FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
2021 Recording Academy Grammy Awards
Reflection from co-writer Mary Haller:
“You Above All” was written on Sunday, May 19, 2019 in a lakeside home in Hendersonville, TN. It was the final day and final writing session of a 3-day-long songwriting retreat held by the Nashville-based Global Songwriters Connection (GSC). Ava, Michaela, Riley and I were assigned to write together that afternoon after lunch in one of the “writing rooms” -- a first-floor bedroom with a queen-size bed that took up much of the room. As we each found floor space that day to set up our chairs, guitars and laptop computers, Ava climbed up on top of the bed and settled in, sitting cross-legged with her guitar.
It truly felt like Ava was channeling God that day, in all his love, light and glory. I think we all knew, that afternoon, that we were witnessing and assisting in the birth of something special. A song driven by the passion and talent of an extraordinarily-talented 15-year-old. A 15-year-old who already knew God as a source of love, hope and strength. A 15-year-old who seemed to have not only a natural talent for lyric and melody, but a deep faith and confidence that belied her age.
What none of us knew that day was how Ava’s faith was about to be tested.
Less than two months after that retreat, we were all stunned to learn that Ava had been diagnosed, out-of-the blue, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Since then, we have seen Ava move through the ups and downs of her three-year treatment and recovery process with remarkable grace, determination, and a selfless generosity toward others. And, with a deep faith. The same faith that had guided Ava in our writing room that Sunday afternoon, and which continues to sustain and strengthen her in her journey back to a cancer-free life.
When we had finished writing the song that afternoon, we called in Sheree Spoltore, GSC founder and President, who was running the retreat, as she always does, with tremendous enthusiasm and supportiveness. We had a feeling that this new song was special, and wanted her to hear it. Sheree is a talented and beloved leader who recognized Ava’s talent early on and has helped guide and encourage Ava in her career. Sheree is also a woman of faith who lets that faith and love shine through in her work in support of songwriters and artists.
I could tell by the smile on Sheree’s face and the tears in her eyes that she too, knew that a special song had been born that day. A song that would some day bring joy, comfort and inspiration to others.
I am forever grateful that “You Above All” found its way to the beautiful and talented Kathryn Shipley, an extraordinary, faith-filled artist. Grateful that Kathryn, too, recognized Ava’s unique gifts and welcomed her as a featured artist on this song. And I am grateful, humbled and honored to have played a role of this very special project.
December 16, 2020