Access For All

I’m honored to be a part of this “Access For All” event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the “Americans With Disabilities” Act!

Join the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on July 8, 2020 at 4:00 PM EDT to learn more about how inclusive educational and cultural exchanges can empower people to become disability-rights advocates, community leaders, and role models for everyone around them. Come share your stories and ask questions of our speakers!

Tune in HERE!

“American Songwriter” Feature

photo by Alison Weakley

Exciting news! I’m honored to be featured by American Songwriter this week:

Paul Cardall sits down with Wisconsin-native Tony Memmel, who while only born with one hand, overcame obstacles to become a talented guitarist who shares his faith through music. A fellow Nashville musician, Tony shares how faith inspires him, how he mastered guitar with one hand, and how his music has taken him around the world. 

Together, Tony and Paul explore how adversity and obstacles can be tools to share your story and inspire others. They spread the message that each of us has a purpose and each of us is perfectly and wonderfully made. 

Cardall is an award-winning pianist, entrepreneur, and heart transplant recipient born with only half a heart. He delivers encouraging, educational, and often inspirational conversations with unique people who believe in making the impossible, possible. These visionaries are ALL HEART.”American Songwriter

Connecting Through Isolation – NEW Podcast Interview

Photo by Alison Weakley

Each of us was born and built with a purpose, and uniquely crafted for the time that we are in.?
I was invited to talk about “Connecting Through Isolation” for the State Department’s podcast, 22.33 – honored to be featured alongside fellow Exchange Alumni, as we talk about how to spread light in the world.?
Thank you for listening and sharing! ?
** my interview is at 27:09 **

A Sword Dance And Roar

When we arrived at the girls’ school, we unloaded our gear from the van, and then asked to set down our instruments in the courtyard for a moment. We were told that the students had prepared a traditional Saudi Arabian Sword Dance to welcome us for the day. With silver blades shining in the midday sunlight, banging drums, and the biggest smiles you can imagine, the girls danced the steps they’d prepared for us guests. The hospitality and excitement with which we are treated here is unique and special.

After the ceremonial greeting, we were ushered inside the school to have lunch with the U.S. Consul General in Dhahran. She was friendly, a great conversationalist, and I noticed she recalled the students’ names who were present after they’d introduced themselves to her. She paid close attention to the kids, and the kids loved her. Name memory – seemingly so small… yet so rare. It really stood out to me. 

Lunch with U.S. Consul General in Dhahran

After lunch, the students and staff were waiting in the common area for our concert to begin. Girls from elementary age to teens to teachers all packed into the cacophonous common assembly space. 

They shared a brief video about the school that documented the girls working with advanced robotics, and learning about the circulatory and nervous systems of the human body – this was a specialized STEM school with high standards, and just an amazingly impressive group of young people to say the least. 

After the video, the band took the stage, and I could feel a palpably important moment happening. There was an extraordinary interest and an immediate, electric connection from the room, as I shared about our music, our tour, and especially about my long road as a professional guitar player with adaptive methods. A clear, fresh message overtook me as I looked at the ceiling around the room, decorated in quotes from history’s greatest minds, and looked out at the eager students’ faces. 

You see, as a background, it wasn’t long ago that something you probably regard as commonplace where you are – women driving cars – was forbidden in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Now, I’m told it is legal, but still not fully welcome here in areas outside of bigger cities. With this context, I hope you can understand and even feel what it was like to be in that particular room of young women… It was powerful, and you could feel a definite strength. 

As we sang our song, “ I Am Never, Never, Never Gonna Give Up,” it was so loud that the band could barely be heard over the students as they shouted along. 

We closed with the pop mega-hit, “Roar,” and it somehow raised the volume in the room even louder (see video above). While we were playing, I looked at the band and knew we all felt the same: Something is happening in Saudi Arabia, we had a front row seat this week, and we are beyond grateful to be witnesses and to be some small part of it all. 

“You’re gonna hear me rooooar!”