Tori, a talented singer and songwriter, is a member of BHMA’s Performance Troupe, the Kandoo Band, and a solo musician with her own website: www.toriackleymusic.com. Tori recently wrote a song called “Happy To Be Me”, inspired by her own experience of being bullied in middle school. She noted that this time period was difficult for her, and she struggled to accept who she was and how she would have an impact on her community as an individual with Williams syndrome. Ultimately, music is what gave Tori meaning in her life, and she used her gift for vocals, piano, and songwriting to create music that has inspired audiences all over the United States. “Happy To Be Me” honors Tori’s journey of self-acceptance and the fact that she was able to embrace her strengths and passion for life. Tori now promotes disability awareness through her music and speeches, and she has changed the way individuals with disabilities are perceived through this work.
Don & Sally Messinger, Cleveland locals and grandparents of a toddler with Williams syndrome, were so moved by Tori’s song and story that they sponsored a night at the Cleveland Pops to provide education and awareness about Williams syndrome and more specifically, the Williams Syndrome Association, an organization that supports WS individuals, families, caregivers, and providers all over the world. It was a night of Rodgers & Hammerstein music, with Broadway stars Melissa Errico and Stephen Buntrock performing hits from such classics as The King and I and The Sound of Music. In the middle of the performance, Sally & Don gave a moving speech about their experience with Williams syndrome, the need for more support of families and individuals who are dealing with this diagnosis, and they then introduced Tori. Tori, resplendent in her performance dress, took the stage to sing “Happy To Be Me”, and there was hardly a dry eye in the audience! The Cleveland Pops had worked to compose Tori's song for their orchestra, and Tori had the honor of singing with the entire orchestra backing her up! It was a life changing experience not only for Tori, but for all who attended.
Watch a clip of Tori’s performance below and be inspired. Tori is incredibly grateful for the support of Don & Sally Messinger, the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and the Williams Syndrome Association. Congratulations, Tori, on this significant accomplishment. The BHMA Community is honored to continue to be a part of your musical journey!