‘American Idol’: How Country Music Singer & Finalist Huntergirl Helps Veterans Through Her Music

by Emily Morgan

“American Idol” finalist Huntergirl is proving she’s got a platinum voice and heart. As the country singer heads into Sunday night’s finale, she’s hoping she can continue to make music and make it for those that matter most to her: veterans.

Although she quickly rose to fame thanks to the show, the Tennessee native was helping veterans long before she was singing for votes. While she’s known for her powerhouse voice, with Luke Bryan hailing her as the next Miranda Lambert, she’s also known in her community for being a music therapist.

HunterGirl, whose full name is Hunter Wolkonowski, first opened up about the vital work when she sang her original song, “Heartbreak Down.” During that episode, the 23-year-old talked openly about her experience working with veterans. For Huntergirl, it’s personal, explaining that she comes from a military family. Her grandfather, great-grandfather, and six great uncles all served their country.

Although she’s now a top-three finalist on a show that garners millions of views each week, she hasn’t forgotten those back home. She describes that as she got further along on the show, “the more I think about the people back home that I’m doing this for.”

According to Huntergirl, she knew her life would never be the same after the first time she wrote a song with a veteran. In what she describes as a “really special” moment, the country music singer admits she cried when she thought of her late grandfather, wishing she could have written a song for him.

For Huntergirl, the act of songwriting can be extremely cathartic. “Sharing your life with people can help them through theirs,” she says about the process. “And so, that’s what I’m dedicating my life to, singing songs for the people that need them.”

‘American Idol’s Huntergirl on creating music with veterans

According to her website, before she was singing on the “American Idol” stage, she worked as a music therapist with many veteran organizations, including Freedom Sings USA, Operation Song, Middle Tennessee State University, Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veteran Center, and Soldier’s Child.

During a recent interview, she revealed what it’s like to take heartwrenching, real-life stories from veterans and transform them into therapeutic songs.

“I go into a room with a veteran and they talk about what they went through,” she describes. “We go record it in a studio and at the end, they have that song forever.”

In an episode, viewers got to see HunterGirl working with a veteran. The footage shows Huntergirl asking what he wanted people to know about him when they listened to the song. He said that he wanted them to know that “that experience turned me into the person I am.”

Before she began her time on the show, Huntergirl worked side-by-side with veterans every week. Beyond that, she also spearheaded a “Trailblazers” class, an all-women veterans’ songwriting class that meets weekly.

Huntergirl is undoubtedly making an impact for the veterans. And, she says that they’ve left an even bigger mark on her, saying the work has made her a better songwriter.

“First, in your head, you’re like, ‘Am I singing this song right?’ or ‘Is it good enough?’ talking about yourself. My outlook changed to be, ‘What song’s gonna help them?'” When asked if she would keep working with veterans, she replied, “I’ll do this for the rest of my life.”