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SCERA smiles on annual Star Awards winners

March 8, 2018 GMT

Among those being honored at SCERA’s 13th Annual Star Awards this year are two acclaimed violinists with Provo ties: Lindsey Stirling and Ryan Shupe.

Stirling, YouTube sensation and 2015 BYU alumna, and Shupe, frontman of Provo-based rock-bluegrass band Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand, will respectively receive the 2018 Star Award and Music Star Award at the SCERAEvening of Stars Gala on Saturday.

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The Star Awards recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the arts in various categories, as well as their achievements in enriching Utah communities and citizens, according to the SCERA.

“We recognize that the scope of talent and commitment to the arts in Utah is tremendous, and the Star Awards are a way of calling attention to their achievements and applaud their talent and dedication,” said Adam J. Robertson, SCERA president and CEO.

This year’s award winners also include Angela Johnson for visual arts, Bill and Marilyn Brown for Lifetime Achievement, Grassroots Shakespeare Company for theater, Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance for dance, James and Andrea Clarke for Friend of the Arts, Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering for Advocate of the Arts and Bonnie Busco for volunteerism.

Shupe said he was surprised but honored that the SCERA committee would keep him in mind and select him as this year’s Music Star Award recipient.

“I thought that was really cool,” Shupe said. “It’s always nice when someone pats you on the back and says you did a good job.”

The music award winner said he hopes to spread a feeling of positivity through his music.

“That’s the main overarching message, that people come and they have a good time and they end up leaving more hopeful than they did when they came,” Shupe said.

The musician said he thinks the arts make life more meaningful by introducing a different form of storytelling and enabling artists to express their feelings, hopes and aspirations.

“I think that with the arts, it kind of helps us celebrate all the different viewpoints,” Shupe said. “It’s kind of been a part of every society really since the beginning of since anybody can remember, and I think that’s just because people like to participate in that and express themselves and to also … look at what other people are doing and see it their way.”

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Johnson, a sculptor known for her religious work exhibited in the “ Light of the World Garden ” at Thanksgiving Point ’s Ashton Gardens, said it was a special honor for her as a relatively new Utah resident to receive a SCERA visual arts award.

The sculptor pursued a career as an operatic soprano before trying her hand at sculpting years ago. Johnson said her instinctual transition to the visual arts occurred one morning when she came to the devastating personal realization that she would never be able to achieve her ultimate goal of becoming a prima donna in the opera world.

“In that moment, I went to the art store, bought a block of water-based clay, one sculpting tool, … came home, pulled the plastic down off the clay, and when I put my hands into the clay, all the devastation from my heart left through my hands,” Johnson said. “My hands began to move as though they were performing a choreographed play, as though they already knew what to do.”

Johnson was taken with the art form and soon began sculpting one thing after another. She found fulfillment in the tangible aspect of the art of sculpting, although music has the power to touch hearts in a different way.

“Having had very deep immersion experiences with both music and sculpting, I just realized that the arts are such a powerful medium to communicate the artist’s feelings and their voice and their perspective of life, but also that those that listen to it, their lives can be impacted and changed through both mediums,” Johnson said.

Longtime Springville resident Bill Brown and his wife, Marilyn, recipients of this year’s SCERA Lifetime Achievement award, have developed a similar commitment to the arts throughout their lives as they have observed the impact the arts can have in the lives of others.

“We’ve spent our lives in the arts,” Bill Brown said. “The arts are what make us human, and I just think it balances a person’s life to have that engrained in your system.”

Bill Brown’s love of theater has led him to involvement in more than 150 productions as an actor, writer or producer, and Marilyn Brown has written and published several books over the years. The Browns also worked together to establish community theaters and art galleries in Springville.

“It’s just been really a rewarding life,” Bill Brown said. “I’ve had no regrets. We’ve never made much money out of it; we’ve always dumped our dollars into it because we feel it was really important for the community.”

Read more about each of this year’s SCERA Star Award winners below.

Lindsey Stirling: 2018 Star Award

Lindsey Stirling is a dancing violinist known for her electronic-style music. Stirling has gained attention in the music industry in recent years with her unique talent and internet videos. Her YouTube channel has gained a following of more than 10 million subscribers and accrued more than 2 billion views to date.

Stirling recently competed on the TV series “ Dancing With the Stars,” and has worked with artists including Celine Dion, Josh Groban, John Legend, Evanescence and Christina Perri throughout her career. Stirling’s recently released Christmas album, “Warmer in the Winter,” was the best-selling holiday album of 2017.

Ryan Shupe — Music

Ryan Shupe, a fifth-generation fiddler in his family, grew up playing bluegrass music. The musician now infuses rock into the acoustic sound he was raised on in music group Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand, widely known for its hit single “Dream Big.”

The band’s unique signature sound has led the group to appearances on “ Good Morning America,” NPR, CMT and the 2002 Winter Olympics. Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand have also opened for bands like Creed, Marc Anthony, Bob Dylan and Nickel Creek.

Angela Johnson — Visual Arts

Angela Johnson is the founder of the “ Light of the World Garden ” at the Ashton Gardens in Lehi. Before she became a sculptor, she trained to become an operatic soprano and participated as a faculty member at BYU Education week for eight years.

Johnson said she hopes through her to work to be a catalyst to help others “listen to their own deep, religious, spiritual feelings.”

Bill and Marilyn Brown — Lifetime Achievement

Bill and Marilyn Brown are known in the Springville community as the founders of local arts establishments including the Brown House of Fine Arts, Villa Playhouse, Little Brown Theater, and Brown House of Fine Arts Gallery and Studio. The couple’s work influenced the lives of hundreds of children and youths who participated in youth theater programs offered through the Browns’ community theaters.

The Browns have continually fostered a love for the arts in the Springville community, even amid challenges, including destructive fires at both of their art galleries and a serious heart attack for Bill Brown that forced the couple to close their local theaters.

“This life’s really full of twists and turns and the better person’s the one that gets out there and takes it as an opportunity,” Bill Brown said.

Grassroots Shakespeare Company — Theater

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company is a touring theater ensemble and nonprofit charity that strives to make William Shakespeare plays accessible and available to audiences everywhere.

The group often performs Shakespeare’s works for free in public parks in productions inspired by the playwright’s original staging techniques, such as performing after only three days of rehearsal without a director or designers.

Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance — Dance

The Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance is a group of folk dancers who work to preserve Latin American dance traditions and promote community inclusion by showcasing Hispanic culture through dance. The acclaimed group has performed throughout the state, nationally and in Europe and South America.

Andrea and James Clarke — Friend of the Arts

Andrea and James Clarke operate Clarke Capital Partners and have supported the arts in Utah in many ways. James Clarke served on boards for Kingsbury Hall, Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, and Deer Valley Music Festival, helping to save these arts organizations during economic hardship. Andrea Clark has also worked with Derryl Yeager, serving on the Odyssey Dance Theatre board.

The Clarkes helped to raise more than $20 million for Utah Valley University ’s Noorda Center for the Performing Arts, which is projected to open in 2019. The two also served as executive producers of eight albums for Broadway artists like James Conlee and local bands like The Strike.

Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering — Advocate of the Arts

The Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a five-day event that celebrates the cowboy tradition through music, poetry and art. Since its inception 23 years ago, the gathering has hosted hundreds of Western music performers and cowboy poets in the entertainment and education of tens of thousands of audience members.

Bonnie Busco — Volunteer

Bonnie Busco’s deep love for the performing arts and patriotism led to her co-create and direct the Provo Freedom Festival ’s “ Cries of Freedom.” The musical has been performed as part of the festival for 10 years.

Busco also influenced many young people in her 25-year teaching career and created patriotic programs for Wasatch Elementary, aiming to instill in children respect for one another and love for their country.