And the award goes to…
Steve Vai has received many awards and honors over the years, but a few have slipped out of radar and this listing is not complete. If you happen to know of any we’ve missed, please e-mail us via the contact page.
Starmus IV: “Life and the Universe” 2017
Starmus IV, is a festival that gathers together some of the most intelligent, creative and artistic minds on the planet for 6 days of lectures, panel discussions, and concerts.
Astronomers, Astronauts, Cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, musicians, artists, biologists etc. who have made significant strides in their fields come together to share interests and ideas about our origin and evolution, the human brain, society, technology and global issues in our world and the Universe in general.
This year’s programs opened with a fascinating conversations between two of the last surviving lunar astronauts from the historic Apollo mission, Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt. It also included such diverse people as Oscar winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, Larry King, economist Jeffery Sachs, and 11 Nobel laureates from across the globe discussed The Role of Science in the 21st Century. There has never, in the history of festivals, been so many Nobel Prize winners taking part in one panel discussion. The line up was: Edvard Moser, Adam Riess, Chris Pissarides, Finn Kydland, George Smoot, May-Britt Moser, Robert Wilson, Stefan W. Hell, Susumu Tonegawa and Torsten Wiesel. Carlos Moedas, the EC Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, opened the debate with a keynote address.
Stephen Hawking was scheduled to appear and give the keynote speech on “The Future of Humanity” but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. But he did deliver his keynote speech via SKYPE.
This year introduced the second Stephen Hawking Medal Ceremony and this was accompanied by various musical performances, and this is where I came in.
Brian May, one of my all time guitar heroes, is part of the founding team of Starmus and for the first 3 festivals he was able to attend and contribute with performances and talks. This year he was on tour with Queen and he and the other festival founders reached out to me to put together some performances for the festival.
Of course I saw this as a great honor and opportunity to meet with some fascinating people. I was also excited to get a chance to spend some time in Norway. The phrase “Clean and Green” comes to mind.
The festival was scheduled for June 17-23. My wife (Pia) and I arrived on Saturday the 17th .
One of the perks of having the responsibility of pulling together a few of the musical segments of the festival was the opportunity to invite some special guests. Being that Nuno Bettencourt and Brian May are such close friends, and Nuno and I are like brothers, he was an obvious invite.
Devin Townsend and Grace Potter, who both have great interest in the sciences, reached out to the festival and were invited to participate too.
Sunday the 18th : I gave a speech entitled “Creative Manifestations” that can be viewed here.
That night there was a dinner with all the various attendees invited and we had an opportunity to meet many of these brilliant minds. Even thought the collective IQ among the guests was perhaps in the millions, these folks were very down to Earth, interesting, interested and just charming.
Monday the 19th: This was rehearsal day with the Trondheim orchestra. The orchestra was scheduled to perform a piece by Phillip Glass “Icarus at the Edge of Time” (narrated by Brian Greene) and two pieces by a lovely Norwegian artist named Ane Brune.
Originally I was going to do an orchestra arrangement for “The Moon and I” and have Grace Potter sing it. We did a re-edit on the video that was used in “The Space Between The Notes”, but the vocal range was a little low for her. She did some research and realized that Stephen Hawking’s favorite song was Rod Stewarts version of “Have I Told You Lately” so we thought it would be very special if she did a performance of the song with the orchestra, and it worked out fantastic.
Up Next was Devin. It’s no secret that he is one of my favorite artists and it was great to get to spend some time with him this week. He’s still as funny as ever, and BUFF! When He was first invited to the festival I wanted to figure out a way to get him a performance with the orchestra and his song “Truth” is about as close to the voice of God in metal music that I have ever heard, so we decided that would be the piece we played with the orchestra and it was about as epic as one could imagine.
Then we rehearsed “For the Love of God” with the Orchestra” and lucky for us all, the Trondheim orchestra is a good one and can read music well. I wanted to figure out a way to end the show with all and somehow include Brian May in it, who was not there.
In 1991 I performed at “Guitar Legends” in Seville Spain and it was the premier of the performance of the song “Liberty” and Brian and Joe Satch played on it doing the beautiful harmonies so I thought it would be cool to end the show with Brian on the screen from the Seville performance and myself, Nuno and Devin on melody guitars. It was exceptional.
After rehearsal, Pia, Devin, Marty Schwartz, Nuno and myself all went out to dinner. One of the odd things about Norway at this time of the year is the sun actually never fully sets. It drops down below the horizon for an hour or so, which creates a very long and beautiful sunset, and then rises again shortly after midnight or so. So you can be out until 4am and think it’s still 7pm. Pretty dangerous!
Tuesday the 20th.
This was a big day. It started with a 9am run through of all the tracks with the orchestra. The Stephen Hawking medal Ceremony took place at around 4pm and the concert started at around 5pm.
The entire event was stupendous and the orchestra and guest artists all delivered beautifully. But that night we had rock band rehearsals for the concert the next day. Directly after the concert Pia and I were invited to a private dinner at the royal palace with the Prince and Princess of Norway and the speakers at the festival. Yup! I can’t believe these things happen to us.
This was a trip. It was a very formal event and I almost pulled out because I did not even have time to change my cloths after the show but they said, “No problem, you’re a rock star. You can get away with what you’re wearing”. I didn’t want to be disrespectful but I also didn’t want to miss this event so I went wearing my stage cloths. I guess the rest of the black tie guests didn’t get the rock star attire memo, ha.
But the Prince and Princess didn’t seem disturbed about it. As a matter of fact they were as charming and royal as one could imagine.
The dinner at the palace was quite surreal and was a great opportunity to mingle with some tremendously interesting people. One of the guys I got to talk quite a bit with was Adam Riess who won the Noble Prize for discovering that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.
I unfortunately had to leave early, which is quite rude when you’re invited to a royal palace, but the band was waiting to rehearse and it was getting very late. I caught the eye of the prince and mouthed “thank you”. To my surprise he got up out of his seat and came over to me and walked us out. While walking he said, “Weren’t you in that movie Crossroads? When I was a young boy learning the guitar that movie was a big inspiration to me”.
I told him it was me and if he would like we could change places for a few days just for kicks. (You guys would love it if I did something like that wouldn’t you).
So back to rehearsal for the rock show. I wanted the show to have my band performing for about 1 or so hours and then the guests.
For the guest segment Nuno came out first and did an unbelievable version of his solo acoustic track “Midnight Express”. I’m always fascinated with the way he plays that song. Then Grace Potter came out and they did a truly lovely version of “More Than Words”. Then we did one of Grace’s songs “Stars”.
She is just something else folks. I highly recommend checking her out.
Next up was Heavy Devie. I wanted to do one of his tracks that has a female voice on it and we picked “Super Crush”. Devin is such an exotic bird. I don’t know anyone who can write so heavy and so beautifully melodic. I never get a chance to play this kind of chugga-chugga guitar pounding and man did I enjoy it. It’s got a fat eight-note laid back pocket that gives a new dimension to Djent! And both Devin and Grace sang gorgeously together.
And then something that hasn’t happened for 25 years, Devin and I did a track from “Sex and Religion”… “Here and Now”. It was really good to hook up that way with him again and hear his voice and feel his energy.
After all my obligations were done, Pia, myself and one of our best friends, Marty Schwartz, hung out for a few more days and really got a chance to check out the charming little town of Trondheim and take in the little walking streets, lovely eateries, canals, and of course all the inspiring talks that these scientific giants were giving for the final 2 days.
The last event was the night of Friday the 23rd when all the remaining speakers attended an exclusive black tie dinner at the hotel’s ballroom.
By that time it seemed like we were all good friends. There was a lot of mutual appreciation, admiration and love in the room. We sat next to one of the bankers that helped fund the event, (and his lovely wife), Also the mayor of the providence, (who turned me onto a traditional type of Norwegian music called “Joik”). We also were sitting with the absolutely remarkable Dr. Sandra Magnus who is the Executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She’s an astronaut. To hear her speak about what it was like to live in space and to see the Earth from the view from the heavens was mesmerizing.
Her and I had an opportunity to get pretty philosophical too, and even broche the spiritual dimension, which is relatively taboo in the scientific community.
I got to bond a bit with May-Britt Moser who is a Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Center for Neural Computations at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. She is a Nobel prize winner and one of the most endearing, warmest and lovable people you could ever hear speaking passionately about their work.
Rubbed shoulders a bit with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and was very moved by Torsten Nils Wiesel who is a Nobel prize Swedish neurophysiologist. He was in a panel discussion with Larry King moderating. Oh, and he’s 94 years old and hard to keep up with.
There were so many engaging and brilliant speakers, but just as if you were to hang out with one of your guitar heroes for a while, the fascination of their achievements takes a back seat to the quality of person that is there. And I’m happy to report that every person I met, even the cute couple that was helping to book our transportation, to the doormen, to the geniuses that are discovering exo-planets, alternative Universes, Black Holes, and alien life in the Universe, were all unassuming and delightful.
All in all this was one of the most extraordinary events Pia and I have ever taken part in. I did say, I can’t believe such cool things happen to us.
And that was the last show of the tour and now I’m going home and burying myself in the studio until I feel like I have something special for you. So goodnight for now my friends. See you when I wake up from my studio slumber.
Mexico Los Pinos 2017
Hey Folks, Steve here…
I have always enjoyed visiting Mexico either on tour or on a vacation. Mexico City, in particular, is deeply cultural and the government puts a keen focus on artistic value.
Just driving through the city one can tell that the art scene thrives. LaCasa Azul in the Coyoacan district is phenomenal.I have always found the Mexican people to be warm andfriendly with firm family values, and the fans are just wild!
So you can imagine the surprise and delight when we werecontacted by Roberto Padilla Domínguez, Technical Secretary of the Cabinet of President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, and was extended a formal invitation to Los Pinos (the official residence of the President of Mexico, equivalentto our White House) on Sunday, May 28, 2017, where I was given a “Special Acknowledgment and Distinction for Brilliance in a Musical Career.” Phew!
It was a wonderful event. Pia and I were courteously shown around the beautifully manicured 20-acre presidential grounds and attended a charming ceremony where some very nice words were spoken and some lovely gifts were received.
Mexico is a multicultural nation with deep ancestral traditions, and they have always been accompanied by a vast musical diversity. I felt privileged and grateful to receive this considerate honor and would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Mexico, its people and its diplomats for not only honoring me, but for the recognition they give to so many American and International artists.
You guys rock.
Kennedy Honors 2016
In 2016, Steve was presented with the keys to the city of Vicopisano, Italy.
After being welcomed in the Council Hall from the Mayor Juri Taglioli, the Vice-Mayor Matteo Ferrucci and the City administration, Steve Vai had asked to visit the historic center and the Brunelleschi’s fortress (Rocca). Professor Giovanni Fascetti and Ester Marinai guided us in this charming rediscovery of the Brunelleschian beauty, beginning from Palazzo Pretorio and ending on the top of the Fortress. The musician and his wife, walking in the burg (?), have been charmed from the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower), the magnificence of the Fortress, the landscape and the Pisan Hills, expressing us few times the desire to come back soon and to happily be the “ambassadors” of our beauties.
Thanks to the Fehr family for the usual kindness, to the Gruppo Culturale Ippolito Rosellini for being once again so friendly and for the passion in taking care of the Rocca Complex and to the Niccolai family for sharing with us the enthusiasm for this talented guest!
In the Vicopisano area Genius is at home…
SENA European Guitar Award 2016:
I was recently honored with the SENA European guitar award in Holland.
Holland has always held a special place in my heart and career. It’s here that my orchestral music was first performed as spearheaded by my dear friend Co de Kloet, (the creative catalyst at ZivaSound), and I’ve developed a family of reminds there.
The awards ceremony was touching. Many great young talents performed in my honor and the organizers of the event, including the mayor, were tremendously supportive. It was a great opportunity to hook up with one of my brothers from another life, Adrian Vandenberg. Although I haven’t seen him since the Whitesnake days, Adrian and I always had a connection and at this awards show we were able to bond even deeper than before.
At one point while I was sitting in the audience witnessing all this great honor being bestowed on me, I kind of woke up to what was happening and a deep profound feeling of Universal appreciation washed over me. I’m still stunned by all the good fortune that has graced my music career, and my life in general.
One might think that receiving an award like this is the goal, and yes, it’s very nice, but what I have discovered the real payoff is, is in the connections you make with all the people along the way and the feeling of fulfillment one has when exorcising their inner creativity. But every now and then someone taps you on the shoulder and says… “good job, and here’s a recognition that shows our appreciation for your contribution”. It’s humbling and enriching.
I am eternally grateful to those that contributed to this prestigious awards ceremony and deemed me worthy of it’s recognition.
A video of the event and interview are on youtube:
Key to the city of Domo, 2012
On July 22, 2012, Steve received an honorary citizenship of the city of Domo, Italy.
Les Paul Award 2012
Guitar virtuoso, composer and producer Steve Vai was presented with the prestigious Les Paul Award at the 27th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards, held on Friday, January 20th 2012, in the Pacific Ballroom of the Hilton Anaheim during the 2012 NAMM Show.
A video can be found on youtube:
2008 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
2001 Best Pop Instrumental Album
1994 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
2007 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
2005 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
2004 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
2003 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
2001 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
1999 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
1997 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
1995 Best Rock Instrumental Performance
1990 Best Rock Instrumental Album
GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE:
1995 Gallery of Greats
1995 Best Rock Guitarist
(Tie with Jimmy Page)
1995 Best Overall Guitarist
1995 Best Experimental Guitarist
(Tie with Buckethead)
1995 Best Metal Recording
1995 Best Overall Guitar Recording
1995 Best Metal Guitarist
1990 Best Rock Guitarist
1990 Best Overall Guitarist
1990 Best Guitar Album
1990 Best Metal Guitarist
1989 Best Rock Guitarist
1988 Best Rock Guitarist
1987 Best Rock Guitarist
1987 Best Overall Guitarist
1986 Best Rock Guitarist
1990 Most Valued Player
(tie with Stevie Ray Vaughan)
1990 Best Album
1990 Best Rock Guitarist
1990 Best Guitar Solo
(For the Love of God)
1989 Best Rock Guitarist
INTERNATIONAL MUSIC AWARDS NOMINATION:
1990 Best Guitarist
SELECT MAGAZINE (UK):
1990 Best Album
(Passion and Warfare)
1990 Best Musician
1990 Sexiest Male
GUITAR FOR THE PRACTICING MUSICIAN:
1993 Editor’s Choice Award
1990 Reader’s Choice – Guitar Album of the Year
1990 Best Instrumental Guitarist of the Year
1988 Rock Guitarist of the Year
1987 Hall of Fame
1986 Guitar in the 90’s Award
1993 Best Hard Rock Performance
1990 Guitarist of the Year
1989 Best Rock Guitarist
YOUNG GUITAR (JAPAN):
1997 Best Rock Guitarist
1991 Best Rock Guitarist
1996 Best Guitarist
1997 Best Guitarist
1990 Best Selling Album (No. 10)
1990 Best Selling LP Sleeve (No. 1)
1990 Best Selling Promo Video
(No. 5, I Would Love To)
1990 Best Selling Promo Video
(No. 7, The Audience is Listening)
1990 Best Sex Object (No. 6)
1990 Best RAW Cover (No. 3)
1995 Best Hard Rock Guitarist – 2nd Place
1990 Best Album
1990 Best Guitarist
1990 Best Musician
1990 Best Guitarist (Reader’s Poll)
CALIFORNIA MUSIC AWARDS:
2001 Outstanding Guitarist (nominee)