Share Your Memories

Take a moment to let us know your favorite music gifting memory. Then read what others have said ... the stories here are truly inspiring.

Jamie Dotta Nazareth Pennsylvania 02/06/2013

Dierks Bentley – Song Of The Year “HOME” brings me to tears (litterally)! There are many reasons…I am a single mother to 3 wonderful children, Chelsea (24yrs old), now living in Fallsington, PA, Morgan (23yrs old) living in CLARKSVILLE, TN and my special blessing Connor James (11yrs old) living with me in an apartment in Nazareth, PA. Connor is in 5th grade! My kids are my world! Both my girls are graduates of Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. We ALL are very close, their little brother is our joy! Morgan became engaged this New Years Eve to an awesome young man, “Ted”. (Same name as my older brother who died in 1991) Little did I know she would be moving 2 months later to Clarksville, TN. Ted is in the 101st AIRBORNE unit of the US ARMY, and was stationed at Fort Campbell. Ted spent the summer in the “Ranger” training program in Georgia but came HOME to Morgan (in Tennessee) the 2nd week of August. Soon he was back to Pennsylvania to visit his family and spend time with Connor and I. It was then I found out they were getting married on Aug. 23rd. I was able to make a very special bouquet for Ted to take back to Tennessee with him for Morgan to carry as they were married. My heart is so broken because I couldn’t see my daughter getting married! It was a very simple wedding, done by a Justice of the Peace in Tennessee with NO family or friends with them at all. Ted was deployed to AFGHANISTAN on Sept. 7th. My heart aches for them both. I haven’t seen my daughter since she drove to visit in June and now her “new” husband is overseas fighting for our Country. Chelsea is flying to Tennessee to see her on Oct. 31st. As a single mom, and Connor still in elementary school, I can’t afford to fly or drive there. It would be “HOME” for all of us if we could be together in Nashville, TN and even more special at the CMA Awards. To me the song “HOME” represents so much….even more special would be ALL our soldiers coming “HOME”!!!! God I am tearing up as I finish this…14 more soldiers were just killed in Khost Afghanistan. (This is EXACTLY where Ted is stationed). God I miss my daughter so much and I want so much for her to have her husband back in the United States where he belongs……HOME were all our soldiers belong! She needs to see me now more than ever, just as I need for ALL my children and me to be together again!

Every single time I hear the music and watch the video to “HOME” my eyes fill with tears. To me it feels as though every single word in that song is so true and so much of it relates to my life. Only one other time in my life I saw a firework display choreographed to music…it was exactly July 4th, 1998, the very day after my mother passed away at the age of 64, unexpectedly. All my children are blessings however Connor was unexpected as I was 42 years old at the time. My mother’s death sent my world up-side-down! She died 07/03/1998 at 12:03 AM, Connor was born on 07/03/2001 at 12:30PM!! Coincidence?? I will always believe it was her way of saying “I love you and it will be okay!” Again that song and video move me like no other!!

Shawn Hagood Boynton Beach Florida 02/06/2013

I will never forget my first keyboard. My mom bought me one for Christmas when I was about 12 years old. In a few months, I was anxious to do a “concert” for my family. So after nights and nights of practicing the same song over and over again (Chopin Etude no. 3 in E major – Op. 10 no. 3), I realized Dad’s birthday was coming up. I announced with exuberance, that I was cooking dinner and sure enough, April 30 came around – I cooked that dinner by myself, set the table, and I had my first recital in our living room. My parents single handedly changed my life by encouraging me in my little talent, and every time I look out at the Dirty Heads crowd, I always remember that it started in my living room, for two people.

So I say to parents out there, please! Find any cost efficient way to consistently nurture your child’s passions! If you only have $100 all year to spend on it, find a summer camp and a living social coupon and make sure they can go every year to that one camp. Tell them to practice all year for that one camp! Watch them excel – I guarantee it!

Every little gift of music will always make a difference in their lives whether it directly accelerates their musical interest or it directly transfers into a new passion. You WILL see a return in some way!

Shawn Hagood
Keyboardist – The Dirty Heads

Joseph Westport CT 07/19/2012

Katy Perry’s music has inspired many because of her ability to write songs that speak great truth and honesty, and at the same time make it relatable to many different people from all walks of life. Each song of hers has inspired me in some way. No other artist has ever been able to have every single song have a great message, even the funnest of them. For example, the silly songs like “California Gurls” talk about being proud of who you are and where you came from, “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” talks about letting loose on Friday and release the stress you have (we all need to do that), and “I Kissed a Girl” isn’t just about kissing other girls it’s about trying something new and taking a risk no matter the situation whether it be trying new foods to taking a risk of bungee jumping. Those could be new experiences that you should take that risk and do. “Hummingbird Heartbeat” is about that one person that give u butterflies in your stomach and makes your heart race every time you see them, and everyone has that person and releasing that feeling and letting it be known to yourself or to that person. There are also more serious songs like “Pearl” that talks about a woman who is being put in the dark by her partner. It inspires one to rise above it be strong and overcome those obstacles of people bringing you down. This is synonymous with “I’m Still Breathing” that talks about after someone has hurt you, you can move on and show that person you are strong and that you have learned that you can still move on (From Pearl). And “Who am I Living For” is about asking ourselves who do we live for? it has helped me learn, I live for myself. I need to do things for myself, not impress other people, I am my own person and I do not need to impress other people and desperately seek their approval. These are just a few of her songs and each one has touched me and in a special way that is hard to describe. Yet, there is another aspect to Katy than just her songs, but her performance. Her “California Dreams Tour” was magical in the fact that she did what she wanted to do and didn’t settle for what other people told her to do. She made California into “Candyfornia” and she did it on her own. She followed her dreams and that is shown through her performances. Lastly, Katy is my hero. She helps me become a better person each day and I am not going to say I want to be just like her when I grow up because Katy Perry has taught me that I don’t want to be. Not because she isn’t amazing, which she is, but Katy Perry is already taken, there will never be another Katy Perry. I want to be me, but in order following my dreams I have to do what Katy has taught me through her powerful lyrics and amazing spirit and personality. So I thank you, Katy, for showing me that I can be who I want to be and no one else should tell me otherwise, and I also thank you for showing me that my dreams will never be “The One that Got Away.”

Jesse Akron OH 07/19/2012

I was a gay man serving in the military, When I heard and listened to the lyrics of “Who Am I Living For?”, it really hit home. Made me make some decisions. My contract was coming up and I was doing well in the Air Force career wise, but my psyche was failing. Should I sign up for more years or get out? The DADT had just been repealed, I could quite possibly stay in and live openly. But after having spent a little over 5 years in, years meant for self discovery, growing into who you’re supposed to be and finding out who that is, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. So instead of signing up for four more years fighting someone else’s war, I separated to fight my own. I’m finding out who I am and am living my life, for the first time, for me. I will forever be greatful to Katy Perry for that!!

Marco Amarillo TX 07/19/2012

This is really hard to type up, not because there’s nothing to talk about- but because I don’t know where to start. Since everything she’s done has inspired me. From just to be myself, to not giving up, or to start writing my own songs to just not being a debbie downer when thigns go sour! It’s like, each song’s like a life lesson, or something it’s hard to explain… Like an experience from her life, that she kind’ove shared to help me get through my own personal trouble.
But anyways… I guess I should start by talking about how katy perry herself has inspired me, personally! When I saw the movie, I was surprised to find out she’s been trying to make it big for 5 years before I kissed a girl. And I was just like, “Damn, here’s this girl whose dream seemed to be more and more out of reach but she keapt at it, and never lost hope. But I give up as soon as things just start to get a bit hard, I can’t even get up out of bed to start my day sometimes!”. That there was somebody who was a living example of quotes like- dreams do come true, and hard work pays off, or never losing hope- meant allot to me. I’m just in highschool, but I constantly find myself worrying about my future, if I’ll ever make something of myself… be a somebody in life!… And it stressed me the hell out like not other ha, but just knowing she was able to even when it seemed unlikely, gives me hope. Give’s me a little bit of a push to keep going, y’know?
And her music, woaaaaaah hahaha!

Brandy Maiden NC 07/19/2012

In her video, she described having a friend that seemed cooler than she was and how she became somewhat infatuated with her friend’s life. I have been a fan of Katy’s since before she made it big. I find myself relating to Katy’s statement, but with Katy being the one that is so much cooler than I am, and ultimately who I wish was my friend. With this being said, there are numerous songs by Katy Perry that hit me pretty hard when I listen to them. I feel as if I could have been the one to write the lyrics. I’m just three years younger than Katy, but I have been feeling pretty “lost” since I graduated high school. Not knowing where to go, what to turn to, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life. I started taking classes at a community college just to go with the flow of what my peers were doing. I wasn’t having fun. I didn’t have any friends around. I found myself on Katy’s blog, reading her thoughts, watching her video diaries. I felt like this intimate look into Katy’s life helped me get through what could have been the darkest time of my life. I felt a personal connection to Katy’s songs “Lost” and “I’m Still Breathing”. The lyrics of both songs feel perfectly written, and I can’t express how much weight I have let fall off of my shoulders by just listening to these songs. It’s like therapy.
Later that year, I was able to see Katy at the Gravedigger’s Ball in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was very close to the stage, having the best time. She was right there, in front of me. It felt unreal! She looked like she was having so much fun. I kept telling myself that ‘this girl has worked for years to make her dreams come true, why can’t you do the same?’
I finished classes up at community college, earning a general education Associate degree, and then made a huge decision to go back to school to do what I really wanted to do in the first place: Photography. Katy’s latest album became an anthem. “Who Am I Living For” was the question I always asked myself. ‘As I march alone to a different beat, Slowly swallowing down my fear’. I live in a small town. Going to college, getting a job, getting married, having kids, was the norm. I was doing the opposite. Instead of trying to please everyone around me, I had to keep asking myself “At the end, who am I living for?”. And if it wasn’t for Katy’s song, I wouldn’t have felt the ambition to break out of my shell, to break away from this fear of being held back.
I feel like “Part of Me” and “Wide Awake” came out at the perfect time in my life when I needed reassurance. Both songs have different meanings to me, but both go together when thinking of where I am today. “Part of Me” gives me hope that no matter what, I will always stay true to myself, and no one can ever take that away from me. “Wide Awake” is the perfect ending to the chapter of feeling unsure about myself, hopes, and dreams. “I was in the dark, I was falling hard with an open heart. I’m wide awake. How did I read the stars so wrong?” And of course, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”

Katy’s music has lifted my spirits when I needed it most. Not only has her music become a part of my life, Katy as a person has a very special place in my heart. She continues to break records, living her dreams. I strive to be as hard working and kind as she is. I will continue to live by her words in her songs and chase my own dreams. Katy is an inspiration and she never gave up. I hope to follow in the same footsteps.

Rebeca Santa Rosa CA 07/19/2012

As a teenager I was lost, completely and utterly lost. Looking back now, I had no chance of making it to adulthood in one piece but I did. The reason I made it, is that I took refuge in music. Upon listening to the chaos in rock and punk music I found a sanctuary where nothing could touch me and nobody could infiltrate. When I closed my eyes it was just me and the lyrics, lyrics which told me I was not alone in the ways I felt. And one of those very influential songs is Katy Perry’s “I’m Still Breathing”. To me this song informs people that I am aware of their falseness, that I know I am not good enough for them “maybe I was just too pale, maybe I was too fat..” I really don’t know to this date why I was not good enough for my peers or even my family. So unfortunately I did try to get their attention by doing reckless things, I felt alone like no one cared and that I could do anything and no one would notice. So when I heard this song I felt like it was about me. Sometimes I still do. When I put this song on for some reason I feel at peace, I feel a sweet-bitter pain in me that soothes all of my problems and all of my frustration. This song is one of my favorite escapes. But just like Katy I have evolved as I grew older my perception of the world grew and I was able to understand that it wasn’t all over for me just yet. That really the sickness does have a cure, and that I wasn’t necessarily going down for sure. It’s been about 4 years since I first heard that song, but I still play it close my eyes and escape to my sanctuary with that song.

Maria Ontario CA 07/19/2012

Katy Perry has been a role model and amazing person with her story.We all have a background to who we are an decide to become and Katy Perry has shared part of her in her songs. Her songs remind me of me and everyone in the world.I will never forget when she brought her song “FIREWORK” this song is so true.When someone pushes us down or one puts themselves down we all have a spark. It takes time to see that little spark we have to me that spark means hope. This song makes me think of how all of us are bright but decide to look at bad things but that little spark when one never gives up and see the good things we have we burst like a firework. When we realize the good things we have and can spread to the world. All of us make this world a better place it’s up to us to shine bright, but we all are FIREWORKS. This song makes me always believe in that and I like to sing it to my friends or my cousin when she’s down to remind her she’s amazing.
Another song she brought up called “PART OF ME” made me realize what to do when I was falling down deep. This song explained so much my situation and this song brought me up. This song demonstrates how some people push us down and we start to believe that, but that’s when we’re wrong. The most horrible mistake is when we believe that and let them take a part of us. In my case I had a friend he always teased me and I shared my life story and said some harmful things to me which really hurt.Then I started to let it affect me then I started to remember my past when I was bullied. Then I heard this song which my friend showed me and it made me react. Why am I letting this person affect me so much when I have such incredible friends and a amazing family. I stood up for myself and decided to fix what I started to believe. You know something no one can take a part of me. You know why because I’m a firework and I’m part of this world to help and make it a better place like everyone else.
Then the most inspirational song to me is “WIDE AWAKE” because it explains my life my part of story. Before I was blind I let people push me around and worse I didn’t believe in myself, and that’s the worst mistake ever. I was weak back then, but then I woke up and saw…. What amazing things they are. For example my family who are their for me and mu friends and mu faith but most important I never lose hope. When your wide awake you always look at the bright side and see what their is because their is always a bright side, but it’s up to one to see it.
Katy Perry’s songs have always hit me I. My heart because they express so much. They make me think on how everyone is special and theirs bad things in life as well as good. But all of us can get through it were never alone. We are all important no matter what anyone thinks for example look at Katy perry. She is such an inspiration all she’s been through and the incredible person she is and showing this through her songs. THANK YOU! I might not win, but winning is not important I just really wanna thank you for writing those songs which made an impact on me thank you. I love you Katy perry

Becky Los Angeles CA 07/19/2012

I am such a romantic like you. I do believe in the fairy tale and let me tell you, it does exist! I can tell you that it happened to me at the young age of 39. “Thinking Of You” is the song that inspired me to believe. To believe that he would come back, bust through that door and take me away.

I heard the song everyday for six months after he left. I let him walk away because we were both angry. Then, one day, there it was, that call. I swore that I would NEVER let him go if he ever contacted me. He did call and we have been together since that call (3 yrs now). I wished (when we were not together) that I was looking into his eyes and you know what? I do that every single day of our lives together. It sounds corny, but, it’s true!! He says I’m cheesy and I don’t care, and the good thing is that he doesn’t care either. I’m sure he loves it!

We have a beautiful daughter and her name is Katie Ileana, who, is one of your fans, maybe your youngest of them all (15 months). If you are ever interested, I got her on camera singing one of your songs (she was only a few months old).

I just took Julia, my 5 yr old to watch your movie today and it was amazing. I also cried for you because I know how your heart felt.

Firework is Julia’s favorite song and she’s so excited to know (from your movie) that that is also your favorite. Being young is so beautiful! Through this contest, I just want to tell you what she asked me to do: I know what mommy, you should call her and ask her if we can see her early in the morning because she’s always so busy in the day.
I think this is her inspirational song: You can do it if you believe. She believes she will meet you one day.

Crystal Jacksonville, FL  07/19/2012

Katy Perry’s music has always struck a chord with me, from “I Kissed A Girl and I liked it” onward. However, when I was going through a really dark time in my life I found inspiration in her song “Firework”. The lyrics “do you ever feel like a plastic bag drifting through the wind” and “do you ever feel already buried deep 6 feet under but no one seems to hear a thing” really resonated with me. I had been a brand new assistant principal when a mid-year transfer brought a sadistic spoiled princess with a strong sense of entitlement into the principal’s spot. For some reason, she hated me. My co-workers and students said that she saw me as competition because I was already so well liked. She destroyed a promising career with an evaluation that ran counter to 32 years of exemplary evals. When that still didn’t break me she made up bogus threats, changing twice the names of the people who had supposedly heard this. When that still didn’t break me, she deleted my alarm code so that when I came in on a Saturday as we agreed to pack up and transfer my stuff I would be arrested. Thank God someone left an anonymous message and I came in when the custodians were still there at night. I still couldn’t believe that someone would be so heinous and checked my code, sure enough it was no longer in the system even though I was STILL an Assistant Principal and just going out on FMLA for a major surgery. When I came back to the school system, it felt like everyone was whispering about me and pointing fingers. I had become a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of getting on this psychos bad side. It was so hard to keep going. I was able to impress my new principal and get moved to a leadership position at my new school. However, I still didn’t have the courage to try again to get back into administration or even to just keep from cringing as I encountered people who knew the story. Then, I heard ” Firework”. The lines “cause there’s a spark in you”, “show them what your worth” and “so you could open one that leads you to the perfect road” inspired me. I re-applied to the Leadership training program, one a slot in the program and began working toward my dream again. I cried buckets the first time I saw the video because I knew how each of those people felt. . . .the whispers, the former friends who turn away, the fre-enemies that gloat, the people who don’t even want to listen to the litany of illegal acts instead clinging to the doctrine of plausible deniability. . .all of those things are familiar to me. I filed formal complaints and no one wanted to discuss the illegal acts, it was always “she stands by her evaluation”. They never wanted to address the fact that the issues she had cited were invalid. However, these lyrics gave me the courage to hold my head up high and remember that no one could take away my faith in my own self-worth and excellence unless I LET THEM! Once again a Katy Perry song speaks out the pain in my heart. The song “I’m Wide Awake” speaks to the aftermath of this debacle and how I now see all of the backstabbing and lies that I failed to see before. Landing on the concrete is hard when you fall from cloud nine, but I wasn’t destroyed and I am wide awake to all of the machinations around me. I wasn’t like that and I couldn’t even envision other people behaving like that. I am no longer so naive and trusting! However, I am still letting MY light shine and being a person who makes the world a bit better for my having passed through it!! I thank God for your songs because they lifted me out of the darkness!

Bonnie Bloomington IL 12/21/2011

I love music. I especially love Christmas music. But since I shuffle all my music much of the time on my iPod, I decided last year it would be a good idea to have a nano just for Christmas music. I took that thought a bit further and gave my twin sister and two best friends a nano filled with over 800 songs. This year, I had to re-sync last year’s gifts to add Michael Buble’s new CD and a few others. I also gave a new nano to my other sister and another friend. We’re all LOVING Christmas music this year and I think this may be the best gift I have ever given. I’ll continue to give a new nano each year until everyone I know who will enjoy this has one !!

Helen London Hertfordshire 12/21/2011

I was in hospital with my son of nine months who had bronchitis at the time. He was unable to breathe properly and had to be on oxygen. I felt helpless as any Mother or Father would. Then Micheal Buble’s ‘Home’ came on the radio. I just melted. This song had touched me before when I was at university, but never this strongly. I had to go into the loo as I didn’t want my son to see me cry. Then I just prayed and prayed that we would will be able to take him home early. Then the doctors told us that he would be in for a week or more depending how quickly he responses to treatment. He recovered in three days. We were able to take him home and that’s when I just had to play some more Michael Buble to make me smile.

Vinylville Records Lafayette LA 12/20/2011

I’d just like to take a moment to thank the new generation of vinylheads.

As a small independent record shop, I find it quite fulfilling to see the number of vinyl enthusiasts growing. Perhaps it is a bias, due to all this grey hair but I find it very refreshing to have twentysomethings asking me for Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, Otis Redding, Patsy Cline and Miles Davis… instead of something like Snoop Dog. Don’t get me wrong, to each their own… but the musical taste of the new young vinylhead is excellent.

Again, perhaps I’m a bit biased as a guitarist and record collector since the early 70s, but the new vinylheads remind me of the old days.

Not all. Some are ebay value collectors. Again… to each their own… but we tend to focus on the music lover in our small indie record shop. We don’t even have an ePray account at Vinylville Record Shop Our local clientele are who we’re loyal to. That is our business plan and mission statement from day one.

Please consider supporting small family owned businesses this Christmas.

It is important. It helps the economy in your region.

Thanks to all and Happy Holidays. The value is in the grooves.

Vinylville Records & Concert Poster Shop
Lafayette, LA 70507

If you like our mission statement, stop by…

Jose Basking Ridge NJ 12/08/2011

The Temptations kept me riveted to the radio speaker as I shifted in my seat to the beat of their enchanting tunes. The message was clear, the music crisp and easily made one second that emotion. Even today, that memory resounds a mellow and endearing echo.

Allison Chesapeake Beach MD 12/01/2011

From the first time I heard my mom play her Jean Pierre Rampal CD, I knew that I wanted to play the flute. Now, 10 years later, I am still experiencing the beauty daily as a music major at Seton Hill University in Western Pennsylvania. Music has benefited me in so many ways, from the way that I think to the way I address situations. I cannot imagine myself without such splendor. Not only do I enjoy being the performer, I also especially respect those performing for me. Michael Buble is my favorite musician, and his love for music is so inspiring.

Jennifer Goodlettsville TN 11/08/2011

I am a speech-language pathologist in a school system. My job is to teach children with various disabilities to communicate. For 13 years, I have have been proud of many success stories with teaching my students but nothing is more inspiring and humbling than when the child ends up teaching me. While my life has been blessed by having the privilege to work with many wonderful children in my career, this story is about one particular gift from God. I have worked with this child in the summer program providing speech therapy for the past 3 years.  He is now 7. When he came into this world, he was given little hope to talk or progress in many areas of development. He has made me think outside the box more than any other student in my career. Why? Well, he was born with multiple disabilities including being blind. Now, think about that … no sight. How do you learn the world you live in, if you can’t see it? This comes as a particular challenge to a speech therapist who is used to showing children pictures or objects to teach vocabulary  and using visual cues to teach speech sounds. How do I teach a child the concept of colors if he can’t see them? How do you teach farm animals without the actual animals? Art projects…do you think this means anything to this child? All the preschool concepts that we are used to teaching … what do they mean to a child with cognitive impairments as well as being blind. This child has a great strength though … since he can’t see, God blessed him with great auditory memory and a great ear for music. He loves music and will do anything to hear it. He sings and rocks to the beat and he knows what he likes and will definitely express his favorites! As a therapist, I decided to expand on his strengths and use  his highest motivator to teach speech and language skills.  I downloaded several ring tones on my phone and started experimenting. Thank goodness, he loved country music! Now, I can actually enjoy his reward as well!  First, I used the music simply as a reward. First you do this work, then you can hear part of a song. I quickly realized that I could use the music itself to teach concepts. Do you know how hard it is for a 4 year old with disabilities to say Lady Antebellum?? He did it though. Why? Cause he wanted to hear their music and he had to ask me for it to get it. I even taught him to articulate a “V” with their song “Lub don’t lib here anymore”.  He learned to put sentences together, answer questions, request items, and the concept of waiting by using nothing more than some country music songs. Concepts such as more, whole, different, and same can all be incorporated into requesting some good ole country music. As a therapist, I just had to learn to think differently.  I learned that my kiddo is a typical Kindergartner when he giggled at Thompson Square’s song, “Are you gonna Kiss me or Not?” and put so much energy into Aldean’s lyrics … “To be a star you gotta bang, bang, bang!” But one day, he really tugged at the heart strings when he came into therapy requesting “a song for my mommy”. We had been working off the same playlist of songs and I had no idea what he was talking about but he was very persistent in what he wanted. I went through some songs and at each song that I came to that was not “song for my mommy”, he got more upset. I finally found it and he excitedly said, “song for my mommy!”  We had learned the names of most songs and the Artists but this song was one of my newer downloads so I guess he didn’t know the name but Wow, did he know what he wanted! “Song for my Mommy” was by Lady Antebellum but you may know it better as “Someday you Will.” I immediately got tears in my eyes when I heard this precious child singing the lyrics knowing he was “singing this to his mommy”. Did this child whom professionals said wouldn’t progress, actually know what he was singing? If you have ever known a family of a child with disabilities, you know the struggles they deal with everyday. They lose hope; they have heartache; and they just want to feel peace in their life. In my heart, I know he was giving his mom and myself a message by telling her…” But down the road the sun is shining, in every cloud there’s a silver lining… just keep holding on…and every heartache makes you stronger but it won’t be much longer, you’ll find love, you’ll find peace and the you you’re meant to be … I know right now that’s not the way you feel, but one day you will…” Thank you to the music industry for giving all of us the words to express how we feel when we just can’t formulate the thoughts on our own. I know by the tears streaming down my student’s mother’s face that she appreciates you! This was a message from her son that she could not have received any other way than through your music. For this, we all thank you. (This entry won first prize in the “Countdown To CMA” essay contest. As the winner, Jennifer received 2 tickets to the 2011 CMA Awards show and a $1000 cash prize.)

Angela Franklin TN 11/08/2011

Almost 5 years ago, I was faced with a nightmare. My 5-year-old, precious angel was the victim of an aggravated sexual assault. My sweet innocent baby was broken and devestated. All I could do was love her, take her to counseling, and watch her work through it. It was during this time that a close friend gave her a CD of a young performer by the name of “Taylor Swift.” At the time, my daughter was unable to pronounce the letter T, so she was known around our house as “Taylor Swiss.” That CD and the person that is Taylor Swft became my daughter’s constant source of strength. One evening while at dinner at a local Pizza Hut that happened to be having karaoke, my little girl got up to sing “Tim McGraw.” I didn’t know if she sang it right or not, but it was beautiful and I admired how brave it was to get up in front of the people and do it. Taylor’s music was her safety net, her musical therapy, and a source of strength. She told me once that because Taylor was strong, she would be strong and because Taylor could sing, then she would sing. I owe a huge debt of graditude to this beautiful young performer. Because of her songs and her spirit my child that was broken and scared is now strong and fearless. (This entry receive second prize in the “Countdown To CMA” essay contest.)

Lynsi Elizabethtown PA 11/08/2011

Carrie Underwood has been an inspiration to me ever since I can remember. I was born with autism and have had to struggle with its complications all of my life. I have been hurt by so many people that have judged me. They don’t understand that I am really just a person. I always look to music to help me when I am upset. Carrie Underwood’s song “Temporary Home” has been a huge inspiration to me. I realize that these feelings of hurt are just temporary and I need to do the best I can with the gifts God has given me. I have grown to realize that autism is a gift and I need to use that to help others with autism get through what I have gone through. I work at a school that is just for kids with autism now. I hope to soon open my own place to help kids use music to help them through their everyday struggles. Thanks to Carrie Underwood and “Temporary Home,” I have been inspired to dedicate my life to these kids.  I go to work with a smile on my face every day and pour 100% into these kids because the deserve the best just like anyone else. (This entry tied for third prize in the “Countdown To CMA” essay contest.)

Ashlee Wadesboro NC 11/08/2011

I love my husband dearly, and he is such an inspiration of mine. He is a down-home country boy that was raised in the south with that good ol’ country charm. He is self-employed and works so hard for myself and our family. The man I fell in love with back in 2002 continues to make me feel weak in the knees. My husband and I have always listened to Blake Shelton’s music all through the years. It seems as if so many of Blake’s songs have created a smile between my husband and I. Whether it be because the songs reminds us of one another or if it just reminds of us of our everyday country lives, Blake’s songs has always hit right at home. Through the years whether we were listening to “Austin,” “In My Heaven,” “Some Beach,” “Nobody But Me,” “Don’t Make Me,” “Country Song,” “Hillbilly Bone,” “Honey Bee,” or “God Gave Me You,” Blake has always showed us passion, depth of romance, celebration of family and friends, and overall just to have fun! Blake has become one of the biggest voices and faces in Country now, but yet he still seems to be such a good ol’ country boy, just as my husband. Blake continues to express that he is still learning, growing, and reaching for success and this hits home with my family and I. No matter how much success and growth you feel as you have conquered, you can always do more! I would love to have the opportunity to come to the CMA Awards in November 2011 in Nashville, TN. By displaying how Blake Shelton has been an inspiration to my husband and I and to win tickets would be an awesome blessing. How spectacular it would be to give a gift such as that to my husband who has always been an inspiration to me. (This entry tied for third prize in the “Countdown To CMA” essay contest.)

Katie Audubon NJ 11/08/2011

Cramped on a bus only several hours into a 20 hour long drive, with a dead mp3 player, and a serious case of insomnia, I was thrilled to finally see the driver pulling in to rest stop. I needed to find a source of music to keep me sane through the rest of the unending drive to Camp Hope, a base for volunteers working to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I bought a mini radio and headphones and boarded the bus again, this time seeking solace in the music. I was honestly a bit disappointed though because I’d failed to consider that the rural south we were driving through might not have the same diversity of music stations I was used to at home near a big city. Station after station played Country and frankly, I wasn’t a fan at the time. That trip changed my life, expanded my taste in music, and gave me a new source of hope and inspiration: Carrie Underwood. During that trip, I met some inspiring Katrina survivors and helped rebuild houses for families who lost everything. One of these families literally survived by clinging to each on their roof singing hymns through the storm as their house floated through the flooding, a story reflected so well in “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Still, this family was so hopeful, thankful, and positive. I first heard Carrie’s music on the bus ride at about 2 AM probably somewhere in the middle of Tennessee and I immediately bought her album, the first country one I ever owned, when I returned home. Her music not only takes me back to that moment, but her inspiring messages seem to perfectly capture the spirit of the people in New Orleans. Songs like “Change” and “So Small” always remind me what really matters in life while “Crazy Dreams,” “Lessons Learned,” and “Temporary Home” speak of a hope for the future despite trying times and difficult obstacles. Through her music and lyrics, Carrie Underwood, inspires me to keep the lessons I learned in New Orleans- about strength, hope, optimism, and perseverance – close to my heart every time I hit play. (This story was chosen as a finalist of Give The Gift Of Music’s “Countdown To CMA” essay contest.)