A new generation of artists stepped into the spotlight at GMA's 35th Annual Music Awards. 2003's breakthrough artists MercyMe, Switchfoot, Stacie Orrico and Jeremy Camp were among the big winners when the Doves were handed out during a program that reflected the new mission of diversity in the GMA.

Featuring performances by many African-American artist and hosted by Yolanda Adams and Deion Sanders, this year's GMA Music Awards were presented live to a sold-out house at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville and generated a spirit of inclusion for all. GMA's Music Awards is gospel music's biggest night of the year, where top artists from every style of gospel music come together for a national night of music and celebration as the GMA bestows gospel music's highest honor - the Dove Award. The program was also featured live via simulcast at Regal Entertainment Group Theatres nationwide. Look for the show to air on UPN on May 28 at 8-10 p.m. ET/PT.

"The GMA Music Awards does what no other awards show does; it celebrates a tapestry of artists and music that share one common thread ... hope. Whether it's rock or urban, country or traditional gospel, the music we saw showcased by artist performances and honored with Dove Awards tonight is as inspiring as it is entertaining," said John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and executive producer of the awards show.

INO Records' MercyMe grabbed the biggest honor of the night, Artist of the Year; their first time earning the coveted Dove in this category. They also took home Group of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year for
"Word of God Speak." "Word of God Speak" was also named Song of the Year, giving band leader and songwriter Bart Millard, with his co-writer, Pete Kipley, each a pair of Doves for their songwriting efforts.

Female Vocalist of the Year honors went to ForeFront Records/Virgin Records artist Stacie Orrico, who also earned honors for Pop/Contemporary Album for her self-titled sophomore project and Short Form Video of the Year for "(There's Gotta Be) More to Life." BEC Recordings' Jeremy Camp garnered a pair of top Doves, for Male Vocalist of the Year and New Artist of the Year.

Overall, Switchfoot lead singer and songwriter Jonathan Foreman took home the most Dove trophies. The Sparrow/Columbia band won Rock Recorded Song of the Year ("Ammunition") and Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song ("Meant to Live")
while the songs' album, The Beautiful Letdown, earned a nod for Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year. Foreman picked up three individual honors, two in the recorded song categories for songwriting credits (brother and co-writer Tim Foreman also earned a Dove for "Meant To Live"), and one for a producer's credit for the album.

"It's exciting to see younger artists like Stacie, Switchfoot, Jeremy and MercyMe gaining recognition and acceptance for their unique artistic contributions. What's great about these particular artists is that each is has a unique style and approach to their music, yet all bring a deep spirit and joyful energy to their art," said Styll.

On the urban and traditional gospel forefront the winners were; Mary Mary with Urban Record Song of the Year with "Dance, Dance, Dance", from the Gotta Have Gospel CD. I spoke to them behind the scene and the talked about being blessed to do what they love everyday. "We just thank God and the fans for their continued support" stated the girls. The dove for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year went to CeCe Winans....Presents The Born Again Church Choir.

In all, Doves were handed out in 44 categories. Songwriter of the Year honors went to Mark Hall of Casting Crowns. Double Dove recipients were Smokie Norful, Third Day, The Martins, The Crabb Family, Randy Travis, CeCe Winans and Michael Tait. A complete list of Dove Award recipients can be found at

Several of the Dove winners also performed during the GMA Music Awards, along with some of the biggest names in gospel music. A performance from the critically acclaimed "!Hero The Rock Opera" with Tait and T-Bone opened the show, followed by a rousing gospel performance by Hezekiah Walker and Byron Cage together singing "I Need You To Survive" and "Presence of the Lord." Dove Artist of the Year MercyMe sang their current radio hit, "Here With Me." Dove winners Norful, Camp, Third Day, CeCe Winans and Travis also performed. Amy Grant and Vince Gill introduced a special video message from Bono. Bono then introduced fellow AIDS activists Jars of Clay who were joined by Ashley Cleveland and the Williams Brothers for "Amazing Grace" from the band's latest album. Out of Eden, Nicole C. Mullen, Pillar and the Newsboys rounded out the 14 artist performances.

Joining the evening's festivities were presenters actor Stephen Baldwin, Tennessee Titans and NFL Pro-Bowler Derrick Mason, 13-year-old shark-attack victim Bethany Hamilton and former TV talent search competitors and now artists Kristy Starling, R.J. Helton, and LaShell Griffin. All-time Dove winner Steven Curtis Chapman, tobyMac, Amy Grant and Vince Gill, Kirk Franklin, Michael W. Smith, Mary Mary, former Destiny's Child member and now solo artist Michelle Williams and Charlie Peacock were among additional presenters at the GMA Music Awards.

Theatergoers in most major markets, including all top 10 markets, had the exclusive opportunity to see the GMA Music Awards live as Regal Entertainment Group (REG) Theatres presented a "One Night Only" Big Screen Premiere of the show in a special simulcast event at Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres. The Regal Entertainment premiere event, which was hosted by Rebecca St. James and sponsored by Compassion International, marked the first time a live awards show has been simulcast in movie theatres nationwide.

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