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This week, we’re excited to finally hear the news of an exciting component of one the major upcoming Stellar Awards Weekend events.

Yes, for those of you who pay attention to all that’s going on in gospel, you’ll recall that every year BMI (the noted music publishing company servicing artists, musicians, singers and songwriters all over the country to make sure they get paid for their music) takes a moment at the opening of the annual Stellar Awards Weekend with a unique ceremony – the BMI Trailblazers Awards Luncheon.

This special ceremony is usually comprised of an intimate gathering and luncheon that highlights the year’s honorary recipients of BMI Trailblazer Awards. Guests are treated to a star-studded affair in Nashville, TN with live performances from an ensemble cast of gospel, inspirational and Christian contemporary artists who perform exclusive never-before-seen (or heard) renditions of each other’s hits. There are even a few surprises like two years ago when soul music’s honey-coated vocalist Lalah Hathaway showed up and literally shut the room down on “Don’t Forget to Remember” by Donald Lawrence. It is truly an exciting experience that places the fans, the artists, the honorees, the industry execs and anyone else lucky enough to get a ticket for the event in one room – up close and personal.

Well, now that we’ve got your attention and helped you get just as excited about it as we are, guess who’s being honored this year?

BMI has officially announced Pastor Shirley Caesar and Commissioned as recipients of the 2011 Trailblazer Awards.


There’s just nobody like her. As the “First Lady of Gospel,” you have no choice but to respect and revere Pastor Shirley Caesar’s longevity and the standard she’s help set over the years. She gives it to you every single time she’s on stage and no matter what age bracket you fall into, her ability to bring the traditional to the forefront years after it’s peak reminds us that if you stick to Jesus you’ll be blessed more abundantly with every project.

Who shall we call on to give Pastor Shirley Caesar the credit she’s due on stage at this year’s ceremony? Check out our top choices below.

Dorinda Clark Cole/Twinkie Clark – Either of these two could completely wreck the house with their own Holy Ghost-filled renditions of any Shirley Caesar anthem. Our crew says Twinkie doesn’t squall like she used to, but Dorinda could take us there with no problem seeing as though she often considers both her sister Twinkie and Shirley Caesar as musical and ministry mentors. What would be the icing on the cake and the cherry on top would be if we got both Dorinda and Twinkie on the mic to do the tribute with Twinkie taking us in on the B3 Hammond organ on a Shirley Caesar record! (Y’all I feel a quickening in my spirit just picturing that scene! *exits for a quick praise break*)

Yolanda Adams – Let’s just face it. Yolanda can sing lines from the phone book and folks would be happy. She’s always in attendance at the Trailblazers Luncheon whether serving as a hostess or a featured performing artist, but this one would be special. The clarity in her voice, the conviction she sings with and the range she’s developed could take any classic Shirley Caesar jam through the roof. If she just stands there and sings the song and adds that adult contemporary flair she’ll be fine.

Kim Burrell – She’s another recurring guest for the big time musical tributes. She slaughtered “The Prayer of Jabez” for Donald Lawrence in 2009 and then turned around a gave it to us in her tribute to Whitney Houston on “I Believe in You & Me” a year later at the BET Honors. (We’re still trying to peel folks up off the floor after that incredible performance.) She can just about sing anything you present her with so churchin’ it up a bit with a Shirley Caesar joint should be interesting. Add her rasp, her vocal creativity and some jazz-influences to the solid Sunday morning praise and she’s going to take it all the way home for us all.


It’s about time someone got all of the original members of Commissioned back together in one room, on one stage. Not saying it’ll actually happen, but it’ll be nice to see Fred Hammond, Mitchell Jones, Keith Staten, Karl Reid, Michael Brooks and Michael Williams (the six founders) and some combination of the three additional members (Marvin Sapp, Maxx Frank and Eddie Howard, Jr.) rock the stage.

Now who’s going to sing for the fellas? That’s a great question. Here are our picks.

John P. Kee – He’s one of the only brothers in the gospel music industry who has been around long enough to really appreciate and adequately compliment the vocal techniques found within each of the leading members of Commissioned. Kee rarely does these kinds of things so if anyone is even remotely close to snagging him for it, now is the time to do it!

Richard Smallwood – On second thought, we believe Richard Smallwood’s career has spanned more decades than John P. Kee’s, but nonetheless he’s an equally superb choice. To hear him do anything on the piano would be spectacular. Choosing a classic Commissioned ballad for him to perform would be a simple task. Standing on your feet without tipping over into the presence of God while listening to him live, well that’s a completely different story. This would be a great show even if he just stood there and melodically spelled Commissioned, lol!

Marvin Winans – Seeing that he’s also from Detroit like the members of Commissioned and that he’s also been both a member of a singing group before going solo, Pastor Marvin Winans is an easy choice, too. He’s got the vocal chops, the Detroit gospel swag that only real natives are born with and he’s just as big of a name as the group itself. I’d like to see him do one of their songs in his own style and straight up take us in!

Israel Houghton (Wild Card Pick) – 2010 has been a huge musical year once again for Israel Houghton. He’s already proven that he can handle himself appropriately and with ease on the Trailblazers stage by yielding the most beautiful tribute to CeCe Winans at the ceremony just two years ago. (If someone could get us a copy of that acoustic rendition Houghton did of CeCe’s “I Am” – I’m near tears just thinking about it.) He always brings something sincere and something different so I’m eager to see what he does in the more Christian contemporary lane with an updated version of a Commissioned classic.

Ok, so what do you guys think? We know we gave you alot to think about, but it’s about to go down at this year’s ceremony and we want each of you to be prepared in the best way possible.

Just so you know, the awards will be presented as part of the invitation-only 12th Annual Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards Luncheon which takes place on January 14, 2011 at Rocketown in Nashville, TN.

Look for the updates on when the edited version of the Trailblazers Luncheon will be broadcast on the Gospel Music Channel (GMC) soon. It’s always a great show, but if you can get there to see it live, you won’t regret it because it’s just not the same on TV. Trust us, we know!