Nashville’s Youth Band The Shield

Sep 19, 2016 | by Laura Poff

Nashville's Youth Band Gains Local Attention

Nashville's own youth band, "The Shield," has been gaining traction since their launch in September 2015 and they've played at multiple local events, including the Rocketown music festival in downtown Nashville.

Angela McCrary, who leads the band from the Center of Hope, was given an instrument budget when she was first hired. She asked students which instruments they were interested in playing and purchased them. There were enough to start a band, so "The Shield" was born.

McCrary taught them a few songs, each of them learning different parts, and soon a lead singer was added for a total of six band members. All the children in the band range in age from 10 to 13; band members include Reggion Kelly (drums and bass), Jaliec Horton (keyboard/piano), Tyrell Catlett (lead guitar), Eric Mallard (bass), Derrick Mallard (percussionist, learning piano) and Janae Hardnett (lead vocalist).

The purpose behind the band, according to McCrary, "was to allow the children to experience music on another level. They listen to music all the time but never really made music." While the band provides a fun outlet, McCrary added that "it also gives them a voice to express themselves, enhances their learning in other subjects like math and English and exposes them to music they may have never heard before. It gives them a viable skill here in ‘Music City.' They can play for different organizations or bands in the long run and make a living if they so choose."

In fact, Reggion Kelly, the band's drummer, was recently invited by a local church to be its worship leader and he accepted. Kelly's family has had some hardships recently, and yet the 13-year-old wants to use his music skills to worship God. McCrary said that's how God works. "I am so proud and happy for him," she said.

When Tyrell Catlett was asked how the band makes a difference in his life, he said that the invitations The Shield has received around town is proof of God's blessing. McCrary thinks the band has been instrumental in bringing the community together, giving them something to be proud of.

McCrary said all the parents were surprised to see how good the band is, and one in particular called her to say it's helping her daughter in school. "One parent told me her daughter's math grades were improving, and she believes it was the piano lessons she was receiving. So God is here in many ways, working through music."

McCrary was just like her students as a kid – using music to help her cope with life – and she is passionate about giving other kids the same coping tools she had. "I’m purpose driven in my effort to give them the opportunity to express. These children are exposed to some tough situations, and this gives them an outlet, takes their minds off of their circumstances, if only for a little while, and allows them to feel special and to know that they matter in the world. It certainly is a confidence builder, and I see them stand a little taller and make better choices," she said.

Her passion for music instruction extends beyond the band, too. This summer McCrary led a songwriting series for The Salvation Army's summer camp participants. About 110 children ages 6 to 14 took part. Students were divided into five groups, each group writing or helping to write an original song or bring new life to an old song. All songs were written with original music and recorded at Ocean Way Studio on Music Row. Children were thrilled to have the opportunity to record the songs in a real recording studio used by music professionals.

"The recording was then mixed and mastered, and packaged (using artwork created by the children), and we gave them a copy of their work on the last day of summer camp," said McCrary.

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