Research News

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center campers join Darius Rucker at ACM Awards

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center will take center stage in a special performance at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards April 3 at 8 p.m. on CBS. Chart-topping country music artist Darius Rucker will join 25 young adults with developmental disabilities for a once-in-a-lifetime musical event to benefit the Kennedy Center.

The musical guests are participants in the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp held each summer at the Kennedy Center for people with Williams Syndrome, autism and other disabilities. ACM Lifting Lives, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music, sponsored the Kennedy Center’s six-year-old music camp for the first time in 2010.

During the upcoming awards show, the campers will join Rucker to perform “Music from the Heart,” a song written collectively at the camp last summer with songwriters Brett James and Chris Young.

Young, along with country singer Julianne Hough, will reunite with the campers and present the 2011 Lifting Lives moment to viewers.

Karina Scali at Lifting Lives Music Camp
Karina Scali at Lifting Lives Music Camp (Courtesy ACM Lifting Lives)

Viewers will be given the option to donate to the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center by dialing 1-888-9-LIFTING. Donations may also be made online at or on the Kennedy Center website.

All proceeds benefit the Kennedy Center’s mission and research to improve the lives of persons with developmental disabilities.

“The need is huge, as one in five children has a lifelong developmental disability, and 20 percent of American families have a family member with a disability,” said Kennedy Center director Elisabeth Dykens. “Vanderbilt Kennedy Center researchers, clinicians and educators are at work every day of every week on discoveries and best practices. We’re so grateful to ACM Lifting Lives for this moment of great generosity that will allow us to help even more families.”

“[rquote]People with disabilities often have rare abilities, and in some cases those abilities involve a special talent or affinity for music,” Rucker said.[/rquote] “I am honored to join ACM Lifting Lives and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center to highlight how music can better the lives of young people with developmental disabilities on country music’s biggest night.”

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is an amazing place.  Here, people and families across the country who are affected by developmental disorders can benefit from world-class science and find understanding, companionship and hope,” said Erin Spahn, executive director of ACM Lifting Lives.  “Our goal is to shine a light on the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center so that viewers will know that they or their loved one are not alone.  They may even have a future beyond their wildest dreams, just like the men and women who will make up the choir behind Darius at the ACM Awards.”