Sally Awards

Celebrating Minnesota’s commitment to the Arts

The Sally Awards recognize and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of artists, educators, volunteers, philanthropists, and leaders who strengthen and enrich the stage of Minnesota with their commitment to the arts and arts education.

Congratulations to the 24th Sally Awards winners!

This year’s winners were announced during the 24th Sally Award held at Ordway’s Concert Hall on Monday, October 17th, 2016. The public was invited to celebrate the amazing achievements of these six people.


Arts Access – May Lee-Yang

May Lee-Yang is a playwright, poet, prose writer, and performance artist. She has been hailed by Twin Cities Metro Magazine as “on the way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater.” Her plays include Hmong-Lao Friendship Play or Lao-Hmong Friendship Play, Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman, and Ten Reasons Why I’d Be a Bad Porn Star. In 2012, her company produced a Hmong-language version of Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman to create accessibility for people who spoke little or no English, were new Americans, and/or had never seen theater before. She is the author of the children’s book The Imaginary Day (MN Humanities Center) and has been published Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing By Hmong Americans, Water~Stone Literary Journal, and others. She also teaches creative writing and theater to teens and elders through COMPAS, St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, and Mu Performing Arts. In 2014, she launched Letters to Our Grandchildren, a theater/food/storytelling/video project with Hmong elders.


Commitment – Steven Schmidt

Steven Schmidt has served as General Manager of the City of Rochester Music Department/Riverside Concerts (also known as Rochester Civic Music) since 1989. He conceived and continues to be responsible for managing and curating the Down by the Riverside, Riverside Live!, and World Music concert series, as well as the Thursdays on First & Third Summer Market & Music Festival and various educational/outreach, community music, and services-to-the-field functions. He provides staff support for repurposing Rochester’s historic Chateau Theatre as a multipurpose performing arts center and is the treasurer of Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council. Working in arts administration since 1973, he oversaw the restoration of the historic TB Sheldon Auditorium Theatre in Red Wing, Minnesota, and served as its managing director. He also served multiple terms as Chair of the Minnesota Presenters Network, as a member of the Rochester Arts Council Board of Directors, and on the Rochester Downtown Alliance’s Cultural Initiatives Committee.  He is a Past President of VSA Minnesota and has been a member of several Minnesota State Arts Board and Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council advisory panels. An accomplished guitarist/singer-songwriter who has written over 200 songs, he is active as a performer and has released two CDs, Heartland (2015) and The Road (2014).


Education – Reverend Carl Walker and Grant West

Reverend Carl Walker has been a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota and a music instructor in the Twin Cities for more than 50 years. He is the co-founder of Walker-West Music Academy, an institution known for its music instruction across the state of Minnesota. He serves on the Board of Directors for Walker West Music Academy, Board of Directors for MacPhail Center for Music, is a member of the St. Paul Black Ministerial Alliance, and is a past Board member of Ujaama.

 Rev. Walker is the Founder and President of the Morning Star Community Development Corporation and founding pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. Reverend Walker is also the past Director of Music for the Minnesota State Baptist Convention & Congress, Music Director for Pneumbra Theater, and Music Director for the Baptist Church in Costa Rica. He is recognized nationally as a teacher in the Gospel Music Workshop of America and was honored as the Piano Scholarship winner for the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, where the late Thomas A. Dorsey was President. 

 Grant West co-founded the Walker West Music Academy alongside Rev. Carl Walker in 1988. There, they developed their signature method for teaching piano and other instruments, called the “Walker-West Method.” This method is a highly successful, culturally based program built on teaching music as language. Its technique offers immediate gratification for students and provides them with tools for success throughout their musical pursuits.

Grant’s music career includes teaching, composing, recording, and performing at various special events around the Twin Cities. One of his career highlights is forming the West Bros Jazz Piano Duo with his brother, Thom. The duo performed for Prince at Paisley Park and in concert at the World Theater. They have two CD credits, Jazzy Holidays and Jes’ Playin’. As a solo artist, Grant has accompanied Sammy Davis Jr.

Grant’s passion is to inspire students’ personal growth and confidence through the study and expression of music. In nearly 30 years of operation, Walker-West has served thousands of students.

Grant is a father of four, a grandfather of eight, and a great-grandfather of one. He has been married to Dr. Sharon Adams for 16 years and they reside in Woodbury, MN.


Initiative – Kyu-Young Kim

Kyu-Young Kim, Artistic Director and Principal Violin of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, is one of the most versatile and accomplished musicians of his generation. His appointment as the SPCO’s artistic director in January 2016 marked the first time a playing member has been selected to take the artistic helm of a major American orchestra. Previously, Kim served as director of artistic planning with the SPCO, all the while continuing to perform in the orchestra, and since assuming a dual role in 2013, the SPCO has named four new Artistic Partners and helped open the new Concert Hall at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts to great critical acclaim. 

Hailed by the Chicago Tribune for his “flawless musical and technical command,” Kim has toured throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. As a founding member of the Daedalus Quartet, winners of the Grand Prize at the 2001 Banff International String Quartet Competition, he performed in many of the major halls of Europe and was a member of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Two Program.


Vision – Rebecca Moran Cusick of Los Alegres Bailadores

Founded in 1977, Los Alegres Bailadores is a Mexican folkloric dance group based in the West Side neighborhood of Saint Paul. Under the leadership of founder, director, and instructor Rebecca Moran Cusick, the group is one of the most established folkloric dance groups in Minnesota that never fails to delight and inspire audiences of all ages. Moran Cusick’s vision to preserve and promote this beautiful art form, as well as use it to address social issues and bridge cultural gaps, has benefited many.

As a child of early Mexican immigrants, Moran Cusick’s family history of involvement in Mexican dance and music fostered her passion for dance that led to the formation of Los Alegres Bailadores. After studying at Mexico’s La Academia de la Danza Mexicana del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Moran Cusick continues to dedicate her life to dance training and researching Mexican culture and history. Moran Cusick has many times over earned the title of “Maestra” and is honored to be serve as an ambassador for this expansive art form.

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