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Citizenship

Woman with disabilities creates beautiful music, winning Tiny Desk Award

At first, coming across something title the Tiny Desk Contest, you might think it’s a competition for building a small desk, but the contest is actually more like The Voice or American Idol than a carpentry event.

It’s put together by NPR Music and this year over 6,000 people submitted videos of themselves creating their own music. The catch -- and reason it’s called the Tiny Desk Contest -- the videos must be recorded at a desk.

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and The Arcs, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius, Son Little, Robin Hilton and Bob Boilen an NPR Music host, watched and listened to each and every desk performance.

They chose Gaelynn Lea as this year's winner.

While global citizens love big concerts (what else would you call the Global Citizen Festival?), there’s something real and unique about a performance in such a simple place, which is exactly what the judges of the Tiny Desk Contest felt when hearing this year’s winner.

Gaelynn Lea has been playing the violin and fiddle for over twenty years. While mastering an instrument requires dedication and skill, for Gaelynn it takes more determination than for most.

32 year-old Gaelynn Lea was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta, or Brittle Bone Disease. A rare congenital bone disease that affects 1 in 20,000 people and can cause bones to fracture easily while leaving the sufferer often with a shorter overall height. But Gaelynn didn’t let her disability, or shorter stature, affect her love for music or passion to express herself with the fiddle and song.

She won the competition with a haunting and captivating song, “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun.” For the video performance, she live-looped layers of herself playing the fiddle while singing over the melody.

Gaelynn is an inspirational musician, teacher, and advocate for disability. She also reminds us to live life to the fullest through her lyrics, "Don't tell me we've got time, the subtle thief of life, it slips away when we pay no mind.”

According to Bob Boilen, Gaelynn’s submission told a “tale of life's preciousness and time's constant ticking and why we should always care...That's such a universal message — simple, thoughtful and relatable.”

On a global scale her song speaks to the need to care about and take action to solve the world’s biggest challenges now.

And yes, the judges had other submissions they said had more technical skill and craft, but Gaelynn impacted them so much with her performance that she was the clear winner.

Congratulations to Gaelynn for defying the obstacles that come with a disability and sharing your beautiful music with world.


Do you believe that music can change the world and have powerful lyrics to share? You can submit them at https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/info/metamorphoses/ to help create the global album, Metamorphoses, with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and Communion Records.

Submissions end March 14th so send them in soon!