NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Carrie Underwood turned in one of the most-talked about performances with Steven Tyler at this year's Academy of Country Music Awards. Three months later, though, it was another performance that night in Las Vegas that was on her mind.
Underwood met with participants in the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp this week. Developmentally disabled campers who attended the session last year joined Darius Rucker on stage during the awards telecast in April, an emotional highlight on a night with a lot of strong performances.
"Just what a special thing that was," Underwood said. "Everybody sitting in the audience and for everybody sitting at home, and obviously the campers on stage, they were loving every single second of it."
The campers were scheduled to reprise that song Friday night at the Grand Ole Opry with Rucker and perform another song they wrote and recorded during the camp, which was founded by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. It's aimed at teens and young adults from around the country with Williams Syndrome and other disabilities like autism and Down Syndrome.
Campers spent time with Gary Allan, Wynonna Judd, Little Big Town, songwriters Brett James and Odie Blackmon, and producer Mark Bright during the week leading up to their Opry performance. Underwood met with campers Wednesday, talked about her recording experiences, gave advice and posed for pictures.
"I was like shocked," said camper Mackenzie Mansour, a 16-year-old from Lone Oak, Texas. "I didn't know what to do. I was like, 'Um, should I say hi to her or should I hug her?' I was like, 'Gotta think.'"
Mackenzie didn't waste any time making an impression on Underwood, though: "I said, 'Do you want me to sing with you?' She said, 'No, I'll sing to you.'
"You can just tell how much they love it and how proud they are of themselves just from recording a song, writing a song," Underwood added. "I think we all kind of forget what a special gift that we have and we're able to participate in every single day. And music is definitely a universal language. Anybody can speak it. Anybody can love it. Anybody can be involved in it. You can just tell how happy it makes them.'"