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Country Music Association Hosts Eighth Annual CMA Touring Awards

PLSN Staff • News • January 23, 2020

The 2019 CMA Touring Awards winners at the Jan. 21 ceremony in Nashville. Photo by Hunter Berry/CMA.

NASHVILLE – The Eighth Annual CMA Touring Awards lauded winners in 15 tour-related categories, including advertising/public relations/media, affiliated, artist, entertainment services, marketing/digital, musician, personal manager, record label, talent agent, talent buyer/promoter, touring and venue. The event, held Jan. 21 at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, also honored Tony Conway of Conway Entertainment with the CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award.

Winners, pictured above, included (Back row, L-R): Todd Bunch, tour manager; Chris Jones, tour video director; David Kells, venue; Jay Ballinger, production manager; Mary Hilliard Harrington, manager; Wyatt Beard, touring musician; and Arpad Sayko, FOH engineer. (Front row, L-R): Chris Reade, lighting director; Jill Trunnell, videographer/photographer; Jon Pardi, host; Tony Conway, lifetime achievement award; Sarah Trahern, CMA CEO; Jay Williams, talent agent; Larry Phye, Jr., coach/truck driver; Mary Ann McCready, business manager; Bryan “Opie” Baxley, monitor engineer

More details from CMA (

Tony Conway, Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient with Mary Travis and Randy Travis at the 2020 CMA Touring Awards. Photo by Hunter Berry/CMA.

Singer, songwriter, producer and 2017 CMA New Artist of the Year Jon Pardi hosted the evening. He shared humorous, supportive anecdotes throughout the program, recognizing his own road crew as well as this year’s nominees.

The 2019 CMA Touring Awards on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, TN. Photo by Hunter Berry/CMA.

Country Music icon Marty Stuart presented Conway with the Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor given to an individual who has positively impacted and contributed to the growth of touring throughout a course of years that have proven to have an unprecedented historical impact on Country Music fans and the industry alike, and whose presence will have a long-term positive impact on Country Music and CMA for generations to come.

“You know, sometimes when I talk about who I used to represent or who I do represent, they think I’m making all this up because it just sounds like a dream, and it is. It’s true,” said Conway. “I want to thank everybody in this room for what they do on the road. Like everybody says, we are one big family, and it takes professionals and people that love the business as much as I do to pull it off.”

“The beauty of Tony is, his handshake is better than a pile of contracts,” said Stuart. “And that’s the truth. If Tony gives you his word on something, it’s done.”

Artists and industry peers including Alabama’s Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen, Terry Calonge, John Huie, Joey Lee, John Michael Montgomery, Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Van Shelton and Randy and Mary Travis. Storme Warren also shared video messages congratulating Conway on his monumental achievements.

“Thank you to CMA for recognizing us. It’s truly a huge honor,” said Monitor Engineer of the Year Bryan “Opie” Baxley. “I gotta thank Kenny Chesney and his entire staff. From him and the greatness he is, it trickles down to the very last person. Who lives like we do?” “WE DO!” exclaimed Baxley’s fellow crew members. “We do, that’s right.”

Manager of the Year winner Mary Hilliard Harrington is the only honoree in CMA Touring Awards history who has won two different categories with three prior trophies received for Publicist of the Year. “I decided this year 2020 was my year of gratitude, and so it’s pretty amazing to be able to stand here in front of all of you guys and say thank you in such a public way,” said Harrington, whose company represents Dierks Bentley and Caylee Hammack, among others.

“I’m proud and honored to be in the room with all of you,” said Tour Video Director of the Year Chris Jones, who tours with Eric Church. “It’s a pleasure to be here. I think everyone does an outstanding job and to me, it makes a difference to the fans and the people who believe in coming to tours and to the concerts. It makes a difference to show that, and to have faith and pride in what we do.”

Claiming her third trophy for Business Manager of the Year, Mary Ann McCready remarked, “I just feel so lucky to get to do what I do every day and with artists that I just respect so much.” Her previous wins were in 2012 and 2015.

Arpad Sayko, who tours with Chris Stapleton, is a two-time winner for FOH (Front of House) Engineer of the Year, last winning in 2017. “I hope that this award will allot me a new front of house chair. That’s all I need,” joked Sayko.

“I have to thank Kenny Chesney who taught me how to use a camera because he got me one and said, ‘Here, figure this out,’” said first-time Videographer/Photographer of the Year Jill Trunnell. CMA added this new Touring Awards category in 2019.

Country Music Hall of Fame member Kix Brooks and Bentley were in attendance to support and honor crew members. Bentley, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Maren Morris and Thomas Rhett shared congratulatory videos that were played during the program.

The 2019 CMA Touring Awards winners are as follows:

CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award: Tony Conway of Conway Entertainment 

  • CATEGORY 1 — BUSINESS MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Mary Ann McCready — Flood, Bumstead, McCready & McCarthy, Inc.
  • CATEGORY 2 — COACH/TRUCK DRIVER OF THE YEAR: Larry Phye, Jr. — Chris Stapleton
  • CATEGORY 3 — (FOH) FRONT OF HOUSE ENGINEER OF THE YEAR: Arpad Sayko — Chris Stapleton
  • CATEGORY 4 — LIGHTING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: Chris Reade — Dierks Bentley
  • CATEGORY 5 — MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Mary Hilliard Harrington — Red Light Management
  • CATEGORY 6 — TOUR MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Todd Bunch — Eric Church
  • CATEGORY 7 — MONITOR ENGINEER OF THE YEAR: Bryan “Opie” Baxley — Kenny Chesney
  • CATEGORY 8 — PRODUCTION MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Jay Ballinger — Dierks Bentley
  • CATEGORY 9 — PUBLICIST OF THE YEAR: Tyne Parrish — The GreenRoom
  • CATEGORY 11 — TALENT BUYER/PROMOTER OF THE YEAR: Louis Messina — Messina Touring Group
  • CATEGORY 13 — TOUR VIDEO DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: Chris Jones — Eric Church
  • CATEGORY 14 — TOURING MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR: Wyatt Beard — Kenny Chesney
  • CATEGORY 15 — VENUE OF THE YEAR: Bridgestone Arena — Nashville, TN

About the CMA Touring Awards

The CMA Touring Awards, originally called the SRO Awards, were created by the CMA Board of Directors in 1990 to honor outstanding professional achievement within the touring industry. The first Awards were presented at a black-tie gala hosted by K.T. Oslin and Roger Miller during CMA’s Entertainment Expo, also known as the Talent Buyers Entertainment Marketplace. Ten Awards were presented at the first gala and the number swelled to 19 over the years before settling at the current 15. The SRO Awards were renamed the CMA Touring Awards in 2016.

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