And the 40th Annual WAMI Award Winner is

Samuel Elias

Samuel Elias

2020 WAMI Christian/Gospel Artist Nominees

The 40th Awards show was extended due to a variety of factors, but it finally happened on October 17, 2021 at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall. The evening included a slate of impressive performances in addition to the honors.

Artist of the Year
Zach Pietrini
Unity The Band
Rose of The West
Them Coulee Boys
The Jimmys
Trapper Schoepp
Chicken Wire Empire

Album of the Year
Black Belt Theatre – “Power Petting”
Stulo – Thiel – “Ghosts Around Here”
Chicken Wire Empire – “What Moves Mountains”
Goran – “Under A Nashville Sky”
Testa Rosa – “Testa Rosa IV”
Klassik – “Quiet”
Wisconsin Vinyl Collective – “Volume Three”
Kurt Gunn – “Northern Town”

Song of the Year
The Keystones – “2010”
Bascom Hill – “Our Love Burning”
Nickel & Rose – “Another Man’”
Betsy Ade & the Well-Known Strangers – “Light Up My Summer”
Zach Pietrini – “Like the Pain”
Zed Kenzo – “Not Froze Yet”
Krestfall – “Where Do I Belong?”
Rose of The West – “Loves Lies Bleeding”

New Artist of the Year
Boy Bjorn
The Last Bees
Ben Harold and The Rising
The Midnight Purchase
Laura Jean Bomber
The MilBillies

Male Vocalist of the Year
Rich Hoffman
Ben Mulwana
Stephen Cooper
Bobby Rouse
Mike Wendland
Dave Adler
Andrew Balistreri
Vincent Black

Female Vocalist of the Year
Katie Mack
Genevieve Heyward
Michele McCarthy
Jackie Brown
Jennifer Schafer
Betsy Ade
Sammy Ray Marshall

Singer/Songwriter of the Year
Phil Norby
Kurt Gunn
Chris Haise
Mark Croft
Barbara Stephan
Kyle Megna

Rising Star of the Year
The Waxlips
Twisted Chords
Parker Collar
Lilie Fouts
Cherry Punch
Amelia Hopfensperger
Mackenzie Moore

Alternative Rock/Rock Artist
The Keystones
Flat Teeth
Jamie Fontaine & The Level
Marielle Allschwang & The Visitations

Bluegrass/Americana Artist
Dig Deep
The Honeygoats
Trapper Schoepp
Chicken Wire Empire
The Whiskeybelles
Them Coulee Boys
Feed The Dog
The Mascot Theory

Christian/Gospel Artist
The Band Eden
Brendan Brooks
Danen Kane
Samuel Elias
Branches Band
Night Divine

Blues Artist
Dirty Deuce
Altered Five Blues Band
Reverend Raven and The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys
The Jay Stulo Band
Blind Fiction
Cash Box Kings
Jimmy Crimmins

Country Artist
Tangled Lines
Grand Union
Bella Cain
Madison County
Buffalo Gospel
Gregg Hall & The Wrecking Ball
Jay Matthes
Rebel Grace

Cover Artist
Face For Radio
Johnny Wad
Almighty Vinyl
The LoveMonkeys
Five Card Studs
The Presidents
The Cougars
Radio Radio

Folk/Celtic Artist
The Roving Scallywags
Derek Byrne & Paddygrass
Blackthorn Folly
Nickel & Rose
Killarney Blarney
Jesse Voelker

Hard Rock Artist
The Homeland Conspiracy
Black Belt Theatre
Sir Real
Leading The Blind
Last Crack

Metal Artist
Imperial Fall
These Fading Visions
Under Aegis
Morta Skuld
Lords of The Trident

Punk Artist
Platinum Boys
Size 5’s
Indonesian Junk
The First Rule
Fox Face
Bad Year

Jazz Artist
Mark Thierfelder & Janet O’Mahony
Mr. Chair
Match Stick
Erin Krebs
The Meade Street Collective
Harmon Brothers
Jamie Breiwick
Randi Fay

Polka Artist
SugarBush Boys
The November Criminals
Ralph Thull The Goodtime Dutchmen
The Squeezettes
Val Sigal
Alpine Blast
Steve Meisner
Stas Venglevski

Pop Rock Artist
Rose of The West
Testa Rosa
Fuzzy Surf
Laurel Sulfate & Her Ladies of Leisure
Rocket Cat
Xposed 4Heads

Hip Hop/Rap Artist
Genesis Renji
Kaylee Crossfire
Zed Kenzo
Von Alexander
Shle Berry

R&B/Soul Artist
The Style
Bryon Cherry
Lex Allen
Barbara Stephan Band
Charles Walker Band
Ms. Lotus Fankh
Cigarette Break
The Pocket Kings

Brewtown Beat
Unity The Band
King Solomon
Something To Do
The Carlos Adames Group
In Black ‘n White

Club/DJ/Dance/Electronic Artist
Immortal Girlfriend
MC Whitehorse
DJ Shawna
Crystal Knives
DJ Bizzon
DJ King James
DJ Milo

Horn/Big Band Artist
Stephen Cooper and The Nobody Famous
Extra Crispy Brass Band
Hot & Dirty Brass Band
Cold Sweat & The Brew City Horns
FBI & The Untouchable Horns
Big Band Reunion
Mama Digdown’s Brass Band
The Jimmys

Tribute Artist
The Prince Experience
The Salford Lads Club
The Docksiders
Aces High – A Tribute to Iron Maiden
The Glam Band
Steely Dane
The Rush Tribute Project

Nick Smith
Dave Maurer
John Wartenweiler
Cedric LeMoyne
Matt Hammen
Craig Neuser
Ben Titus
Andy Mertens

Candy Dax
Dan Cable
Devin Drobka
Patrick Wydeven
Kim Zick
Steve Vorass
Mike Malone
Mike O’Hara

Angie Swan
Sean Williamson
Pat Stillman
Raine Stern
Tom Raspanti
Dean Arndt
Matthew Schroeder
Rodney Zimmerman

Dan Palmisano
Samuel P. McClain Jr.
Joe Hite
Kristopher Crow
Shawndell Marks
Jamie Fletcher
Josh Becker
Mitch Cooper

Matt Ostlund
Pete Ross
Katie Del Giacco
Michelle Jerabek
Matt Antoniewicz
Kevin Van Ess
Nick Zoulek
Peter Neumer

Cameron Fair
Tim Mcilree
Holly Rognstad
Marisa Rose Sheppard
Ernest Brusubardis IV
Chauntee Ross
Tony Sturino
Corinn Bonkalski

Best Studio Engineer/Producer
Shane Hochstetler
Kevin Arndt
Eric LaBrosse
Ian Olvera
Marc Golde
Gary Tanin
Aaron Zinsmeister
Tom Washatka

Best Recording Studio
Howl Street Recordings
Steel Moon Recording Studio
Kneeverland Productions
The Exchange Recording Complex
Cherry Pit Studios
National Recording
Subsidized Housing Records
Tanner-Monagle, Inc.

Best Live Club/Venue
Short Branch Saloon
The Saloon on Calhoun
Lyric Room
Cactus Club
High Noon Saloon
Deja Vu Martini Lounge
Paulie’s Pub & Eatery
Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.

Best Live Engineer Sound/Lights
Craig Vetrone
David Dec
Steve Wiegert
Trevor Powers
Justin Abuya
Steve Funke
Tim McClutchy
Michael Grassman

For decades, the WAMI awards show has included a "Christian/Gospel Artist of the Year" category to express gratitude to those who work hard every year to create music that lifts up the name of Jesus. Thank you WAMI, we appreciate that! We also love the fact that musicians from all over the state of Wisconsin are choosing to use their talents to give thanks to the One who provided them in the first place.

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
- Ephesians 2:10

Please pray for the continued growth of all these musical ministries in Wisconsin and join us in congratulating the 2020 nominees for WAMI Christian/Gospel Artist of The Year!

The Band Eden

Bringing a hard rock sound from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, their "Controversial Minds" EP is described as featuring "high flying vocals, face melting guitar solos, and righteous political outrage."

Official website:

Brendan Brooks

Brendan travels the US doing concerts, worship services, and speaking events. In 2007 he helped start a Christian band called Finding Fortress. His first solo album was released in the summer of 2016.

Official website:

Danen Kane

Hailing from Appleton, WI, Danen Kane was a basketball playing prelaw student in college, who detoured into music and found his life’s calling. Before he knew it, his independent recordings were generating strong regional buzz. He began touring heavily, routinely performing 175-200 dates a year, sometimes headlining and other times opening for acts like Building 429, Chris August, Sara Groves, Hawk Nelson, For King And Country, Unspoken, and The Afters.

Official website:

Samuel Elias

Samuel has found much success touring nationally and sharing the stage with some of Christian music’s biggest acts such as TobyMac, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, For King & Country, Hawk Nelson, and many more. 2016 He was nominated in 3 categories at the IMEA Awards, for best Christian/Artist of the year, Song of the year, and Album of of the year.

Official website:

Branches Band

From ancient hymns to Bible-based original songs, from guitar and piano to vocal harmonies, the truth of God’s love and grace is at the root of the Branches Band ministry. Branches Band, while based in Milwaukee, has performed in all 50 states and Canada and has served over 500 WELS and ELS congregations by offering Christian concerts, assisting with worship, and developing worship resources.

Official website:


Steadfast is a cover band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin that plays Positive Rock spanning different decades, styles, and genres.

Official website:

Night Divine

Night Divine has played in a variety of venues over the years, from churches to outdoor festivals and even taverns with one goal in mind: spread the message of Jesus Christ in a fun and engaging way.

Official website:


WithoutExcuse is a group of energetic and talented musicians who have come together to create uplifting and encouraging music with a message. WithoutExcuse has shared the stage with artists such as Disciple, Summertime Dropouts, Project 86, Icon For Hire, Silverline, Loftland, Bright Light Parade, A Life Set Apart, and more. They have played at noteworthy places including Summerfest, Lifest, and Bratfest.

Official website:

Wisconsin Area Music Industry

The Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) is a volunteer organization whose purpose is to educate and recognize the achievements and accomplishments of individuals in the Wisconsin music industry.

Official website: