. We do not create the top three (a commonly asked question). You, the voters, decide the top three finalists from among your nominees, each and every year. Nominations end at midnight on June 20. Updates and reminders will be provided by the Keys Weekly in print, digital and social media throughout the Bubbas process. 

Vote for the winning finalists: June 27-July 11. 

The top 3 nominees in each category make the finalists’ ballot. The highest vote-getter among the 3 finalists in each category receives the Bubba Award. 

Voting for the finalists in each category begins at midnight on June 27 at Keysweekly.com. During this stage, voters can submit one ballot per day and must fill out 75% of the categories  to cast a valid ballot. So visit keysweekly.com often throughout the process and submit one ballot a day.  Updates and reminders will be provided at keysweekly.com, in our daily e-blast, Key West Weekly print editions and social media. 

The winners’ gala is July 23.

The Event: July 23 

The 9th annual Bubbas: Key West People’s Choice Awards Gala, this year on July 23, has become one of the most popular events in town. Tickets are not generally made available to the public due to demand.  Winners, nominees and dignitaries are invited to attend and additional attendees are selected from a first-come, first-served waiting list. To be placed on this list please email [email protected]  

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.