Haley Sullivan behind a polished accustic guitar

If you ask Haley Sullivan when her love for music developed, she will say around 12 years ago when she played her first piano recital when she was six years old.

If you ask her mom, Tammie, shell tell you a story of a cute four-year-old who sang Victory in Jesus in front of her church with an upside-down hymnal book.

Regardless, Sullivans love for music is deeply rooted in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and soon, shell take her talents to one of the nations premier music schools.

Sullivan, 18, a first-year student at Big Sandy Community and Technical College, has been accepted to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., where she will study commercial music (piano) this fall.

It was an overwhelming feeling of joy when I opened the acceptance letter, said Sullivan. Some of Belmonts former students include Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood and Leann Womack. This is something I had dreamed about for many years.

A jack-of-all-trades musician, Sullivan plays just about every instrument. She started playing with the Kentucky Opry Junior Pros when she was 12 and was quickly tabbed to play with the Kentucky Opry three years later. She joined Johnson Centrals Clarke Sexton as co-winners of the 2014 Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition and accepted a full-paid scholarship to Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC). She is currently a member of the Big Sandy Singers and Band.

Attending Big Sandy allowed me to get my basics and to surround myself with like-minded musicians that truly care about music, said Sullivan. The support structure also provided me with a lot of encouragement to chase after my dream of attending Belmont.

When Sullivan first started playing with the Kentucky Opry Junior Pros, she met Kory Caudill, a Prestonsburg native and a rising star in the music business.

Kory went to Belmont, and I knew then that was the path I wanted to take, said Sullivan. Kory is now a keyboardist for the Justin Moore Band and a rising solo artist. He paved the way for a lot of us to play music and chase our dreams.

The Big Sandy Idol program also played a huge role in Sullivans success. The program, in its ninth year, hosts competitions at all area high schools and first and second place winners earn a spot in the Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition each year at the Mountain Arts Center.

The Big Sandy Idol program allows students the opportunity to perform in front of their peers and their teachers, she said. Sullivan won her school competition her senior year and was second as a sophomore. She performed Georgia On My Mind by Ray Charles on the piano to a standing ovation during the 2014 Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition.

Her application process for Belmont included a musicianship test and an audition in front of the universitys piano faculty.

I normally dont get nervous, but I was so scared, said Sullivan. She had to perform two classical pieces and two contemporary pieces. I felt good about the audition.

She knocked it out of the park.

Her scholarship will pay for around half of her annual expenses. Belmont was so impressed that the head of the piano faculty called Sullivan to congratulate her on her scholarship.

Its an honor, and it something I dont take for granted, she said.

Going into the process, she was worried about the financial barriers of attending such a prestigious school.

Things worked out, and its just meant to be, she said. God made a way.

Sullivan has released an album through the colleges Fine Arts Department. The album features 10 songs, including one original. To purchase the album, contact Clayton Case at (606) 886-7388 or email