By Carli Gonderinger, Hammer Volunteer

To me, music is everything. There is something about the way a song can bring you back to a memory you once cherished but has lost its clarity in your mind. Personally, my musical heroes are Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash. The distinction between these three artists is something not everyone can appreciate, or wants to. Country music has such a distinctive and special history, with so many significant people and stories.

Carli and Lynn 1In fact, I had never met anybody who was as fascinated by country music as I am until I started to visit Lynn at his Hammer home. Being seventeen years old, none of my friends listen to Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley in the car when we are together, which means I never get to choose the radio station! Thankfully, Lynn is my one friend who understands the twang and story-telling ability of country music just like I do. That twang means everything to me. I sing, play, and write country music, and aspire to be a songwriter in Nashville, as soon as next year. I know that may seem like a pretty far-fetched dream, but I could never see myself doing anything different with my life. Country music is my hobby, career path, and number one love. Lynn may not have a dream to become a songwriter in Nashville as I do, but he sure does have a strong passion for music.

When I first met Lynn, I had been told of his love for Elvis Presley, but I never would have suspected that country music was something he needs, just like I do. The first day I visited him, I brought my guitar and I played Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” I wasn’t sure if he would recognize the melody or know the words, but he sang ever word! The way he lights up when he hears me begin to strum the chords to that song, is something I can’t describe. To most people, it is simply another Elvis Presley song, but to Lynn it’s so much more…it means we are together on a Saturday afternoon, with me in his green chair strumming my guitar, and Lynn sitting on the bed singing his heart out.

Carli and Lynn 2

Although Elvis Presley contributes to our friendship, I think Lynn draws inspiration from country music for his day-to-day life just as much as I do. Each day during the week, Lynn catches a bus to his job, comes home, eats dinner, and does it all over again the next day. But Saturdays are different – and special. We spend an hour singing the classics that have developed country music into the mega industry it is today. The staff at his house says Lynn occasionally has behavioral issues in the weeks I can’t make it for our Saturday time together. Hearing how our weekly music jam sessions contributes to his happiness, assures me that I’m not the only one who has a strong attachment to this music. Lynn gives me hope that I can someday make people smile with my music, just the way Elvis does for him, and me, each Saturday.