June 22, 2011
By Jason Misner
COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, HDSB STAFF
How many 18 year olds can say they’ve received a standing ovation from stars like Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman?
White Oaks Secondary School student Karina Scali can boast of such a moment.
The Grade 12 Oakville student was one of 25 youth – and the only one from Canada – to participate in a music camp last summer where they helped write a song that was so highly-thought of, they played it on stage with Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame during the Country Music Awards in Nashville this past April.
The Academy of Country Music invited Scali and others to fly to Las Vegas in early April to perform the original song called Music From the Heart she helped write while attending Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Scali and fellow music campers helped Chris Young and Brett James write the song in one afternoon. The excited group performed the song as a group in a choir style on live television. The group received a lengthy standing ovation. The performance has already received more than 195,000 views on YouTube.
Scali was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Williams syndrome. It’s characterized by medical problems including development delays and learning disabilities. Scali smiles from ear to ear as she recalls what it was like writing the song and singing live on such a huge stage.
“It was the best experience ever; I loved it,” she says of her time at the music camp. “All of my friends go to that camp.”
Mom Monica Schmidt says she was looking for music camps last year for youth with music ability when she found the Vanderbilt Kennedy Centre. The family has often stayed at the Inn on the Vanderbilt Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. When the Vanderbilt-Kennedy Centre came up on the Google search engine, she recognized the Vanderbilt-Kennedy connection and on their website, found the "Lifting Lives Music Camp." So the discovery of the music camp at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee was like a “divine intervention” Schmidt says. “We just felt we had to take her out there.”
Another first for Scali, who will attend college this fall to study early childhood education, is she signed a contract since she was a collaborator of the song.
“All of the proceeds from the song go to Vanderbilt Kennedy Centre,” Schmidt says, adding Williams syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 7,500 births.
Alex Sorgente, head of special education at WOSS, says Karina’s classmates and teachers are very proud of her as she has inspired so many.
“Karina is, and will continue to be, an icon to current students in the program as well as her fellow graduates,” he says, citing the support she has received from her parents. “Karina's gentle and kind disposition has impacted the teaching staff, educational assistants, administration and the community. Karina's contribution to the school life at WOSS is very significant and unique.”
Meanwhile, the music experience continues to get even better for Scali. On July 1, she and her camp mates will once again sing Music From The Heart at the Grand Ole Opry.
“2011 has been a really awesome year,” she says.