The Academy of Country Music's seventh annual Lifting Lives Music Camp wrapped with a standing ovation at the Grand Ole Opry Tuesday night. The week-long program welcomes budding musicians from all over the country who are battling Williams Syndrome. The camp, which partners with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, includes research on the rare genetic disorder, along with once-in-a-lifetime music education experiences.
This year, campers visited some of Nashville's most famous music spots, alongside some of country music's biggest hitmakers. A songwriting workshop with Eric Paslay and 2016 ACM Songwriter of the Year Ross Copperman kicked off the festivities. Paslay and Copperman, both Grammy nominees with hit after chart-topping hit, helped the campers pen an uplifting tune called "Happy Together." Copperman later recorded and produced the track, with Carrie Underwood visiting them in the studio.
Maddie and Tae hosted a line-dancing lesson at the Wildhorse Saloon, also spending time with campers talking about their career. Maren Morris performed for them at the legendary Bluebird Café, while Montgomery Gentry took them out to sing karaoke at Winners Bar & Grill. Campers learned the craft of radio deejaying at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital's Seacrest Studios, where they took turns interviewing RaeLynn. And camp ended on a seriously surreal note, as they performed "Happy Together" on the Grand Ole Opry with Rascal Flatts. [Watch a clip of the campers' Opry magic below.]
Williams Syndrome is a cloud with a lot of silver linings. While the disorder causes cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities, it is also most often accompanied by strong verbal skills, friendly personalities and a strong love of music. Williams Syndrome affects one in 10,000 people worldwide, with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people in the U.S. Learn more about it here, and click here to see how you can help the ACM "lift lives" with this camp and other charitable initiatives.