The Youngs are like a lot of families here in Newton County. They like to play video games and go to movies. Of course, spending time with one another is a priority. But unlike most families, mom Chandra Currelley-Young is a professional singer and actress who might be out on tour in Tyler Perry's latest play and dad, Larry Young, is a professional in radio who can be heard on air. When their son, Agape, a senior at Alcovy High School, isn't blowing away the crowd with a trumpet solo during half time shows, he's behind the camera at Church of the Now or doing voice overs. This is one extremely talented family with roots running all the way back to the Atlanta music scene of the late 1970s.
That's where Chandra and Larry met when they sang for a group called Total Capacity. Chandra said, "Larry was just really nice. Other male singers would give me broken mic stands, but Larry offered me tea."
Larry smiles at his wife of 21 years and said, "I'd never worked with someone so talented before."
The couple's paths crossed many years later when Chandra was singing in a cabaret act. She said she looked over at the stage door. "And there he was, waving at me and I could see that smile of his."
The couple realized much later that they were close to meeting many times over the years - both of them grew up in the same neighborhood and took classes at the same college. They finally met because of music. "We first learned that we were compatible through the music. We're a great team," says Chandra.
Chandra's journey with performance began back in high school where her drama teacher LaTonya Richardson, the wife of Samuel L. Jackson, encouraged her to focus on her talent. "I spent a lot of time at her house. That's where I met Sam."
Sam, as she calls the popular film actor, took Chandra under his wing and paid for her to attend a summer workshop. "He was the first person to invest in my career."
During that summer workshop, she was cast to play the role of Jackson's mother in a musical entitled "Wedding Band." She was chosen because she could sing the character's a cappella number.
While Chandra is a gifted actress, Richardson and Jackson told her to develop her singing talent. They advised her that she'd find more work with music, so she took voice lessons and cultivated her talent. She started performing with bands where she would eventually meet her husband, Larry.
Chandra also spent 7 years with the S.O.S. Band, performing on two albums with two top 10 songs, "Missing Your Love" (1989) and "Sometimes I Wonder" (1990).
She left the band in 1992 to pursue a career in acting and theater. "I knew I had more in me than just doing flashbacks. I'd gotten all I could from that experience and I wanted to move on. It was a great move for me."
Meanwhile, her husband was breaking into radio as both a salesman and on-air talent. Larry's worked at stations WAEC, WATB and KISS 104.7. Larry is currently employed by Sheridan Broadcasting at The Light, WIGL. But the early musical collaboration that brought the couple together is still put to good use. Larry sings on Chandra's two albums, Love Songs (2005) and The Real Me (2007).
Most people will recognize Chandra from the six plays and two movies she's done with Tyler Perry, the celebrated actor, director and producer. "Tyler saw me on stage in ‘Sophisticated Ladies' in 1999 and asked me to take the role of Emma in his first production, ‘I Know I've Been Changed.'"
She's currently working with Perry as Miss V. in his new sitcom, "For Better or Worse" airing in November. A live performance of the stage play "Madea's Christmas" will also be available for sale Nov. 22.
Many of the productions she's done with Perry, as well as other roles in productions like "Amen Corner," "Dinah Was," "Slam," and "Blues in the Night," take her away from her family for extended periods of time. "We don't go past three weeks without seeing one another. You have to have some kind of sense about what it is you're doing. You don't want to jeopardize your home. You don't want to lose your relationships while you're trying to earn a living."
When asked how the touring and performing affects her family, Chandra smiles and said, "We do this like it's breathing."
Growing up around music, stage and radio has left an impression on Agape, who, at 18, is a phenomenal trumpet player. Chandra says that the entertainment business isn't easy and she encourages her son to develop his talents as she was advised to do when she was in high school. "Music will open doors for Agape."
The young man can describe in perfect detail the day in 4th grade when he saw a yellow flier for band in the hallway at his elementary school. He picked trumpet to play, and he simply played it correctly from the moment he first held it. With such talented parents, music comes naturally to Agape.
Agape's band director at Alcovy High School, Johnny Hallman agrees. "Agape is fearless as a musician, whether it's an improvised trumpet solo in jazz band or singing and playing like Louis Armstrong for Black History Month. He is the most naturally talented student I've had in 16 years."
"Because of his ear," says Agape's father, Larry, "trumpet was the perfect instrument for him. His first band director said he's never heard a child so young with such a perfect tone." The trumpet offered a creative outlet for Agape because he was struggling academically.
His father goes on to describe his son as someone with "an old-school spirit. He's like his mom." While other teenagers are listening to Lil'Wayne, Agape is listening to the composer John Williams.
Agape smiles modestly when asked about his talent on the trumpet. "Whenever I play, it's like I'm singing a song to the audience. I sing it in my head and that's where the tone comes from. I just try to make the music come to life."
Hallman can't say enough about how much Agape adds to the band program at Alcovy High School. "Agape has come such a long way as a musician in the past 4 years. He can feel the music and you can hear that when he plays."
After playing his solo during a half time show performance this season, Agape was told by a band parent volunteer that he made his parents proud. He simply smiled and responded, "I know." His parents recently escorted him across the field at Sharp Stadium for Senior Night festivities. The smiles on their faces said it all.
As the family describes the video games they like (Chandra enjoys playing virtual tennis, Larry leans more toward Madden and Agape is a fan of "shoot ‘em up games"), it's easy to see what's most important to the Youngs. Chandra says, reaching out for her husband and son, "My family is who I am."