Percussionist Steve Forman, who is originally from Los Angeles, has been living in Glasgow for the last seven years and has been teaching at the city’s main music school, the Royal Conservatoire for Scotland.
But he was turned down for a new visa earlier this year after being told his academic salary was not high enough to comply with Home Office rules.
Almost 3500 people have now signed a petition calling for a rethink on Dr Forman - hailed as a “Living Legend” at the gala ceremony - ahead of an appeal hearing next month.
Forman, 68, received the flagship honour at the 16th annual Scottish Music Awards in Glasgow, which also saw Bronski Beat and Communards singer Jimmy Somerville, indie-rock favourites Idlewild and Gaelic song standard-bearer Julie Fowlis receive special recognition awards.
Also recognised at the event, which is known as the “Tartan Clefs”, was Mark Mackie, the managing director of Regular Music, the promoter behind some of Scotland’s biggest concerts of the last four decades.
Pop icon Prince won a major new award for the best act to perform at the SSE Hydro, the £125 million arena which opened just over a year ago, which was decided by an online public poll.
Scotland’s biggest pop and rock bands lost out to reunited comedy duo Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill as Still Game Live was honoured as the “hottest ticket of the year” for its record-breaking run at the Hydro, which sold more than 210,000 tickets over the course of 21 shows.
The Tartan Clefs ceremony is the biggest in the music industry calendar north of the border and is a major fundraiser for the leading music therapy charity Nordoff-Robbins Scotland. Previous winners have included Annie Lennox, Edwyn Collins, Simple Minds, the Average White Band, Midge Ure, Shirley Manson and Nicola Benedetti.
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Dr Forman revealed he been effectively barred from making a living from any teaching work until his case is heard at an immigration and asylum tribunal in Glasgow.
The SNP, which has branded the case “absolutely ridiculous”, has urged Home Secretary Theresa May to intervene to ensure Dr Forman can continue to make an “invaluable contribution to our country.”
He told Scotland on Sunday: “I’ve not really processed this award yet. It feels amazing. I’m really not used to getting this sort of attention.
“I was obviously very pleased to hear about it and also very surprised. As wonderful as it is, it’s a little bit uncomfortable for me, as it’s so out of my normal experiences. I’ve always gone out of my way not to be seen as self-serving or self-promotional.
“I’d certainly hope this award can make a difference with the case. It is another example of the fact that the work I do here in Glasgow is respected and appreciated, and I’m seen as making a cultural contribution in the city. It is also reinforcing public opinion about my case.
“I’ve had nothing to do with the campaign, but I’ve had very profound support from the music community in Glasgow, from friends of friends, and people who know my work.
“I’ve had all kinds of letters and feedback, which has been very exhilarating. On the other hand it will all still boil down to the tribunal’s decision.
“The legal arguments are obviously very important, however I think all this support is very significant and will have an impact. A lot has happened in the last few weeks and I feel very positive at the moment.”
Forman quit performing around 10 years ago to study composition and originally came to Glasgow as part of a foreign exchange project, when he swiftly discovered the city’s famous traditional music scene.
He added: “When I heard the calibre of playing in the pubs here, it was like nothing I’d heard anywhere else in the world, including Ireland.
“I thought it was the most progressive, vibrant, living tradition I’d ever experienced. I was very excited about it and still am. I’m currently playing the bodhran in pubs four or five nights a week.
“I realise it’s a very complicated issue, but I do think I should be allowed to stay. I live here, my whole life is here and my work is here, although I can’t do any teaching at the RCS while my case is ongoing and I’ve chosen not to do any private work that would complicate the situation.”
Music promoter Donald MacLeod, organiser of the awards, said: “Steve has been working here in Glasgow, he’s been teaching kids and adults music, and is a real statesman of the industry, having worked with so many musical greats.
“Now we’re thinking of kicking him out? It’s a disgrace. There are obviously people that shouldn’t be here, but he’s not one of them.
“I strongly believe music is everything, it really can transform lives. Steve is using all his skills to teach people. People like that should be given the keys to the city, not treated like some kind of vagrant or terrorist.”
An emotional Somerville was given a standing ovation at the event, even before he performed his classic song “Smalltown Boy”, about the experience of being young and gay in the 1980s.
The singer said: “I left Glasgow and Scotland an angry young man, but I’m not a young man anymore, I’m 53 years old now.
“There were lots of different reasons why I was angry, culture things, social things, sexuality and personal things, but you go through your journey of life and work through that. I made my home in London and my life is there.
“I left Scotland a long time ago, but Scotland never left me. I don’t think it ever does. You can change your accent and deny where you’re from, but I had no intention of doing that. I just had to find myself and discover who I was.
“I’m not really much of an honours man, but this was a really special one. I felt quite moved and it has been a humbling experience to receive it.
“What’s really strange is that at the moment it’s the most productive, the most confident and the most in tune with being an artist that I’ve ever been. I think it’s because I gave up alcohol three years ago, I have such clarity in my head now.”
Still Game’s Greg Hemphill said: “We started Still Game as a one-hour stage show in 1997 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We never had the chance to be in the same room as fans of the show since that Fringe run.
“There is nothing to compare to coming home to play to 210,000 people in Glasgow this year, it was extraordinary and the whole cast were completely bowled over.
“We’ve always said that the show belongs to the audience. People would come up to us in the supermarket or the pub to correct us or what was wrong with a certain episode, and we were told in no uncertain times who the show belonged to.
“When we decided to make more of it it was a very easy decision. We were nervous and we hoped that people would come out. We didn’t expect them to come out in the numbers that they did, but when they did, it was a lovely feeling.
Hemphill’s long-time collaborator, Ford Kiernan, added: “We’d like to do it again, but you never can tell what the reception is going to be.
“We were blown away with the last turn out, but we’d just have to judge on the street whether people want us back again. It would be nice to do it again, because it was a great feeling.
“We’re also talking to the BBC every week about what form we are bringing it back on TV, whether it is a Christmas special or a whole new series. However the wheels turn a lot slower with TV, it’s not just a case of booking the Hydro and doing it.”
Mark Mackie, who stages the open-air concerts at Edinburgh Castle each summer, said he had been in the music business ever since arriving at Glasgow University in 1981 when he started running gigs at Queen Margaret Union and began working with Regular’s founders Peter Irvine and Barry Wright to book bands.
He added: “I got to know them very well and after a couple of years working on and off with them they asked me to come through to Edinburgh when I finished my degree. I was made a director about 20 years ago and I’m still living in exile there.
“I just love live music, whether it is someone playing a fiddle in a bar or a singer-songwriter to the most magnificent open-air production or someone like the Pet Shop Boys, with the most thought-through show, with opera and dancing.
“Live music just can’t be replicated, and in this day and age it’s a good business to be in, because you can’t buy it, you have to be there, it doesn’t work on TV.”
Asked to pick a career highlight, Mackie added: “I booked The Smiths when I was at the QM Union, every time I’ve ever put REM on, because they’re my favourite band, and the first time Bob Dylan played in Scotland for 23 years in the last 1980s was a really emotional moment.”
Edinburgh outfit Idlewild, who will celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2015, were honoured with the songwriting award just weeks after returning to the live arena from a five-year hiatus with an intimate tour of the Highlands and Islands.
Guitarist Rod Jones told Scotland on Sunday: “Songwriting is pretty much our bread and butter.
“You spend so much time after you’ve written an album going out and playing it live, it kind of takes over your life, but you can’t do any of that until you’ve written the songs. It’s definitely the most important thing for us. I’m always writing something.
“I admit the award does feel like a bit of an end-of-career kind of thing, a songwriting award is not the kind of thing you’re going to get after your first record. However it almost feels like the band are starting over again. It’s strange, because we never really split up, we just stopped for a while.”
Nordoff-Robbins Scotland is the country’s biggest music therapy provider, with funding paying around 9000 therapy sessions a year for children and adults who have autistic spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, mental health problems, life limiting illnesses and dementia.
They are run by the charity - which needs to raise around £600,000 each year to operate - in schools, hospitals, hospices, care homes and in four of its own dedicated clinics in West Lothian, Glasgow, Fife and Dundee. A fifth is currently being planned for Aberdeen.
Mr MacLeod, the fundraising chairman of Nordoff-Robbins Scotland, added: “The Scottish Music Awards are the main source of funding for the charity, and it is hugely important to us that we continue to be able to support those that need us across the country, this year our appeal is even more important as we aim to launch a new service in Aberdeen.
“Our thanks go to all those who continue to support the charity and, in particular the musicians, who make us so proud of our unique and thriving music scene.”
Winners of the 2014 Scottish Music Awards
Songwriting Award: Idlewild
Special Recognition Award: Jimmy Somerville
Scottish Traditional Music Award: Julie Fowlis
Music Business Award: Mark Mackie (Regular Music)
Living Legend Award: Steve Forman
Hydro Act of the Year: Prince
Hottest Ticket Award: Still Game Live
Best Breakthrough Act: Prides
Rising Stars Award: Fatherson
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