Doc Rogers has a lot to process these days. The musician and founder of the MAVRIC Independent Music Awards finds himself continually “blown away,” and is running out of ways to express his incredulity.
“It’s flabbergasting,” he says.
What Rogers is referring to is the response, both from musicians and fans, to his second annual Grammy-style music awards. Rogers launched the MAVRIC (Music Awards for Ventura Roots and Independent Creations) last year to celebrate what he believes to be a tremendous amount of undiscovered talent in Ventura County, and to give the scene more exposure and legitimacy on a national scale.
This year, 139 artists submitted 1,500 songs to the competition, nearly quadrupling last year’s total. Last year, a total of 400 people took part in the online voting process. This year, with online voting open just a few days (voting ends Jan. 31) more than 1,500 people have already participated. The response has been so overwhelming that Rogers had to relocate the awards ceremony from the Scherr Forum at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza to the 1,800-seat Kavli Theater.
Rogers, and the cadre of judges he assembled to sift through the multitude of entries, ended up adding new categories to the competition to give everyone who submitted, an opportunity to compete and win. “My edict is, we need to find a spot for each musician to be involved,” says Rogers. New this year are Vocal Group of the Year, Young Mavericks (18 years and younger), Dance, Funk, Foreign and Inspiration. There is even a category for cover bands. Rogers believes that just because a band only performs covers doesn’t mean their talent as musicians should be overlooked.
Artists don’t submit their work into a particular category. Instead, Rogers and company choose the category (or categories) they feel best suits the songs. “If you say you are a country artist, we’re gonna believe you,” explains Rogers, “but when we listen to the music, if there is an influence that could go somewhere else, then we will consider you for that.” This is why you’ll find some crossover in the categories. A song that’s a little bit country and a little bit blues will be in both categories. A song that’s vocal-driven might be placed in both Acoustic and Vocal Performance of the Year.
Of all the people who submitted songs to the competition, only two didn’t make the cut. One, because there was no music included with the application, and the other because the music defied categorizing. If you don’t see your friend’s band on the list, it’s because nothing was submitted to the competition. To qualify for the competition entrants must either reside in Ventura County or be able to prove they perform here at least four times per year.
While the public is urged to participate by voting online, not every category will be available for online voting. More technical categories will be voted on only by judges who are highly versed in the specific category. Another award that is decided only by Rogers and the judges is the Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year will go to jazz guitarist Mitch Holder. Holder’s list of accomplishments is staggering. He’s recorded with the likes of Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand, Ella
Fitzgerald, Leonard Cohen and Dean Martin and for many dozens of the most popular films and television series of the last two decades. Holden was also part of the Tonight Show band when Johnny Carson was the host. “I’m looking forward to recognizing him,” says Rogers. “He’s a salt of the earth gentleman.”
The same could be said for Rogers, whose desire to help the music community seems unusually sincere. Currently pursuing a degree in history, Rogers was let go from his job prior to the first MAVRIC awards. For some people, such circumstances would have meant sacrificing the dream, but the perpetually positive Rogers forged ahead anyway and took out a loan on his house to keep it going. “If I can create a format that allows even one group to be recognized, it’s entirely worth it,” he says.
In a world that still pays nightclub acts 1950s wages, Rogers’ respect for musicians is refreshing. “It’s not so uncommon to be 10 years old and say ‘I wanna be a rock star,’ but it’s not only uncommon, it’s extremely brave and daring when you are 20 years old and say the same thing and then make the effort to do so.”
Rogers would like to see the Ventura County music scene become a notable hotbed for talent, much like Austin or Seattle in the ’90s, but sees the county’s proximity to Los Angeles as somewhat of an obstacle. “We are inundated [with entertainment] and forget how simple it is to go out and hear live music,” he explains. “With that incredible sound coming from the south, some of our homegrown incredible talent gets drowned out, and that’s exactly why the MAVRIC awards is what it should be.”
In mid-January, MAVRIC award nominees will take over a handful of local nightclubs to perform their nominated songs in public. Participating venues include: Rookies, Cafe Bella and Bombay Bar & Grill in Ventura; Cajun Country Café in Oxnard, Rock City Studios in Camarillo and Borderline in Thousand Oaks.
A total of 33 MAVRIC awards will be handed out at the ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 22. The winners will be decided by a weighted system with online public voting accounting for 20 percent, votes from music industry professionals worth 35 percent and votes from professional musicians who are expert in their genre worth 45 percent. “It’s not a popularity contest,” says Rogers. “That’s why we have the judging criteria that we have and the three-tier process.”
While Rogers can hardly contain his excitement about the event’s growth in just one year, he’s not entirely surprised. I knew there was a lot [of talent here] but to be able to have the awards as they will be this year and put the spotlight on Ventura County musicians is why I do this.”