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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Arts for Youth Spotlight: Tragler and Hardin

Ashley Tragler and Caleb Hardin
Ashley Tragler and Caleb Hardin

Bluegrass and Madrigals captivate Tragler and Hardin

By Leslie Grace / A! Magazine for the Arts | November 25, 2015

Mothers are a powerful and universal force, as Ashley Tragler and Caleb Hardin can attest. Ashley and Caleb are the King and Queen of the Tennessee High School Madrigals and members of the THS bluegrass band Slim Pickins.

Ashley says her mom is her biggest musical influence, "She has always encouraged me to chase my dream and never give up." Caleb says he wouldn't have even been involved in music but for his mom.

"Both of my parents have been in gospel quartets throughout the years, so I had exposure to Southern music at a young age. Growing up, every time I had shown interest in choir or band, my friends would give me a hard time about it. So I wasn't involved in music until freshman year when my mom put me in choir without my knowledge, and that's where I really got started," he says.

While Caleb needed a nudge from his mom, Ashley jumped in. "When I was little, I would stand up in my chair at a restaurant and sing at the top of my lungs. Ever since then I have been in my church choir and once I got to high school I joined several bands."

Both of them play guitar, and Caleb also plays banjo and drums. They were both part of Slim Pickins when the group performed on PBS's Song of the Mountains. They also perform together for tips at Mad Greek, Bristol, Tenn., on Saturday nights. Ashley has been chosen for the Tennessee All-East and All-State choirs and was awarded "Most Talented Girl" at her school. Caleb was chosen "Most Talented Senior Male."

Their latest honor was being chosen as Madrigal King and Queen. "I was very honored to be chosen as Madrigal Queen," Ashley says. "The moment of voting had been something that I was looking forward to ever since the beginning of my freshman year. I never dreamed that I would be chosen and that is a very huge honor."

Caleb was surprised as well, "Honestly, I didn't expect to win at all. There are many other guys who I feel sing a lot better than myself and I voted for them as King. It's a huge honor to be chosen, though. I'm very thankful for the support from the rest of my classmates I've received," he says.

Ashley says "Music means everything to me. It is my heart and soul and makes everything better. Music speaks to me in a way that is indescribable. Whenever I perform, music is the only thing that makes me feel confident in myself. I want to pursue music and make it not only my hobby, but my life." She has been accepted to attend Belmont University next fall. She plans to continue to pursue her music and become a music therapist.

Caleb has been accepted to the Honors Audio Production course at Middle Tennessee State University and hopes to work for a studio in Nashville.

Caleb says that music to him "is more spiritual than anything else. There's nothing else that can describe the feeling of looking out on a crowd who have become emotionally attached to me and my music. There's also something about being able to convey powerful emotional feelings without a word being said."

Both of them say that THS teacher Bandy Brownlee has been a vital musical influence.

"Mr. Brownlee, our director, has influenced me more than anyone else," Caleb says. "He took an interest in me that nobody else had and pushed me to pursue my musical dreams. He took me, terrible guitar player who'd never played in front of anyone, and worked with me on bettering myself until I was ready to play in front of crowds of hundreds. I wouldn't be who I am today without him, and I'm endlessly grateful for that."

Brownlee says of Ashley and Caleb, "There's no way to overstate the impact that Ashley and Caleb have on our Choral Music Department. These two live, eat and breathe singing and playing instruments."

Ashley is 17 and is the daughter of Julie and John West. She attends Tennessee High School. Her hobbies include singing, playing guitar, participating in church activities, performing, volunteering and writing songs.

Caleb is 18 years old and attends Tennessee High. His parents are Travis Hardin and Paige Williams. He enjoys recording and playing music, hanging out with friends and working.

Topics: Music