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Flame Rocks Cambodia

Written By Editor on 7/14/23 | 7/14/23

The Arc Lexington’s world-renowned band spreads message of inclusivity and acceptance through music during weeklong tour abroad


GLOVERSVILLE, NY – Flame’s dream to change the world through music took another step forward in June as the band toured Cambodia, performing for a wide audience and participating in workshops where they shared their story and encouraged acceptance and inclusion of all people, especially those with disabilities.


Flame was part of the Arts Envoy Phnom Penh “For the Love of Music” program, a cultural exchange program run through the United States Department of State to engage American artists and arts professionals with people around the world. The highlight of the event was performing at the U.S. Embassy’s Fourth of July celebration and being introduced by Patrick Murphy, the United States Ambassador to Cambodia. Publicity surrounding the band’s tour in Cambodia increased their fan base, and the band was met with a large crowd at a Welcome Home Reception held Friday, July 14, at the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts.


“We couldn’t have been more proud of the band members and how they interacted with so any people throughout their time in Cambodia. They were wonderful representatives for the U.S., for Lexington and certainly for themselves as very talented musicians,” said Shaloni Winston, CEO of the Arc Lexington.  “They received rousing applause and delightful comments at every conversation. They truly are ambassadors, not only people with disabilities, but for America and for accepting people for who they are and for the talents each person holds.”


During the event, Flame shared their experience in Cambodia, which involved collaborative workshop sessions with students at AmCam Exchange in Phom Penh and Epic Arts’ Epic Encounters in the coastal town of Kampot. Epic Encounters focuses on expressing art through dance as a number of the students have disability challenges including hearing, loss of limbs and other developmental and intellectual disabilities.


Another highlight of the trip for the band was a sold-out performance at the Hard Rock Café in Phnom Penh. The concert followed the session with high school and college students as part of the AmCam Exchange program run by the U.S. Embassy.


Flame vocalist, Andrew Carpenter attributed his confidence, social success and the ability to manage a crazy schedule of full time work, friends, the band, and family to Transitions, a program of The Arc Lexington that prepares teens and young adults with autism and learning differences for colleges, career and life. Carpenter joined Transitions following high school and has gone on to earn his associate degree from SUNY Fulton Montgomery. He is currently a Transitions graduate student and works as a trainer in the HR program.


“In addition to performing several times while on the tour, the band was able to share their personal experiences growing up with disabilities, having dreams of being musicians and overcoming various obstacles to achieve their goals and create the band Flame,” said Maria Nestle, the band’s manager. “Often the band credited Lexington and Transitions for the supports these organizations have provided to allow them to form the band, support their practice and performance schedule and share their music.”


According to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Arts Envoy Program shares the best of the U.S. arts community with the world to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, to demonstrate shared values and aspirations, and to address foreign policy themes and objectives. Arts Envoy programs are arranged upon requests by the embassies and participants are selected by U.S. embassies through collaboration with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


The tour in Cambodia trip comes as Flame celebrates its 20-year anniversary as a band completely comprised of musicians who happen to have disabilities.


Flame formed in 2003 after singer Michelle King won a talent show hosted by The Arc Lexington. Following her win, King expressed interest in starting a band. Auditions were held and the band came together with King as lead singer, and the name “Flame,” representative of the Olympic torch, was offered by founding and current drummer, David La Grange. In December 2003, Flame performed at The Arc New York’s state conference and have been touring and recording ever since.


Today, Flame has seven albums to date, and performs more than 70 shows a year at a variety of venues including music festivals, civic events, community concert series, national and statewide conventions, community parties and more. Some of their more notable performances have included the Special Olympic World Winter Games in Boise Idaho; Athens, Greece; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio; Apollo Theater in New York City; Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and 19th International Festival of Different Abilities in Carpi Italy.


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