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Band of adults with special needs performs at Tootsies on Broadway

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 07:20:24-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Backlight Productions' band of adults with special needs performed at Tootsies on Broadway this past weekend, proving music is unification.

Backlight Productions started in 2011 offering music, dance, acting, band and creative movement classes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Brentwood production company also has a theater class that performed the musical "Shrek" in Spring 2022.

The band practiced for months to learn a few beginner notes that allowed them to play three songs at Tootsies including "Wagon Wheel" and "I Love Rock and Roll."

"When they said they've been rehearsing for like months on four chords. I was like, ‘OK,’ but I felt like I really had to come in and just bring it because there's so much passion and energy to it that it's like it's easy to just lean it and have fun. You know what I mean? " said professional actress Morgan Robertson, who was brought on the team as a Backlight Professional to help sing for the concert.

Robertson was not the only professional musician brought in for the show. Songwriter Landon Pigg helped lead the set on guitar.

"All they ask of you is to be there and show up and be your authentic self. There's no sense of performance or being perfect or anything," said Pigg. "It's also always great to meet people out of your normal circle. It just makes you a more well-rounded person and really helps give you a wider perspective on life. So, I think we're both just so grateful to be a part of this Backlight Productions."

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Backlight Productions 40-Year-Old Band Member Ana-Lise Wadatz

Ana-Lise Wadatz, 40, has been a student at Backlight for several years and said she loves to play the piano and sing.

"Mondays, I got a drama class. Tuesday, I have music class. Wednesday is my dance class," Wadatz said. "It’s amazing."

The show at Tootsies was undoubtedly a highlight for the students and parents, who ended up being the audience members when the time for their performance was moved to 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday.

"Originally we had an afternoon time and there was some concern that the audience would not be welcoming, which was a really hard reality check," Robertson said. "Because I feel like for us in this space like that would never even cross my mind. But I know that there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of like, integrating all kinds of abilities into the world."

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Backlight Productions pairs staff members with their students to help them with their musical parts.

The Backlight staff and volunteers hope by continuing to help the students perform for the public, they will continue to help the city be more inclusive and understanding of people with special needs.

"It's just such a great tribute to the best of Nashville. I think like being inclusive and letting everyone have a good time," said Robertson. "I think that's kind of the thing that I took away from today."

To learn more about how to support Backlight Production's efforts, visit its website or reach out to director Melissa Smith.

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Backlight Production Volunteer Pros Morgan Robertson and Landon Pigg