Dubbed the greatest night in Gospel music, the 30th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas turned “Sin City” into “Salvation City.” Celebrating 30 years, the Stellar Awards was co-hosted with comedic flair by David Mann (“Mann & Wife), Tamela Mann (“Sparkle”) and Ricky Smiley (“Dish Nation”) during the 2-hour taped telecast premiering Easter Sunday, April 5 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on TV One. The Stellar Awards recognizes the year’s best performances in the genre, honors Gospel music icons and acknowledges the accomplishments of individuals instrumental in advocating for the industry.
The big surprise of the evening came at the top of the show, when opening act Michelle Williams was joined by former bandmates Beyonce and Kelly Rowland in a show-stopping reunion that brought the audience to its feet singing her song, “Say Yes,” a winner for “Best Music Video of the Year.”
Ten-time nominee Erica Campbell took top honors, winning six awards including Artist of the Year, The Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary CD of the Year and Urban/Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year. She acknowledged her sister, the other half of award-winning duo Mary Mary in her heartfelt remarks.
“Thank you Tina for saying that you needed a break,” said Erica. “…Cause I wouldn’t have done it (“Help”) if you didn’t say that.”
Ricky Dillard and New G followed Campbell with three wins, and Deitrick Haddon tied with The Walls Group for two trophies apiece. On stage after winning the Male Vocalist of the Year award, Haddon expressed gratitude for being recognized following a difficult time in his life.
“A couple of years ago I messed up so bad I thought I could never inspire anyone again,” he shared. “I was ready to quit and God spoke to me – He said, if you humble yourself I’ll lift you up to places you’re never seen. This award is for people who think it’s over for them.”
Haddon later brought the house down with a star-studded rendition of “My City” collaborating with Dorinda Clark-Cole, Clareta Haddon, Kierra Sheard, J. Moss, 21:03 and Shelby Five.
One of the hosts of this year’s show, Tamela Mann, won the award for Special Event CD of the year for “Best Days Deluxe Edition”.
The New Artist of the Year award was presented to Tasha Page-Lockhart, marking her first Stellar Awards appearance, performing “Great Is Your Love” and “Faith Come Alive,” with fellow first-timers The Walls Group.
Other masterful performances included Smokie Norful, Jonathan McReynolds, Erica Campbell and Pastor Beverly Crawford who all delivered passionate hand-clapping and foot-stomping presentations to the delight of the filled-to-capacity crowd. The Stellar Awards signature is its powerful collaborations, and this year was no exception with Rance Allen Group, Lisa Knowles & The Brown Singers, as well as Uncle Reece, Willie Moore, Jr. and Canton Jones teaming up to deliver amazing musical numbers.
Bishop Paul Morton received the Allstate James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments and was honored in song by Kurt Carr & the Kurt Carr Singers with Zarcadi & Crystal singing a medley of “I’m Still Standing”. Al “The Bishop” Hobbs, received the Chevrolet Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legend Award for his career accomplishments in the radio industry.
Yolanda Adams and Israel Houghton performed “How Awesome Is Our God” celebrating the life of Andrae Crouch which set the tone for one of the most moving speeches of the night from his twin sister, Sandra Crouch. Speaking from the heart on behalf of her legendary sibling, Crouch was honored posthumously with the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for his lifelong contributions to Gospel that have influenced artists from every genre and around the globe.
“When the storms come and when there are no trophies, no Grammys and there’s no light shining,” she proclaimed, “…you still say to God be the glory.”
This year, award show founder and Executive Producer Don Jackson, implemented a new tradition celebrating the extraordinary achievements in Gospel by presenting the inaugural Stellar Honors Club. In the tradition of the Kennedy Center Honors, The Stellars Honors inductees received a medallion to commemorate excellence in their respective fields. The inaugural awards were conferred upon Pastor Shirley Ceasar, Byron Cage, Clifton Davis, Ricky Dillard, Kirk Franklin, Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones, Vicki Mack Lataillade, Dottie Peoples, Donnie McClurkin, and Vickie Winans.
Prior to the show, this year’s celebration began with Tye Tribbett hosting a live stream on the star-studded red carpet featuring Gospel greats, television, film and political luminaries such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Gary Dourdan, Pastor Donnie McClurkin, Pastor Marvin Sapp, Adrienne Baillon, Amber Riley, Denise Boutte, Rev. Clifton Davis, DeVon Franklin, Donald Lawrence, Smokie Norful, Hezekiah Walker, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Dottie Peoples, Loretta Devine, Ben and Jewel Tankard, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Byron Cage, Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones, William McDowell, The Williams Brothers, Miss Robbie Montgomery and Tim Norman, Chante Moore, Earnest Pugh, and Kirk Franklin to list a few.
As a part of the pre-show activities, additional awards were announced during ceremonies held on Friday. All of the Stellar winners are selected by online voters. Following the April 5 premiere on TV One, the 30th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards will air in nationwide syndication from April 5 through May 10, 2015.
Don Jackson, CEO and Executive Producer of the show was humbled by the industry’s support and the celebratory mood.
“It’s so kind for people to just show up. We appreciate it. We definitely feel the love here in Las Vegas and we’re looking at coming back.”