Young musicians unite to benefit area veterans

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

On an otherwise still morning, music reverberated through Andrew Shield's home.

It was midway through spring break, a week most teenagers find respite from the early mornings of school day routines. But Andrew, 15, and six other young musicians had been awake and playing music since nearly 8 a.m. – the only window of time to fit everyone's schedule.

As the group rehearsed oldies like James Brown's "I Got You" and Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is," they likely forgot how early it was.

"Can't be sad listening to this type of music," said Ryan Boll, 18. "It always puts you in a good mood."

On April 16, they'll share that energy with an audience, performing a benefit concert for the Armed Services Arts Partnership in the Williamsburg Library Theatre.

Andrew came up with the idea in December.

"I wanted to pull all these musicians together, because they'd never played together, and thought it'd be great to do a benefit concert," he said.

Most knew each other. Five of the seven attend, or graduated, from Jamestown High School.

And many, in some way, have played music together. Though young, all under 20, these guys aren't strangers to the local music scene.

Andrew, who plays guitar, met keyboardist Tyler Bevington, 14, at Fernando Jones Blues Camp in Hampton. Tyler has played the blues around Hampton Roads since he was 8, including with Jackie Scott and Bobby "BlackHat" Walters. Bassist Jesse Katz, 17, and drummer Nick Geer, 17, are members of Take 757, a popular local jazz combo. Boll and Max Harmon, 17, on trombone and trumpet respectively, participate in Jamestown's Jazz Ensemble. Tyler Harney, 19, on saxophone and clarinet, has played with Williamsburg Classic Swing Orchestra, among other groups.

The seven-piece band will swing through a set list, arranged by Andrew, of R&B, blues, jazz, Motown, soul and rock classics: Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling," Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock," Chicago's "Make Me Smile" and more.

"It's fun music that everyone likes, or has liked at one time or another," Jesse said. "Great fun time for a great cause."

Founded by College of William and Mary graduate Sam Pressler, Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is a burgeoning organization providing veterans with free arts programs, whether music, comedy, writing or visual arts. Based in Virginia, ASAP currently serves veterans in Hampton Roads and the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Andrew heard about the organization through his mom. The music classes caught his attention.

"The entire ASAP community was humbled by Andrew's interest in supporting our veteran artists," Pressler wrote in an email.

"The funds raised from his concert will directly benefit future ASAP music programs," Pressler continued, "allowing our veterans to express themselves, relax their minds and connect with their communities through the piano and guitar classes."

In addition to supporting ASAP, Andrew hopes, as he always does, to connect with the audience.

"You try and touch the people in the audience," he said. That's what it's all about.

"It's a lot of fun being onstage, especially around here with the great community" Jesse said of Williamsburg's music scene.

Andrew Shield and Friends – stay tuned, they're hunting for a different name – hopes to play future concerts. For now, the guys just look forward to taking the stage Saturday, bringing youthful energy to some timeless hits.

"The great thing about it is it's for all ages," Andrew said. "You can be four years old or 92."

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-275-4934.

Want to go?

When: 7-8:30 p.m., April 16

Where: Williamsburg Regional Library Theatre, 515 Scotland St.

Tickets: $10

To purchase tickets, visit andrewshield.com/benefit-concert.html.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
36°