Teen musician impressing crowds at Island Hopper Music Festival

A teen who lost her vision has impressed the crowds at the Island Hopper Music Festival.

15-year-old Sarah Hardwig is a Naples native who loves country music.

“My mom played it around the house a lot…I got into music when I was about three or four years old and I just instantly knew, BOOM, that I wanted to be a musician, I want to be a successful singer-songwriter,” she said.

She loves the Island Hopper Music Festival which is where she met Dan Spears who works for Broadcast Music, Inc.

“Four years ago at this music festival, he heard Sarah singing along to another act…they were playing Country Tradition,” Greg Hardwig said. “And he said ‘you really have a good voice, you should learn how to play an instrument.'”

That’s when Sarah got serious about playing the guitar. But her parents weren’t sure how well the lessons would go since she was born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes blindness at birth.

By the next year, her hard work paid off.

All Sarah wanted was to play for singer-songwriter Kristen Kelly and to her surprise, Kelly invited Sarah to play during her set.

“I just remember nerves, that’s all because it was the first time I played the guitar in front of more than 10 people,” Sarah said.

And now it’s a tradition.

This year, Kelly’s husband, Jimmy Stanley, let Sarah perform during his session. And now she’s not just singing covers, she’s writing her own songs.

Reporter:Janae Muchmore
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