Malibu Music Awards honors community members, longtime professionals

Several Our Lady of Malibu congregants and music leaders received awards for their contribution to the music world.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

Now in its third year, the Malibu Music Awards Saturday night honored longtime local Dick Van Dyke, who has had a long and storied career as an actor and singer, with a Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as gave honors to producer and songwriter Joel Diamond and the Latin group Flor Y Piedra.

Diamond was presented with the 2010 Star Maker Visionary Award for his illustrious career and list of accomplishments.

“It’s very humbling,” Diamond, a Calabasas resident, told The Malibu Times regarding his honor. “I love Malibu. All my friends live in the area.”

“He has managed the careers of so many stars,” said Awards organizer Terence Davis. “He’s been influential in the lives of many young artists.”

This weekend’s Malibu Music Awards marks the third time that Davis, founder and chairman of the MMA of the Malibu Symphony, has staged the music awards ceremony and concert. Proceeds from the program will go directly to charities involved with music, such as the Malibu Symphony Association and Our Conservatory, a charity that helps children through music. Peter and Liliana de Leon Torsiello represented their group, Flor Y Piedra, which won the Latin Award. John Zambetti and Walter Egan of the Malibooz won Album of the Year for “Queens’ English.”

One of the performance highlights of this year’s awards was The Thrashers, a Northern California rock band comprised of 10-year-olds.

“This is a group of kids who will definitely achieve stardom,” Davis said.

Guitarist Albert Lee proved to those in attendance why he was worthy of the Legend of Guitar Award. Rap star Master P received the Music Philanthropy Icon Award.

Paige Schwimer, Colton Wade, Ian Verboon, Erica Jones, George Fauntleroy, Tristan Beltrami, Chris Armstrong, Kylie Chadwick and Mai Rose Contino received Student Achievement Awards. Beverly Craviero of Our Lady of Malibu was honored with the Music Educator of the Year Award.

New award categories included the Latin artist and producer/manager Star Maker kudos, and the Dick Van Dyke Respect for the Arts Award. This year’s Respect for the Arts honor went to Our Conservatory.

Another new entry was the Emily Rose Shane Music and Dance Awards, in honor of the late 13-year-old who was struck and killed on Pacific Coast Highway this year. The inaugural award went to her dance teacher, Charissa Seaman of Dance Star Malibu. As Davis put it, when Shane’s parents spoke from the podium, it proved to be “the most poignant and touching moment of the show.”

Carmen Dragon, a local harpist who recently died of cancer, was also remembered.

Diamond, who was nominated for the Grammy Award twice for different recordings of “After the Lovin’” by Englebert Humperdinck and Barbara Mandrell, has worked in the music industry as a singer/songwriter, producer and a music executive. He has worked with such talent as the Bee-Gees, Barry Manilow, Melissa Manchester, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and Ike Turner.

He also discovered the classical-music quintet The 5 Browns after stumbling upon one of the youths, Ryan Brown of Provo, Utah, on a late-night PBS broadcast. The Los Angeles station did not know how to reach Brown, and even the Provo PBS affiliate could not help Diamond.

“So I did it the old fashioned way,” Diamond said. “I got a phone book and I started with the A’s and I called every single Brown in Utah and I reached his Uncle Brent. Thank God his name wasn’t Zach Brown.”

Ryan’s father, Keith Brown, informed Diamond there were four more where Ryan came from. Five Steinways and an industry showcase later, The 5 Browns were born.

Diamond also had a direct hand in launching actor David Hasselhoff’s music career in Germany-by accident.

“He got turned down by every record label,” Diamond recalled. “I took $40,000 out of my own pocket and recorded three singles. I went to Clive Davis. I begged them for $75,000. The album came out and it just bombed unmercifully.”

A couple years later, Diamond learned that the success of reruns of “Knight Rider” in Germany inspired the album’s reissue in Europe.

“It just blew up,” Diamond said.

The group Flor Y Piedra took home the Latin Music Award on the strength of their song “Vamo Ya” (“Let’s Go Right Now”), a flamenco rock song that Peter De Leon described as, “A positive verse on life.”

The band, which has been together for four years, consists of the Torsiello family: husband and guitarist/singer Peter Torsiello, wife Liliana de Leon on percussion and background vocals, and 9-and-a-half-year-old Vincenzo Torsiello, who plays the cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument from Peru.

Flor Y Piedra (which means “flowers and rocks” in Spanish) also won the prestigious Latin category of the John Lennon Songwriting Competition with “Vamo Ya.”

However, the Malibu win came at a bittersweet moment for teen sweethearts Torsiello and De Leon. The morning before the awards, the couple was at the funeral service paying their respects to Monsignor John V. Sheridan of Our Lady of Malibu, where Torsiello has been the music director for two decades.

“He was my spiritual mentor,” Torsiello said of Sheridan.

De Leon said of the Latin Artist Award, “It makes us grateful of being in Malibu, this wonderful community that has really supported us.”

Davis noted that the awards’ songwriting contest, sponsored by Sonic Bids, and its Malibu Unplugged showcase incubates new talent: “We’re seeing the launching of several careers.”

Readying the awards is a year-round process, with the actual heavy lifting occurring in the three months before. The event’s organizer thanked the community and sponsors for supporting the Music Awards.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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