By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
The energy of numerous musicians reverberated around the Plaza Hotel Ballroom as did their beats, strums, tones and voices Thursday night.
They circled each other blaring various instruments - drums, saxophones, guitars, keyboards and more - as the they took turns soloing or improvising tunes with one another.
"After getting into this, it has been beautiful to see people getting together and communicating through music," said Ron Foster, a father and grandfather of two musicians who frequent the weekly Shed at the Plaza Hotel.
Since March, Kingdom Come Community Church has hosted a Shed.
Harker Heights Event Center housed the Shed for the first couple of jam sessions, but it found itself a new home at the Plaza Hotel, and since then between 30 and 55 musicians have participated in the Shed weekly.
Sheds are musical jam sessions common in larger cities, said the Rev. Dante Snooks, pastor of Kingdom Come Community Church.
Sheds bring all sorts of musicians together to practice, learn and play.
They started taking place in churches after hours and would sometimes last all night to give musicians a chance to play with others after their normal gigs, Snooks said.
Normally, they are a once-a-month practice, but here they are being held more regularly.
"The reason I wanted to do it every week is because I want to bring some consistency into our community," Snooks said.
"It is just something that would bring musicians together to an equal level. We have kids in there from 8 and 9 to 40-year-olds."
Snooks grew up in the church with a pastor for a grandfather, he said. At the age of 15 he began some work in ministry and also became a choir director.
Music has proven itself to help deliver the message of God, Snooks said. It helps people bond, and it lets them express themselves.
Those are some of the reasons why the Shed is important to him.
"I personally believe that music is the pathway back to God," he said. "I use it as a tool to invoke his presence and his livelihood in people's lives."
The Shed helps to do that by bringing children and adults together as role-models for each other and providing a safe positive outlet for them.
"For this to happen this consistent is a blessing," Kingdom Come Community Church's pianist, Joel Salabarria, said.
"This is definitely that place; it is a sanctuary for musicians."
Salabarria has been around music since an early age, he said. Eight and half years ago he picked up the saxophone, and he has played the piano for three years.
He started attending the Shed to help grow musicians, he said.
"When I was young I didn't have someone helping me out like this," Salabarria said. "To see one cat pour into another cat that hasn't been playing as long is amazing. It is really like a big family of musicians. We learn from each other. We grow from each other."
The Shed isn't just for the Kingdom Come Community Church congregation, Snooks said.
Anyone at any talent level who enjoys any genre can come to the Shed. Members from several churches participate, including Greater Vision Community Church, Lifeway Fellowship Church, Grace Christian Church, Unity Baptist Church and more, Salabarria said.
The joy of the Shed is that it welcomes all. "Our goal is to unite musicians from all over the place," Salabarria said.
For people like John Mitchell, a Fort Hood soldier, the Shed is offering him a place to practice outside of church, he said.
Mitchell is the Transforming Life Church drummer. "I have been playing since I was 12 years old, and I am 31 now so it has been awhile," Mitchell said. "I bring my set out here to get out and play. I have been blessed enough to be able to practice."
Thursday was Mitchell's second time at the Shed, but he plans to continue attending until he deploys in July.
For some other musicians, the Shed is about participating with some of the talent and supporting the good cause.
"They are just here to have some fun," said Mitch Connell, Lifeway Fellowship pianist.
"There are good kids in there. I like playing with Steyon Hanes (another key player who participates at the Shed). He is one the best drummers in the area."
Connell's first time to attend the Shed was Thursday, but after only 45 minutes of play, he knew he would be back when his schedule would allow it.
"It is a big ol' jam session, and musicians love to jam," he said.
While Snooks admitted the Shed serves as an outreach for Kingdom Come, he said that is not his goal.
His goal, along with those that support the cause like Foster and Greg Moore, who provides the sound equipment, is to be a community outreach and better the community.
Regular members of the Shed have been booked to provide not just gospel shows but other genres of music at the Fort Hood Fourth of July Celebration, Snooks said. A few members also will perform in Houston for the city's Juneteenth celebration, Foster said.
"This is just a beginning," Snooks said. "This is truly something that is going to be a great positive influence in our city. We are all working together for the same goal to bring something to the table to do what we can to better the community."
Going to the Shed
What: The Shed, a musical jam session
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays
Where: Plaza Hotel ballroom, 1721 E. Central Texas Expressway, Killeen