I watch the scene as she enters the room. Eyes fix and heads turn as she passes people on her way to her seat, guitar case in hand, a soft but self assured smile on her face. She is unassuming and deceivingly nonchalant, not yet fully aware of the degree to which her presence commands attention. For a while she may lull you into thinking she's just another shy young girl with a cute song to sing. She will dispell all those notions in the heads of her audience tonight, including me. Who is she? She is Aubrey Shamel, from Lewisville, NC. Aubrey has come here to the Showcase of Original Music tonight to participate in the open mic.
As soon as you discover she is a mere 17 years old, your expectations about what you will hear are preset. And so the crowd sits, smiles beaming, patient, waiting to be supportive of this teenager. As Aubrey tunes her guitar, checks her mic and starightens her clothes, the chatter in the seats quiets, replaced with uncertain anticipation. Her preparations appear to give her time to mentally and emotionally transform into the perfomer that is surely part of her DNA. As she launches into her first song, expressions change, whispers are shared, and bodies begin to feel the style and power of her music. By the time she finishes, the applause is not that of people trying to boost someone's confidence, it is the evidence of their pleasant surprise and amazement at the talent and skill which only moments ago was so quietly hidden, yet now, is glaringly apparent. This experience between her and new audiences is repeated everywhere she goes.
A lot has happened since that night which I just described back in March of 2012. Aubrey is on the road to bigger and better things. Nashville is gradually becoming a second home as she travels there to collaborate with some of Music City's "hit makers", honing her lyrical and musical "chops". Her name is on the tips of some influencial tongues in that town, a situation many musicians live for yet never know. Listening to her talk about her music, the clarity of her vision, the depth of her determination and the surety of her conviction are undeniable and yet hard to imagine in terms of where the average teen's head is thought to be. There is no doubt in her voice, no planned alternative life course, no caving to peer pressure or parent pressure (sometimes) for that matter. Aubrey is driving her career and calling the shots, with the help, support and advice of a loving family. The only backup plan she acknowledges is if for some inexplicable reason her "singer/song-writer" aspirations don't meet her expectations, then she will happily turn things around and become a "song-writer/singer", mentioning Carole King as an example of that concept. To be so young, so sure and so ready to give it her all, belies a maturity and drive that is remarkable.
Being on the receiving end of her talent and having had the chance to get to know her a bit more as person, has been a source of inspiration for me personally. That feeling has deepened as I have witnessed an occasion or two where Aubrey has mentored other young people like my daughter, sharing, encouraging and just making herself approachable. She may not be aware of her mentor status, but the role seems to be a natural one for Aubrey, which she plays comfortably, out of the spotlight. Thank you Aubrey, for not only being an inspiration to me, but to many others as well.