YOUNGSTOWN - Michael Kronenwetter knew he had his work cut out if he were to make a dream come true for his son, Matthew, who has Down syndrome.
Michael had promised Matthew a trip anywhere in the world in honor of his high school graduation last spring, and Matthew, 20, of northwestern Pennsylvania, knew exactly where he wanted to go. After all, he has loved country music as long as his father can remember.
"He watches GAC, CMT or listens to his iPod non-stop," Michael Kronenwetter said last week. "He wanted to perform in Nashville."
Special to Tribune Chronicle
Country music artist Trace Adkins poses with Matthew Kronenwetter, 20, right, backstage at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown before last week’s concert.
Meeting Adkins, one of Kronenwetter’s favorite performers, was one of his dreams.
So when serendipity and heartwarming good will combined on the streets of Nashville, the thrill of a lifetime began to unwind for Matthew in recent months.
That dream was still whirling last week when the young man and his family were invited backstage at Youngstown's Covelli Centre to meet country music giant Trace Adkins as he prepared to go on stage during his tour to promote his Christmas album "The King's Gift."
In August the family headed to Nashville to have Matthew perform on the street, like so many start-up artists do. Matthew also wanted to meet his favorite country group, "Brassfield Ali."
Michael said it was during a Brassfield Ali show that big name country music songwriters Kenny Beard and Doug Johnson happened to walk by. Matthew immediately recognized Beard, and called out his name, Michael recalled last week after the Trace Adkins concert in Youngstown.
Michael said he relayed the story of Matthew's dream and showed him photos of Matthew street performing outside the world famous Nashville honkey tonk bar, "Tootsies." Before they knew it, Beard and Johnson had arranged to whisk them to a recording studio where Matthew would be professionally produced and record his own country music record. The songs he chose for his CD: "People are Crazy," made big by Billy Currington, and Toby Keith's hit, "I Love This Bar."
"These people work with and produce some of the biggest stars in country, and they were just so excited to do this," a still flabbergast Michael said.
Producing the record was topped only by a personal visit from Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year Miranda Lambert. Lambert, likely beckoned by Beard and Johnson, showed up to meet and pose for pictures with Matthew.
Michael described her entrance, noting she said: "I heard King Matthew was here to record, and I want to meet him."
Knowing that Matthew also was a big fan of Trace Adkins, Beard, who is friends with Adkins, promised to coordinate a meeting with Adkins when he performed near DuBois, Pa. They arranged to have Matthew attend a usual pre-concert meet-and-greet at Youngstown's Covelli Centre.
But when there was a confusion with the times last Wednesday evening, the Kronenwetters thought they had missed their chance.
Again, Beard, known as KB to his friends, stepped in to make sure that didn't happen.
"Trace was very nice and went out of him way to make sure Matthew had a chance to meet him," Michael said. "KB phoned me to say that Trace was looking for Matthew among the 'meet and greet' and was sorry he missed him, so Trace set up a personal meet."
While they got to spend only about five minutes together, Matthew said he was thrilled.
Looking very content, the young man and his family sat front and center, just yards from the stage, as Adkins performed last week.
"These are very successful people who without being asked just took in upon themselves to try to make Matthew's dream come true," Michael said.