Robert H. Chambers Award
Excellence in the Traditional Arts

Common Ground on the Hill has presented the Robert H. Chambers Award for Excellence in the Traditional Arts every year since 2000.  The award is named in honor of Robert H. Chambers III, who, as President of Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) and as a Founding Director of Common Ground on the Hill, understood the innate power and potential of the traditional arts to help foster understanding among people of different cultures.  His unwavering support was essential in the early development of Common Ground on the Hill and is remembered gratefully in the naming of this annual award.  The award is presented at the Roots Music & Arts Festival held in early July. 


Doc Watson - 2000 

Pete & Toshi Seeger - 2001 

Odetta - 2002 

Etta Baker - 2002

Roger McGuinn - 2003 

Ramblin' Jack Elliott - 2004

Joe Hickerson - 2005

Richie Havens - 2006 

Jean Ritchie - 2007 

Guy and Candi Carawan - 2008 

Tom Paxton - 2008

Ralph Stanley - 2009

Hazel Dickens & Mike Seeger - 2010

Stanley Dural, Jr. "Buckwheat Zydeco" & Jesse McReynolds - 2011

John Hammond - 2012

Mike Baytop & the Archie Edwards & the Blues Heritage Foundation - 2013

Hot Tuna - 2014

Professor Louie - 2015

José Feliciano - 2016

Born blind in Puerto Rico to humble beginnings, José Feliciano moved to New York City at age five. He learned to play the concertina at age six, using a handful of records as his teacher. At eight, he entertained his classmates at PS 57, and at nine, performed at The Puerto Rican Theater in the Bronx. Venturing beyond the accordion, he taught himself to play the guitar with undaunted determination and again, with nothing but records as his teacher, practicing for as many as 14 hours a day. Exposed to the Rock ’n’ Roll of the 50s, José was then inspired to sing. At 17, he starting playing in coffee houses in Greenwich Village and clubs and cafes from Boston to Cleveland to Detroit, Chicago and Denver. A music critic from the New York Times, referred to him as a “10-fingered wizard who romps, runs, rolls, picks and reverberates his six strings in an incomparable fashion.” He added, “If you want to witness the birth of a star, catch Mr. Feliciano before he leaves tomorrow night.” An A&R executive from RCA, went to the Village, saw José perform and signed him to RCA. This was, indeed, the Birth of a Star.
José Feliciano is recognized as the first Latin Artist to cross over into the English music market, opening he doors for other artists who now play an important role in the American music industry. Referred to as “The Picasso of his Realm,” José’s accomplishments are highly celebrated. He’s been awarded over forty-five Gold and Platinum records; he has won nineteen Grammy nominations, earning nine Grammy Awards, including the “LARAS Award for Lifetime Achievement.” His musical career has been immortalized with a Star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. New York City has honored him by re-naming Public School 155 in East Harlem, “The José Feliciano Performing Arts School.” The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, an ancient and prestigious Papal Order of the Catholic Church, knighted José at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. He received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, for his musical, as well as humanitarian, contributions to the world. Guitar Player Magazine awarded him “Best Pop Guitarist,” placing him in their “Gallery of the Greats,” and he was voted both “Best Jazz and Best Rock Guitarist” in the Playboy Magazine reader’s poll. In 1996, José received Billboard Magazine’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” José’s gifts of time, treasure and talent have earned him the reputation of great humanitarian and “Ambassador of Good Will” throughout the world. “I’ll never forget where I came from or the people who helped my family or me along the way.” For this reason, José will often lend a hand or his name in support of causes that he believes are important. Common Ground on the Hill is honored to welcome José Feliciano to its stage, to hear his soulful music and award him the 2016 Robert H. Chambers Award for Excellence in the Traditional Arts.
Festival Information HERE.


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