A Lethbridge-based music promoter will receive the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the 2023 JUNO Awards in Edmonton in March. Ron Sakamoto runs his company Sakamoto Agency out of Lethbridge, which boasts a roster including some of Canada’s biggest names in music.
Throughout his career, he has brought many big shows to the small city, which he said always made a significant economic impact.
“I brought so many big, big artists and my first big one who was a superstar was The Doobie Brothers,” Sakamoto said. “They flew their plane into Lethbridge and a lot of people thought, ‘they’re not coming to Lethbridge,’ but you know what, at the end of the day they did come — we sold it out.”
Sakamoto contributes his success to hard work, lofty goals and having support from his family and wife. He said a lot of people had doubts about his career when he did not want to move away from Lethbridge to pursue it. He did move a couple times, to Calgary and Vancouver, but Sakamoto said he loves Lethbridge and ended up back here.
“Looking back to a farm boy who grew up in Medicine Hat and moved to Lethbridge with a big dream — when lots of people said that I would never do it from Lethbridge, that I had to move to Toronto or Vancouver or Los Angeles or New York,” he said. “I know I had set high goals and I thought if I could reach even half of them I would be a success but I didn’t realize that I would reach the level that I did.”
On top of the money his shows brings into the community, Sakamoto and his wife also support students through scholarships. He said his drive to give back stems from his father telling him “if you don’t know how to give, you don’t know how to live.”
Sakamoto said only 38 people in Canada have received the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award and he is proud to represent Lethbridge the province, especially when the award ceremony is being held in Alberta. The award recognizes individuals whose work has significantly impacted the growth of the Canadian Music industry. It will be presented to him on the opening night on March 11.