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Eyes on the prize

Local musicians gear up for San Diego Music Awards

The countdown is on for San Diego musicians and their fans. The 18th annual San Diego Music Awards kicks off in less than one week. Featuring more than 200 nominees vying for 26 Awards - and performances by Louis IVX, As I Lay Dying and five other local acts - this year’s show promises to rock.

Local musicians are nominated for “best of” in their musical genres as well as for recordings released over the past year. Fans crown the winners by voting online.

The San Diego Music Foundation stages the event, which takes place on Sept. 17 at Viejas. Proceeds from the show fund music education in San Diego County schools.

“That’s the main reason [we] do this - to keep an elective study like music,” said Foundation spokesman Kevin Hellman.

“Statistics show that music students do better in all their other classes as well,” Hellman said.

The Foundation puts “Baby Taylor” guitars into the hands of elementary school children in San Diego.

“Hopefully we’re helping kids get started and, down the road, some of them become professional musicians,” Hellman said.

Anya Marina is a singer-songwriter whose CD, “Miss Halfway,” won “Best Local Recording” at the 2005 show. She talked about the Awards during a break in her touring schedule.

“The most fun at the Music Awards [is] checking out the local talent and/or playing live,” Marina said.

Marina is scheduled to perform at this year’s event. She is also nominated for “Best Pop” this year.

She was an unsigned artist when she won in 2005. Since then, Marina signed a contract with Chop Shop Records and saw the title track from “Miss Halfway” included in the “Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack Vol. II.” She plays venues in San Francisco and London. Not bad for an artist who has told interviewers that elementary school teachers discouraged her singing.

Though music is finally paying her way, Marina doesn’t have any trappings of stardom.

“I still do so much of my own mailing and I don’t have a manager or an assistant,” she said.

She likes being self-sufficient. She has record label backing now, but she used to bring the music into stores herself to sell on consignment.

“I would schlep my CDs up to Lou’s,” Marina said. “In fact, I still think they owe me some money. I better go by and collect.”

Currently living in Los Angeles, Marina has fond memories of San Diego and La Jolla.

“I love La Jolla,” she said. “I lived in the Shores, Windansea and then the Bird Rock area for about eight years. I’ve walked those beaches a million times.”

Marina is looking forward to this year’s awards show.

“I’m mostly excited that I’m playing on the early side of things,” she said, “because people’s attention span goes down…after about 45 minutes. That’s when they start heavily drinking. [But] it’s a great place to connect and reconnect with your peers. How often can you see everybody from the Casbah and Lestat’s and all different genres of music in one spot?”

Swim Party is anticipating the big night as well. The three-piece band’s debut CD, “Pixie Dust on the Blood Range,” is nominated for “Best Alternative Album.” The album features urgent, chiming chords that somehow become western dirges under guitarist and lead vocalist Eric Tremblay’s high-wire vocals. Bassist Alex Devereaux and drummer Petro Halkowycz form the other points on the band’s triangle.

Speaking from his home in San Diego, Tremblay reflected on the nomination.

“We just finished our first record, actually, in June,” said Tremblay, who is a graduate student at UCSD. “We put it out June 30 and submitted it right away. We were really surprised and happy it got nominated. Competition is pretty intense. Going through the categories, there are some really great bands.”

Swim Party is also nominated in the “Best Alternative” category.

Even if Swim Party doesn’t win both awards, Tremblay said the band is thankful for the nominations.

The San Diego Music Awards

- 7 p.m. Sept. 17

- Viejas Outdoor Amphitheater

- 5000 Willows Road, Alpine

- $30-$75

- More information:

www.sandiegomusicawards.com