The 2017 Concert for Love and Acceptance, hosted by Ty Herndon and CMT personality Cody Alan, was recently held in Nashville during the CMA Music Festival to help create awareness and raise money for programs that support at-risk LGBTQ youth.
The event started in 2015 and has doubled in size since its inception, moving to a 3,000 capacity venue this year. GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis shared the mission of the Concert for Love and Acceptance:
“This event is really important to touch the country music world and to have them come out for LGBTQ people whether they’re allies or LGBTQ. We worked really hard to make sure that there were diverse artists on the bill. You will be seeing allies and LGBTQ people, people of color and sort of every walk of life, that represent not only the fabric of country music fans but the fabric of the country.”
Ellis hopes that fans take the stories shared during the event back to their friends and family to help open the hearts and minds of others.
While there were plenty of country artists on hand, there were also supporters from other areas of the entertainment world, including comedian Dana Goldberg. She shared the importance of comedy in a tough political climate and why efforts like this should be bi-partisan.
“I think a lot of people are incredibly stressed out right now on both sides of the aisle. And laughter is giving people a release.
This is about coming together as a community. Taking care of our LGBTQ youth is not a political issue. We want our kids off the streets and we want make sure they are safe.”
Host Ty Herndon hopes that the brand will continue to grow and create even more opportunities to help kids.
“Some of these families travel up to 150 miles just to come to an Oasis House so they can get the right help for their kids. I’m hoping as this brand grows, that we can have Love and Acceptance houses around the country.”
All of the artists who appeared at the event were passionate about promoting acceptance and loving one another. The Voice star Billy Gilman shared why this event was a step in the right direction.
“There’s still a fight to be fought. By creating such a big voice, a huge one voice, with all of these artists and all the people buying the tickets and getting it… it’s one step further to an accepting world.”
The event’s only international artist, Bastian Baker from Switzerland, has traveled around the world and has seen what it takes to get to a bigger level of acceptance.
“It’s a matter of starting from the beginning. I think it’s education. I have this chance that I travel a lot. That just opens your mind and your heart. You stop judging, you stop trying to understand things that you don’t do the same way.”
A cappella group Street Corner Symphony performed during the event and member Armand Hutton emphasized why he thinks it’s important to broaden your perceptions:
“You can’t lose by loving. You gain. Everyone in the community, including yourself, gains. If you feel like you are loving someone, usually that reciprocates back to you, especially if you love someone who might be different than you.”
Some of the LGBTQ guests, including Christian rock artist Trey Pearson, shared their journey of embracing their true identity and encouraged others to do the same.
“Find people that will support you, but know that the longer you wait, the harder it can become. And when you do come out, there will be people there to love and support you.”
Many of the artists performing, including newcomer Ryan Kinder, recognized that love is a universal theme that permeates throughout music.
“As a writer, that’s what we gravitate towards every time we get in a room to write a song. It’s either love or the lack thereof… It’s pretty much everything I do.”
Other performers during the night included Michael Ray, Ken Block of Sister Hazel, Thompson Square, Mickey Guyton, Noah Guthrie from the tv show Glee, and Runaway June.
Josh Carter of pop duo Kingston (formerly known as country duo The Carter Twins) summed up the night:
“Three things: music, love, unity. Done.”