Blake Shelton, Lauren Alaina & More Celebrate Musicians On Call's 20-Year Anniversary

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Musicians On Call
Blake Shelton performs during the Musicians On Call 20th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration Presented by Pepsi  at CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 31, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.

Musicians On Call hosted a star-studded event on Friday evening at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in celebration of 20 years. The nonprofit, which brings music to the bedsides of patients in health care facilities, was launched in 1999 and has delivered music to more than 730,000 patients, family members and caregivers throughout the nation since its formation.

Blake Shelton served as headliner of the 20th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration Presented by Pepsi at the museum's CMA Theater, and during his hour-long set of fan favorites, including “Ol’ Red,” “Austin,” “Sangria,” “Honeybee” and “Boys ‘Round Here,” among others, he pledged $10,000 to Musicians On Call. The evening, which included an auction of autographed guitars, tickets to Pilgrimage Festival, a Nashville Predators game, Dollywood and more, raised $330,000 for the nonprofit.

Musicians On Call volunteers Maria Berry and Matt Vrba were honored during the event, as well as Lauren Alaina and Cumulus Media vp of country formats Charlie Cook. Warner Music Nashville’s senior vp of artist development Shane Tarleton was recognized with the nonprofit’s first-ever lifetime achievement award for his 12 years volunteering for Musicians On Call. Ahead of Tarleton receiving his honor, Martina McBride spoke on his behalf, saying, “He is passionate about his work with Musicians On Call . . . and his desire to bring some light and comfort and joy to those who need it most.”

Tarleton’s ongoing work for MOC, in which he has helped raise over $1 million for the nonprofit, had the organization honor him with a lifetime achievement award as well as the formation of two MOC programs in his home state of North Carolina. A music pharmacy near his hometown at the Hospice of Union County was created as well as a bedside performance program at Transitions LifeCare in Raleigh, where his sister, Tanya Rand, works as a nurse.

“So many people here make their living in the music business like I do and oftentimes people get frustrated and go, ‘Gosh, just take a break. It’s not like we’re saving lives here.’ I guess that’s true, but when Lauren Alaina and I were in the Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, I would tell you I think we really are saving lives,” Tarleton said upon accepting his award of a platinum guitar. “I’ve witnessed over and over again going from bed to bed how music heals people.”

A tearful Alaina also took the stage to accept her music heals golden ukulele award. “When I got the call that I was getting this award, I called my dad and I told him I was so proud, and I was crying. He said, ‘I feel like this award means more to you than your ACM [Academy of Country Music Award],’” she said. “I worked my whole life for that ACM, and I think he’s right, because there’s nothing like going to see those kids and using the gift that I have and the platform that I have to bring smiles to their faces. There’s literally nothing better than that.”

Alaina later joined Shelton onstage for a duet of “Lonely Tonight.” Additional performers throughout the evening included Cale Dodds and Emily Earle. All the money raised Friday will go toward bringing music to patients throughout Nashville. Since its formation in New York in 2009, Musicians On Call has expanded to 20 major cities, including Nashville, Los Angeles and Dallas.