A Conversation with Brandon Valentine of the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame

4 mins read

In the heart of Central Pennsylvania, a region known for its rich musical heritage, the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame (CPMHOF) has emerged as a vital force in celebrating and elevating the area’s musical legacy. Established by Brandon Valentine in 2019, the CPMHOF has become synonymous with excellence and community in the local music scene. As a non-profit organization, it has taken on the noble task of honoring the past, championing the present, and nurturing the future of music in the region. Rock Documented had the privilege of sitting down with Brandon Valentine, the visionary behind the CPMHOF, to delve into the organization’s journey, its profound impact, and the exciting horizons that lie ahead.

As the President and Founder of the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame (CPMHOF), can you share with us the inspiration behind establishing this organization?

“Over the years, Central Pennsylvania has produced some incredible and accomplished musicians, who have influenced generations of music lovers. In 2019, the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame (CPMHOF) was founded (as a non-profit organization) to recognize, support, and grow the area’s longstanding and diverse music heritage. Inspired to build up our local music scene, we took a three-pronged approach—with the past, the present, and the future in mind. We highlight the best-of-the-best of all-time, by inducting acts into our Hall of Fame. We strive to bring together the current music scene in recognition of artists’/band’s annual achievements with our annual awards show. Lastly, we are focused on youth music education and providing opportunities to our area’s next generation of talent. All-in-all, we were inspired by the music scene that preceded us.”

How has the CPMHOF evolved since its inception in 2019, and what are some of the key milestones you’re most proud of?

“After selling out the Whitaker Center (in Harrisburg) in January of 2020, we thought our annual award show (the Central Pennsylvania Music Awards & Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony) was going to be one of the few annual tasks we had. However, once COVID hit, the organization leapt into action to become much more. When venues closed, we became an outlet for full-time musicians to earn income. The CPMHOF hosted over 100 livestreams where artists earned over $20,000 via a virtual tip jar; 100% of the proceeds went to the artists. Since then, we continue to support all local artists, their releases, and their shows. We’ve joined forces with CCU to help curate and promote the annual Joy to the Burg Christmas album. We’ve moved our annual awards show to the Hershey Theatre, which has more than doubled the capacity for the prestigious CPMAs. Now, we have a hit radio show on The River 97.3 with Glenn Hamilton called “The Local Show,” and we’ve created the Central Pennsylvania Music Podcast. All that considered, our biggest accomplishments are still ahead of us!”

Can you share some memorable moments or highlights from the past CPMA events?

“We’ve had some “wow” moments on stage with some of the biggest names from our area, but the moments that leave the most lasting impressions are those that evoke the sentiments of community and family. For example, the experience of seeing everyone dressed-to-the-nines and smiling in the lobby of the inaugural event was affirming. Observing the mix of artists from different genres applauding other artists is uplifting. And, viewing artists simply supporting one another is what it is all about.”

The CPMHOF is deeply invested in educational initiatives, such as music camps and scholarships. Can you tell us more about these initiatives and their impact on the local music scene?

“What began with one outdoor kids music camp – teaching toddlers and pre-teens how to play bucket drums and ukuleles – has spawned into something bigger. Our non-profit now has an annual Youth Music Showcase—where we shine a spotlight on Central PA’s most talented up-and-coming artists (ages 11-18). What’s more, we have formed a Central Pennsylvania Youth All-Star Band to create additional experiences and opportunities. The organization has worked with multiple colleges to introduce high-schoolers to their music programs. Annually, we acknowledge a top-tier music educator with our “Educator of Note” award. In the future, we look forward to partnering with more organizations to create more scholarship opportunities for our area’s best and brightest.”

As a 5x nominee for the “Music Photography” award, I’m curious to know what you look for in a winning entry. Can you share some insights into the judging process?

“Members of both the CPMHOF Board of Directors and Advisory Committee explore all known acts/entities—with “acts” defined as those who have contributed music and “entities” defined as those businesses (like music photography) that are considered for awards. Most acts/entities are nominated by fans/family/friends (during the open period) to ensure that they are on the organization’s radar. Overall content/résumés are reviewed (exclusively for the previous calendar year) to determine which acts/entities are among the best in their respective genre. Factors that elevate consideration are as follows (but not limited to): Did the eligible act release an EP, album, song, video? Did the eligible act open for any national acts? Did the eligible act tour? Did the eligible act perform at high profile venues? Did the eligible act have a strong schedule? Did the eligible act get signed? Did the eligible act grow in number of followers, YouTube/video views, reverbnation status, Spotify monthly listeners, etc.? Did the eligible act have a strong social media/marketing presence? In summary, was/is the eligible act’s overall quality of talent and content among the finest in our area? No one of these factors solely determine a winner; consideration is all-encompassing. For entities (like music photography), consideration is similar to quality, annual resume, and annual impact on our local scene. Lastly, it is important to note that those who have been inducted into our Hall of Fame or those who are on the ballot for future Hall of Fame induction have “graduated” from CPMA eligibility.”

Looking ahead, what are some of the future plans or goals for the CPMHOF?

“This month, a physical location for the CPMHOF will open in Hershey, PA. This is where we will have the CPMHOF plaques of all members on display. Additionally, visitors can walk through rooms of autographed memorabilia/relics from the likes of Taylor Swift, Bret Michaels, LIVE, Fuel, The Badlees, Breaking Benjamin, and much more! Beyond that, we look to form a unique music festival that will bring artists and fans together in a way our area has never experienced. Stay tuned!”

As our conversation with Brandon Valentine drew to a close, it was evident that the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame is more than just an institution; it’s a beacon of hope and progress for musicians and music lovers alike. With plans to open a physical location filled with music history and the aspiration to create a unique music festival, the CPMHOF is poised to leave an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Central Pennsylvania. The dedication to recognizing talent, fostering education, and building community ensures that the CPMHOF will continue to resonate with the hearts of those it serves for many years to come. Stay tuned to Rock Documented for more insights and updates on this remarkable organization’s journey into the future of music in Central Pennsylvania.

T. Cody Strubel is the founder of Rock Documented, a platform he established in September 2015. As the Lead Photographer, Writer, and Editor, Cody has been instrumental in shaping the site's content and visual aesthetic. His exceptional work in music photography was recognized by the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame, where he was voted "Best Photography" at their inaugural event. Cody's equipment of choice includes two Nikon D850s, a Nikon 22-70mm 2.8 VR, a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 VR, and a Black Rapid Shoulder Strap. His passion for music and photography, combined with his commitment to promoting local talent, makes him a vital voice in the Central Pennsylvania music scene.

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