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Breaking the music industry in Iowa
First-ever Iowa Music Awards seek to put the state and its artists on the map
CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa doesn’t have a unique sound — yet.
Local trailblazers are building a music industry to put Iowa on the map as a hub for music production. One of those trailblazers is Cedar Rapids-based rapper and DJ Antonio “Tone Da Boss” Chalmers, who is chief executive officer of T1 Entertainment and founder of the Iowa Music Awards.
For a decade, Chalmers envisioned hosting Iowa’s take on the Grammys.
“Iowa is a kind of state that needs to see it before they believe it,” he said.
“We’re an important piece of the puzzle that often gets confused or overlooked and I feel like it’s my responsibility to change that,” Chalmers said. “I want to showcase that we have a lot to bring to the table, that we have a lot of talented individuals here that don’t necessarily get recognized because of where we are and because there hasn’t been too many big names from Iowa that comes back and represents Iowa.”
He realized that to put on a show of that size, he would need to create a reputation for holding successful events and promoting local artists.
Chalmers worked with Cedar Rapids musician and entrepreneur Derek Bailey, also known as Silence, to create T1 Entertainment. The company hosts events to give local artists recognition. It also helps them with professional development, marketing and branding.
T1 Entertainment’s goals resonated with Cedar Rapids recording studio The Sound Box. Instead of competing for talent, the companies work together. Bailey calls the combination of the two companies an incubator.
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“T1 and Sound Box, we’ve got the best of the business side and we’ve got the best of the sound side,” Bailey said. “And we put it all together so now other people see that they can work together and it’s not a problem.”
Iowa musicians had their red carpet moment at the first Iowa Music Awards on Oct. 30. At total of180 artists were nominated across 36 categories. The event hosted more than 350 people at The Olympic in NewBo.
Chalmers said the event put Iowa’s talent front and center.
“People think of Iowa and they think … country music or cornfields or that it’s not diverse,” he said. “I like to kind of own that as an opportunity to not only showcase the diversity that we have here, but to work even harder to change the perspective of people outside of Iowa.”
T1 Entertainment will host a Winter Fashion Ball with Nicia’s Events from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Cedar Rapids. This event includes a runway show featuring Iowa business owners and designers and live performances from the Iowa Music Awards’ R&B artist of the year, Tevin Jones ,and album of the year recipient, TheZeffsterr.
Tickets range from $25 to $200 and can be purchased online and at the door.
The Gazette’s social video producer Bailey Cichon spoke with Chalmers, Bailey and local artists Tevin Jones and Riley Mobz about their efforts to cultivate talent at home.