A Concert With Gaelynn Lea

On Monday, September 24, Empower held a concert with classically-trained fiddle player and singer songwriter Gaelynn Lea who won NPR’s Tiny Desk contest in 2016.  The chill in the air and consistent breeze did not deter a crowd of over 100 people including Day Program participants and residents of several Empower houses from coming out to enjoy Gaelynn’s haunting performance. The concert was held outdoors on Old Falls Street next to The Conference & Event Center which generously hosted the event.  Matt’s Music Vocal Performance Team opened the concert with a stirring rendition of “You Will Be Found” from the musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Meeting Gaelynn is like being jolted awake.  Her energy is electric and she engages with whoever is around her with an approachable manner that lowers barriers and achieves true connection. During an interview with the Western New York region of the Self Advocacy Association of New York State that occurred before the show, Gaelynn stated that since she didn’t fit the corporate standard of beauty, which in her opinion is not real and exists only to make money, she focuses on being authentic and reminding others that everyone is beautiful.  According to Gaelynn, if more people, both with and without disabilities, challenged this standard, there would be more equal representation in the media, and people with disabilities would be included in issues like health care and human rights.  She hopes that her example will inspire change so that seeing a person with a disability on stage or in front of the camera is no longer an anomaly, but an everyday occurrence.

Thank you, Gaelynn, for sharing an evening with us, and showing us so clearly what the future should look like.

This program was funded by the New York Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; administered by the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York.

Empower’s Community Pre-Vocational Program, From a Worker’s Perspective

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Jackie McGrath has been working and learning job skills through Empower’s Community Pre-Vocational Program throughout 2018.  She has worked at both Empties for Empower locations, most recently at the Military Rd. site.  She likes using the document shredder because it’s something new to do.  She is quick to note, however, that more document shredding customers are needed in order to keep workers busy.

Jackie likes keeping busy.  In addition to working at Empties, Jackie is part of a bowling team and is an active member of her church.  On Sundays, she helps the youth instructor during lessons.  She says she loves working with children, and the broad smile and twinkle in her eye when she talks about it attests to that love.

Empower strives to help people to achieve their goals so that they can live their best lives as they define them.  In Jackie’s case, Empower is proud to support her interest in learning new things and in keeping busy.  Way to go, Jackie!