Where do I even begin to tell you about this amazing experience? It’s been a dream of mine ever since I first started getting into country music 12 years ago to attend the ACMs. They always seemed like so much fun AND in Las Vegas, which is always an incredibly fun city to be in! Did I EVER think that I would get there? NO! I never imagined that one day I would be sitting in that very audience wearing a beautiful dress and taking it all in myself. Never in a million years!
As I sat there and the show began, I actually began to cry a little. Thankfully it was dark so nobody could see my tears. They were happy tears. I was overwhelmed. After everything I have been through in the last 3 years, did I ever think this would be a possibility? No, I did not and I’ll tell you why…
Almost 3 years ago in May, I was diagnosed with MS. At the time, my doctor told me that I had the most aggressive case of MS that he had ever witnessed. I had already lost use of my left hand and 3 flare ups in less than a month from MS had left 75% of my body numb. I was falling constantly and memory problems. My doctor wasn’t sure if the medication was going to work on me, but he put me on strict house rest to give me the best possible chance for the medication to take hold of my body because he said didn’t know what would be able to do if not. My supervisor even tried to convince me to apply for full disability from work since appeared that I possibly would not recover from this. My family was even making plans to take care of me on a permanent basis and thought might be best that I sell my condo to move home to be taken care of.
For those of you who might not know what MS actually is, it’s an autoimmune disease where your own body attacks the CNS (central nervous system). No 2 cases of MS are ever alike and one person’s course of the disease can be completely different from another’s. As aggressive as my case started, there was a very good chance that soon I would be in a wheelchair or blind. Realities that I didn’t want to face and because of I lost hope for a while. I had lost all of my confidence in myself, and thought it was the end of all my hopes & dreams.
So, for the first 2 years, I was in a very dark place in my life. I had to learn my limitations and I relied very heavily on my faith. I, also, had to find the hope and the confidence that I had lost. I had to learn to fight and not let this disease take me. I learned that I have more strength than I ever knew was there before and I learned that I am no quitter.
I have done that now and it’s because of this music blog, Focus on the 615, that I created in August 2011. I am a better person now. Doing this and focusing on what I love has saved my life. Music has saved my life repeatedly. It saved me from the sadness of the loss of my dad to Alzheimer’s in May 2006 when I decided to start a benefit music series in Nashville to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and in memory of my dad. Music saved again when I was diagnosed with MS in May 2009 when my friends I had met in music put together a benefit for ME to give me hope and support. It continues to save me now through this work on Focus on the 615.
I love music and the people who make it. That’s why I do what I do. I love being able to support those I believe in and give back to what gave me myself back. And, I love being able to share my talents and get creative through photography & videos. Every bit of it I love. It gives me hope and it keeps me positive! So I will always support the music and those people that I love for those reasons.
Why did I not ever think I would be at the ACMs? Because they are simply the ACMs! Who am I really? How would anyone ever let ME attend? I’m not sure how worthy I am to attend such a prestigious weekend of events. Secondly, I thought I might actually be in a wheelchair now because of MS, unable to even hold my camera, or blind. Not able to enjoy any of this or able to pursue my dreams.
Anyway, enough of that, I just wanted to explain. Back to the ACMs!
Each day, I took in the ACM Experience, a fun outdoor/indoor festival of music, food, and more over at Mandalay Bay. So much fun! Many artists performed there and did autograph signings, too. A little bit like CMA Music Festival.
I was permitted to cover the ACM Fremont Street Experience concerts that took place the 2 days prior to the actual award show in downtown Las Vegas under this cool covered area with a light show at night. Wow, was that ever fun! Each night of the concerts there were over 22,000 people present in the crowd. I was front row in the press area and backstage for these 2 nights of special shows featuring: Love & Theft, Hunter Hayes, Brantley Gilbert, Scotty McCreery, Eric Church, Jana Kramer, Luke Bryan, Eli Young Band, Laura Bell Bundy, and Craig Campbell. All full band shows and all amazing in their own right! They each fed off the energy of the enormous crowd and gave it their all showing why exactly they are each forces to be reckoned with in the country music industry.
I took tons of amazing pictures that you can see right here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63968823@N03/
During the actual award show on Sunday, April 1st, I attended the ACM award show taking place at the MGM Grand and just enjoyed the evening. Hopefully, one day I can go back and experience the Red Carpet! I would LOVE to be able to shoot photographs from there, too! However, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and got to experience the best live music experience of my life!
I am grateful to do what I do. I feel very blessed. I’m also very grateful to the ACM staff and PR agency for allowing me to cover this very special weekend of events. I didn’t take one moment of it for granted and enjoyed every second of it!
If you don’t believe in anything, believe in this…there is great healing power in music. I know this because music has healed me in many ways. Not my MS, of course, it’s incurable, but today I am walking, seeing, still own my condo (I’m very much independent), happy, and doing what I love. I believe this is because of my work with music and the incredible people (many of whom I call friends) who have entered my life because of this. I, also, believe it’s due to my faith and my trust in God. I never lost faith and no matter what life throws at you, neither should you.
Dreams CAN come true if you continue to believe and you work for them.