In a few weeks, Burroughs High School senior Sage McNeely and Burbank resident Tristan Paradee will live out one of their musical fantasies at a very young age.
The 18-year-olds were named two of 14 grand-prize finalists in the Music Center’s 31st annual Spotlight program, which, among its honors, includes a performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall on June 4.
“I’m beyond excited and ready to perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and it’s so crazy to say that,” McNeely said. “[It’s] one of those places where you kind of dream of performing, and, the fact that I’m doing that at 18, is incredible.”
As a finalist, each musician will also receive a $5,000 cash prize and a recording session at Capitol Records.
However, Paradee said he is more excited about his upcoming performance at Disney Concert Hall.
“I was there not too long ago, and I saw [Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo] Dudamel conducting, and I was just so amazed by the whole performance and the hall — and to think that I’m going to be performing there is astonishing,” he said.
McNeely, a member of Burroughs High’s acclaimed Powerhouse Choir, said she was surprised by the honor.
“I honestly was not expecting this because I’ve been [applying] to the Music Center program for four years and to see it finally pay off was very exciting,” she said.
She said she embarked in the competition by sending in a video of her singing a two-minute song, which was followed by live auditions at the Music Center.
McNeely, who is expecting to head to Long Beach State’s Bob Cole Conservatory of Music in the fall, said she will perform “Masterpiece” by R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan on June 4 and expects to sing the same song during her recording session.
“I want to keep doing music and keep singing and writing my own music,” said McNeely, who sings pop, jazz and classical music. “Hopefully, I can become a recording artist and make my own music. That’s the plan.”
Paradee, a pianist who attends Monrovia Excellence in Education Academy, is a finalist in the classical instrumental category.
The Burbank resident said he began the four-stage application process last year and never took for granted he would be selected, despite receiving previous honors, such as the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award.
“I was really surprised because I did not expect to win anything,” Paradee said. “It was a lot of work and a lot of waiting.”
Paradee said he wasn’t sure what clinched him a grand-prize finalist honor.
“I did play from my heart, which is always a priority for me,” he said. “I started with a Bach Toccata BWV 911, which always means a lot to me spiritually, and I really feel it in within me when I perform.”
Paradee plans to attend the Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in the fall.