Collette Campbell, Jillian Todd, Nina Newton and McKenna Carlson sing a thank you to supporters, mentors and facilitators of Key West’s local music scene. RALPH De PALMA/Contributed

Winners of the 2024 Key West Music Awards

Entertainer of the Year: Bria Ansara

Song of the Year: Gary Hempsey

Album of the Year: Tony Baltimore

Songwriter of the Year:Tony Baltimore

Rising Star Award: Collette Campbell

Jazz Act of the Year: The Cantina Band

Cover Act of the Year: The Marshall Morlock Band

Reggae Act of the Year: Reggae Lou and the Kind Buds

Rock Act of the Year: The Durt Bags

Fan of the Year: Charles Brumley

Facilitator of the Year: Skipper Kripitz

Instrumentalist of the Year: Martin Zedlak

Solo Act of the Year: Ross Brown

Duo act of the Year: Jess And Jill

Mentor of the Year: Jeff Dalton

Vocalist of theYear: Kari Wolf

Blues Act of The Year: The Andy Westcott Band

Country Act of The Year: Homegrown

R&B/Rap Act of the Year: Tantra Grillo

Supporting Artist of the Year: Hiram Gazarro

The scene outside the third annual Key West Music Awards at Key West Theater on March 18. BILL KLIPP/Contributed

On March 18 there was a different kind of buzz at the Key West Theater. There was an unusual collection of well-dressed people milling about, being interviewed by paparazzi and mingling with some of the city’s finest musicians and most recognizable music industry personalities. 

It was the night of the Iggys, the Key West Music Awards, or the island’s version of the Grammy Awards, done our way, of course. The event is now in its third year.

The evening began with an introduction by yours truly about what the evening and the awards are all about.

The Iggys’ main purpose is to supply a line of support to children and teens who show musical interest but are in precarious living situations, with the belief that showing children their worth musically can perhaps circumvent a less productive path. 

Each year, the award producers choose a different beneficiary for the funds raised at the event. After working with both Sister Season Fund and the Lighthouse Project, this year the proceeds will help the Bahama Village Music Program as it transitions from one building to another.

City commissioner Clayton Lopez took the stage and eloquently thanked all the sponsors and told a bit about his love for the Key West music scene. Then, after a rousing rendition of their song “Key West is the Best” by this year’s Reggae Act of The Year, Reggae Lou and The Kind Buds, the show got down to business.

And business was booming. The night included the presentation of over 20 awards as well as a special Lifetime Appreciation Award for Ellard “Moose” Boles, a local blues legend whose credits include several albums with Lou Reed. His resume also features a long list of famous players, and he has been playing his style of blues in the Keys for 25 years. The very talented Kari Wolf brought the house down singing one of Moose’s original songs, “I Didn’t Know.”

Throughout the night, community personalities, supporters, characters and friends presented local musicians with the trophy known as the Iggy. 

The voting process is fairly simple. A public nomination period is held online in which the general public nominates favorites in each category, which each has its own criteria.

 After that. the top three nominations in each category are passed on to a panel of seven judges. These judges do not know each other’s identity, nor do they know the number of votes any particular nominee may have received. In other words, if the top two nominees got 300 nominations and the next one in line only received 50, the judges have no idea. 

The judges then, on their own, do the job of seeing these acts live or on video, listening to the recordings and deciding which they like best. Some of these judges are musically knowledgeable, meaning they know why one song sounds one way as opposed to another. Yet some of these judges just love music and like what they like for whatever reason.

And some of the judges fall in between.

The evening was interspersed with musical performances by some of Key West’s shining stars. Nina Newton graced the stage along with relative newcomer Justin Angelo. This will not be the last time either of these two performers grace the stage at the Iggys.

Gary Hempsey, a proficient and musically active force in our community, showed why he took home Song of the Year honors — on stage, alone with his guitar, like a troubadour would. 

Jess and Jill silenced the crowd with an original song reminiscent of Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and a sense of vulnerability. The thunderous applause they received can also be attributed to the great band directed by Jeff Dalton and composed of local players Ross Brown, Hal Howland, Vince Bergamo, Tim Mayer and Jimmy Sweetwater.

“The focus was on making each performer sound the best that they can,” Dalton said, and the band did just that.

The night almost reached the point where it was getting a little long, as award shows often do, except for one thing that can’t really be quantified but can be felt: the feeling of love, family and community that filled that large room. This is a byproduct that no organizer of any event can count on, or introduce themselves. It is a natural organic experience that creates itself and grows as it is realized.  

In this business we all work at the same time. On our Island, with our economy, we all work a lot and are happy that we can. It seems, sometimes, we only get together when something is wrong — a benefit for a friend in need, for example. But not this night. We came to show our support for the future of Key West music. We came to celebrate. We came to recognize our colleagues and be recognized by them. To let each other know: we see you and what you’re doing and we are happy you’re doing it here with us. Nights like this bring us together as part of the history of this island, and as part of a community of people who love a few of the same things, a few of the same people, and live very close together.

For more information, and to support the Iggys, visit keywestmusicawards.com.

Ray West
Ray West, professional musician, singer, actor, and Executive Director of the Key West Music Awards, is known to sacrifice his comfort for that of his cat.