In April 9 Issue
Country music superstar Darius Rucker and 25 Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives music campers, including Russell County native Clancey Hopper, performed "Music from the Heart" Sunday night at the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.
The special performance supported the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center where fans were asked to call or text to donate after the performance.
The Center makes a positive difference in lives of those individuals with developmental disabilities as well as their families.
Clancey, who now lives in Niceville, Fla. with her parents Wayne and Barbara but has many friends and family in Russell County, was extremely excited about the opportunity.
"I'm just super excited," said 21-year-old Clancey, who is a country music fan. "I love Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert and Darius Rucker."
The best part for Clancey is that she took the stage with some of her closest friends. The group is comprised of young people with Williams syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities who attend the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp at Vanderbilt University in Nashville every summer.
"Music from the Heart," was an original song the group penned collectively last summer with the help of songwriters Chris Young and Brett James.
Clancey flew to Las Vegas early last Friday and hit the ground running with rehearsals. Their mothers, Pat Young and Barbara Hopper, who will travel with them, say they might be more excited than their children.
"I love country music," Hopper said. "I grew up going to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman (Auditorium)."
Barbara and Wayne have sent Clancey to the Vanderbilt music camp in Nashville since 2005.
Clancey was diagnosed with Williams syndrome as a young child but she exhibits expert musical skill common among those with the genetic disorder.
For Clancey, music has been the one thing that soothes her when she has a bad day.
"Music is the one thing I really associate with," she said. "I feel every emotion the music portrays. I just feel really in tune to what it's trying to get across."
Clancey, who is training to be a file clerk at Twin Cities Hospital, has played the piano for years.
"She has an ear for music," her mother said. "She can get a song in her head, something she'll hear, and she'll sit down at the piano and work until she can play it."
Clancey and the other ACM campers have had MRIs conducted on their brains while immersed in music at the Vanderbilt summer camp to see how music impacts their lives more than most.
For Clancey, it's simply how she makes sense of the world.
"I'm always listening to something," said Clancey, who enjoys "old" rock bands such as Genesis and Kansas, bluegrass and Native American flute music.
"I love every kind of music except for screaming heavy metal and rap."
During the awards show the ACM campers were introduced by Chris Young and country singer Julianne Hough while wearing matching T-shirts
Clancey said it was great to see her friends.
"We just feel like a family," she said.
Information in this story courtesy of the Northwest Florida Daily News