Tenille Townes – Metro Nashville Public Schools
Townes, an artist ambassador for the CMA Foundation, answered questions and performed her song “Girl Who Didn’t Care” to approximately 80 students in the classes of music teacher Nita Smith. Smith, a 29-year MNPS veteran, was named the CMA Foundation’s Distinguished Music Teacher in 2020.
Townes, who grew up in Canada, said she listened to all kinds of music on the radio as a child and fell in love with country music storytelling. Dolly Parton and Shania Twain were the first heroines and she started singing at events in her small town when she was 5 years old.
She got her first guitar at the age of 14 and began learning chords from a teacher, who showed her that she could associate these chords with the lyrics she wrote in her journal. She found that by writing songs, she could tell stories while also understanding her own emotions.
“Being able to write it is really therapeutic,” she told the students. “Music for me is just a safe place to let something out. It’s just a healing thing for me. It makes me feel better.
While she is still getting used to some aspects of stardom, like interviews and photoshoots, Townes said she loves writing songs and performing them in front of an audience.
“I feel like the most confident version of myself when I take the stage and do my thing,” she said.
After performing “Girl Who Didn’t Care,” her latest single, which she recorded at home while in quarantine during the pandemic, Townes ceded the stage to Smith and his students. Smith described their version of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” as “a work in progress,” but they had clearly worked a lot on it and made a lot of progress already, and Townes and the other visitors were impressed.
“Keep singing,” Townes said. “You look so gorgeous. I would like to have this kind of program at school. Thanks for singing to me. What a treat!”
At the end of class, Smith said that she and other teachers were trying to plant the same seeds that used to grow in Townes as a child.
“The sky is the limit,” Smith said. “You can be the next Tenille Townes. I just want them to know that their life matters and that the arts are a way for them to express it. It can boost their confidence. As they heard him speak, even though it was behind a mask, I hope they felt his genuine spirit, because I did.