ACM Lifting Lives®, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music® hosted the 13th Annual ACM Lifting Lives® Music Camp with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Monday, June 13 through Friday, June 17, with 23 campers from all around the U.S. and Canada. Music Camp is a week-long residential program for individuals with Williams syndrome, a genetic condition (see MORE section for additional information), who are passionate about music.
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Campers participated in a week of in-person activities for the first time since 2019, starting with the writing of an original song, and culminating with performing the song on the Grand Ole Opry. Stars who joined the campers throughout the week include singer/vocal coach Jason Catron, Lindsay Ell, Hannah Ellis, Filmore, Walker Hayes, singer-songwriter Josh Jenkins, Restless Road, Rod + Rose, Runaway June, Dylan Schneider, and musician/guitar teacher Marty Schwartz.
ACM Lifting Lives® Music Camp has a dual purpose of studying Williams syndrome while providing music enrichment through performance and education. This year, campers started the week by co-writing a song called “Reunion” with Ross Copperman, Walker Hayes, and Josh Jenkins to mark the occasion of seeing each other in person for the first time since before COVID. After the campers rehearsed the song with the help of Hannah Ellis and had their vocal cords warmed up by Jason Catron, they recorded the song with Runaway June, and performed the song on the Friday night Opry with Filmore.
Throughout the week, campers were able to explore parts of Nashville and get an inside look at the music industry. To help celebrate the Bluebird Cafe’s 40th birthday, campers gathered at the venue, signed a birthday card for the Bluebird, and with the help of Lindsay Ell, sang happy birthday to the venue. Ell then answered questions from the campers and performed songs for them from the Bluebird stage.
Other highlights include media training with Restless Road and Dylan Schneider with the help of Seacrest Studios at The Listening Room, karaoke with Rod + Rose (Rodney Atkins and Rose Falcon) at Winners Bar and Grill, and a behind-the-scenes look at how Gibson guitars are made at the Gibson Garage with a guitar lesson from Marty Schwartz.
“To have all of our campers back in the same room celebrating their love for music and each other was an inspiring experience,” said Lyndsay Cruz, ACM Lifting Lives Executive Director. “The song they wrote, recorded, and performed called ‘Reunion’ perfectly captured the feeling of this year’s camp. Their positive energy and excitement of being together again rubbed off on all of the special guests that joined Music Camp. We are so thankful to each artist and the Country Music community who helped make this camp so special after a two year in-person hiatus.”
The camp is a partnership between ACM Lifting Lives® and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. ACM Lifting Lives® funds the costs of the camp in addition to providing scholarships to several campers, enabling the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center to advance its mission of improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families through research, training, and service.
MORE: Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by strong verbal communication skills, highly social personalities, and a deep affinity for music. Many campers may also experience cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. For more information, please visit www.ACMLiftingLives.org.
About ACM Lifting Lives®
ACM Lifting Lives® is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music. We harness the power of our Country Music community and partners to provide aid in times of need, with a focus on health-related initiatives. With generous donations and the support of artists and fans, ACM Lifting Lives has funded national music therapy programs serving various mental and physical health organizations. Recipients include patients at children’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities, recovering veterans, people with Williams syndrome, and individuals with mental illness. For more information, please visit www.ACMLiftingLives.org.