Taylor broke onto the music scene at only 16 with her hit “Tim McGraw” and has made what The Tennessean called “the most graceful transition from teen stardom to adult music career since Brenda Lee.” However, Taylor was recognized as Tennessean of the Year not for selling millions of records, but for her generosity and her role as an ambassador of Nashville all over the world.
In October the Taylor Swift Education Center opened at the Country Music Hall of Fame thanks to Taylor’s $4 million gift, the largest individual artist gift in the museum’s history. For her birthday this month (December 13), Taylor gave $100,000 to the Nashville Symphony, which suffered through a severe financial hardship this year.
“For her to believe in us, the hometown institutions, and to be focused on Nashville speaks volumes,” Kyle Young, the director and chief executive officer of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said. “How often do you think she’s approached to do things, all over the world? So it means so much for her to believe in us and think that investments here would help the city she clearly cares so much about.”
In addition to showing her support of her community, Taylor represents Nashville worldwide. She was the first solo artist in 20 years to headline a stadium tour in Australia and in early 2014, she will headline five shows at London’s O2 Arena and another in Berlin. She’s been honored with two Country Music Association International Artist Awards and her latest album, Red, reached No. 1 in 50 countries.
“There’s a resurgence of country music across the globe, and Taylor has been a major reason for that,” Jeff Walker, a member of the CMA’s international committee and executive producer of the CMA Global shows. “Her rise to prominence has coincided with a lot of the things going on in Nashville. She’s one of the most dynamic and popular musical performers in the world, and she’s perceived as having universal appeal across categories. She transcends genres, and that’s a great thing for the city.”
Taylor’s most lasting and wide-reaching influence has been as a role model for young girls across the globe. She has embraced the role and uses her own experiences to relate to her audience.
“For me, writing songs was something I did to feel better about things like rejection or not feeling included or understood,” she said. “When you feel those things as a kid, they can flatten you if you don’t know how to articulate them or move through them. So one of the most incredible statements that I hear from people is, I play guitar because you do, or I write because you do.”
Ultimately, Taylor is a young woman who loves music – and Music City. “I would not be the same kind of person without Nashville,” she said. “It has shaped me into who I am. I think everybody feels that. We don’t have an ocean, or mountains: People come here because of the feeling they get. It pulls you in and turns you into who you’re going to be.”