Not every 13-year-old girl with a powerful singing voice gets the opportunity to record it on an album. It is even less likely that she would have a single written for her by a noted producer. Rarer than that is when that girl wants to give a percentage of her album earnings to a special needs charity. It seems that Shayla D, who embodies all these things, is truly remarkable. Shayla’s father, Bobby Degregorio, certainly thinks so. He and his wife always knew their daughter had talent, but it wasn’t until his wife saw a contest on Facebook that they really had an idea about what to do about it.
The contest appeared to be sponsored by a local radio station in Charleston, SC, where the Degregorios live. Bobby Degregorio took a closer look and discovered that it was actually a station in Charlotte, NC, about four hours away. The contest also stated that singers must be at least 15 years old to enter. Shayla was only 12 at the time. Degregorio was undeterred. He noticed an email address for Chris Clay of Platinum Vybe Recordings, the record company producing the album. Degregorio sent him a link to Shayla’s YouTube page, saying he knew she was too young to enter the contest, but he just wanted to know what he thought of her voice.
A couple of weeks went by before Degregorio received a response. Clay thought maybe he was onto something. He invited them to come up to Charlotte and meet with him. “When I went home and told Shayla, she was like, ‘no way!'” Degregorio says. The following weekend he and Shayla drove up to Clay’s studio.
Shayla sang “Black Velvet” for Clay. “He had done his due diligence,” says Degregorio. “He had already looked at all her YouTube stuff. I guess he kind of made his mind up.” Clay told them that Platinum Vybe had 18 artists lined up, but one of the girls wasn’t quite right. He told Shayla that he’d written a song for her. If she could learn the song and come back next week, they would record it and she could be on the CD. Shayla and her father listened to a sample of the song and loved it. It was called “Take Me Away.” Degregorio says he was worried at first that the song might be too old for her, but “if you listen to the lyrics of the song, it could be about teenage love . . . it could be about parents of kids with special needs, or about military members where the spouse is deploying.”
Degregorio himself is in the Air Force Reserves, preparing for deployment in April. He is also a father to two other daughters, one of whom has special needs. Gabriella Degregorio is eight years old and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, apraxia, global developmental delay, and ADHD. She loves music and she loves singing Shayla’s songs and watching her big sister perform. Degregorio says that his other daughters are “such better kids because of Gabriella. She is amazing. She’s just happy-go-lucky, always smiling, always up to something.” She inspired Degregorio and Shayla to search out a charity to which they could give proceeds from Shayla’s share of the Pride of the Carolinas album sales.
Shayla, who had memorized and recorded “Take Me Away” with no problem, had 3,500 downloads of her single within three days of being released. The goal is to get at least 5,000 downloads by April. The artist who sells the most in each genre on the album was told that they would be offered a full album deal with Sony Records. Shayla’s song is in the pop category and is available on Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, CD Baby, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.
As for the charity, Shayla and her father reached out to SpecialNeeds.com and a number of other sources for recommendations of nonprofit organizations that benefit people with Gabriella’s disabilities. They settled on Carolina Children’s Charity. “I want to do something to reach the most people,” Degregorio says. “This is a small start, but it is a start in the right direction.”
You can listen to a sample of “Take Me Away” here.