ACM Lifting Lives® and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) partnered again to bring a week of country music and research to campers with Williams syndrome. 2019 marks the 10th year of the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp and the 15th anniversary of the VKC’s involvement. This creative and celebrity-filled week of discovery continues to put individuals with Williams syndrome in the spotlight, both on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and in the research labs at the VKC.
Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., co-director of the VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, studies Williams syndrome and other genetic syndromes, and conceived of the camp 10 years ago as the perfect marriage of Nashville’s reputation as “Music City USA” and research. VKC Leadership Council member Lorie Lytle was instrumental in connecting the Music Camp with ACM Lifting Lives®.
“The camp gives us a prime opportunity to work with adults with Williams syndrome,” said Dykens. “It’s a rare disability, affecting 1 out of every 7, 500 births, so having a cohort of campers come to Nashville each year for camp and volunteer their time to participate in research is an invaluable resource to our work. It also brings us such joy to see how much fun the campers have while they enjoy all that Nashville’s music community has to offer. We are continually appreciative to ACM Lifting Lives® for their partnership.”
This year, campers gained invaluable musical experiences through visits from top-tier country music veterans. They participated in a songwriting workshop with Ross Copperman, Lady Antebellum, and Joy Williams, which culminated in their original song, “The Way You Love.”
They also enjoyed a fun-filled karaoke night at Winner’s Bar & Grill with Frankie Ballard, a trip to the Seacrest Studios with Caylee Hammack, a meet-and-greet at Wildhorse Saloon with Hunter Hayes, and a visit and performance by Jessie James Decker at The Bluebird Cafe.
Of course, no session of ACM Lifting Lives® Music Camp would be complete without a final performance at the Grand Ole Opry. This year, Michael Ray joined the campers to sing their original song.
Browse the photo gallery here.
- To learn more about ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp, see vkc.vumc.org/vkc/services/acm_music_camp/.
- To learn more about ACM Lifting Lives®, see www.acmliftinglives.org/.
- To learn more about Williams syndrome, see vkc.vumc.org/assets/files/tipsheets/wstips.pdf.
- WATCH the songwriting session led by Lady Antebellum and Joy Williams.
- LISTEN to an ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp interview with Lyndsay Cruz, Hailee Hunt-Hawkins, and Campers on WSM Opry Radio.
Courtney Taylor is director of VKC Communications.