Musical Act Announced for Rare Impact Awards on May 18th

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Washington, D.C., March 2, 2017—On Thursday, May 18, nationally touring musical artist Gaelynn Lea will perform at the Rare Impact Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.  In 2016, Gaelynn Lea was named the winner of NPR Music’s second-ever Tiny Desk Contest. Her music video entry rose to the top of over 6,100 entries from around the nation, chosen as the unanimous favorite among the contest’s six judges. The very next week, Gaelynn performed a moving Tiny Desk Concert, at which the show’s host Bob Boilen said “there was hardly a dry eye.”

The Rare Impact Awards honors those who are boldly leading efforts to make a difference for people living with rare diseases and benefits the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), the leading independent nonprofit organization representing the 30 million Americans with rare diseases.

Gaelynn Lea is a musician from Duluth, Minn. She has been playing violin for over twenty years. First classically trained, she began learning traditional Celtic and American fiddle tunes at the age of 18 and has developed an improvisational style all her own.Gaelynn lea promo photo 1

Currently her most active collaboration is The Murder of Crows, an atmospheric alternative duo with Alan Sparhawk. Their original song “When We Were Young” was featured on the Sundance Channel’s acclaimed drama “Rectify” in June 2014.  In November 2015, Gaelynn Lea released her debut solo album entitled “All the Roads that Lead Us Home”.

A handful of busy months flew by after winning NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest, and somewhere in that whirlwind Gaelynn managed to record a 6-track EP titled “The Songs We Sing Along the Way”. This record was released in August 2016 and is a blend of Lea’s original songs (including the contest-winning number, “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun”), traditional fiddle tunes, and her own poetry.  Gaelynn hopes this EP will provide her new, wider audience with a sense hope and an appreciation of what the violin can do and has done for hundreds of years.

In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn loves to do speaking engagements about disability, overcoming challenges, and the joy of music. Gaelynn has a congenital disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease, a rare disease. In recent years, she has used her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change. Gaelynn believes society must make accessibility a priority so people with disabilities can participate fully in their communities and use their talents and gifts without discrimination.

Praise for Gaelynn Lea:

“Gaelynn Lea, the winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, makes music like nobody else.” – Bob Boilen (NPR)

“Karen Dalton and Joanna Newsom melt together in the form of Gaelynn Lea and set about absolutely obliterating your heart.”  – Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys)

“The way her voice resonates is so unusual and beautiful, like nothing I’ve ever heard before.” – Jess Wolfe (Lucius)

“Lea takes a meditative approach, building loops that are based on sustained notes and vibrato, loops that seem like she’s scoring a sunrise on a winter morning… a person who is able to take a solitary instrument and make it sound like a full string arrangement, who can fill a full-length LP with mostly just those sounds and communicate fluently her heart and soul with only a few tools.” – Tony Bennett (Duluth News Tribune)

The Rare Impact Awards serves as a NORD’s signature fundraiser to support the organization’s mission of providing education, advocacy, research, and patient support for the 30 million Americans with rare diseases. More than 350 distinguished guests are expected to attend.

To purchase tickets to the Rare Impact Awards, visit