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Hit Songwriting Alumnus Bill Danoff Wins Lifetime Award

September 15, 2014 – Bill Danoff, the 1968 Georgetown alumnus who helped write “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with John Denver, has received the Georgetown Entertainment and Media Alliance's (GEMA) first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.

GEMA presented the award to Danoff at the GEMA Rocks concerts on Sept. 12 and 13 at the Davis Performing Arts Center.

“As a singer/songwriter/musician with such an accomplished, long-lasting career, Bill has brought a strong sense of pride to the Georgetown community,” says Rich Battista (B’86), the GEMA founder and chair who presented Danoff with the award.

Launcher of Careers

“Bill has literally launched the careers of several young songwriters and helped to build a local community here in D.C. of students and young alumni interested in the intersections between poetry and music,” says Anna Celenza, director Georgetown’s music program.

The American Society of Composers, and Publishers (ASCAP) named the famous John Denver tune the “Country Song of the Century,” and it is now West Virginia’s official state song.

Danoff is also the author of “Afternoon Delight,” which led to five Grammy nominations and two Grammy Awards. He also taught a Georgetown seminar in songwriting for six years.  

Six Decades of Music

“It was a wonderful honor to receive the GEMA Lifetime Achievement Award,” Danoff says. “To be associated with such an outstanding group is a wonderful feeling… Reconnecting with Hoyas from several generations and continuing to make new friends – what a perspective on the Georgetown experience.”

The sixth, sold-out GEMA Rocks concert included Michael Zakarin (C’05, MBA’13) of The Bravery, Jessica “Jeza” Bennett (C '09), Johnny Zambetti (B’09) of Terraplane Sun and a host of other alumni and students.   

“What we believe makes GEMA ROCKS arguably the most unique event at Georgetown is that it brings together six decades of graduating classes,” Battista says, “and is an extensive and rare collaboration among alumni, the administration, faculty and students.”

Academic Component

For the first time this year, Celenza incorporated GEMA Rocks into the classroom, with seven performers talking about their experience in the business as part of her “Music Industry” course.

And her “Writing About Music” class included an assignment for students to attend and cover the concerts.

Battista says the biennial event showcases and celebrates the musical artistry of Georgetown.

“There is a large, growing faction of alumni and students that are extremely talented and accomplished in the performing arts,” he explains, “and we believe it is vitally important to highlight that diversity within the Georgetown community.”