Turning 14 while performing at a major opera festival in Italy was pretty much the best birthday that singer Sheridan Archbold could have hoped for.
"It was the biggest performance of my life, and the first time I traveled out of the country," said Sheridan, who in August played the part of Cherubino in "Marriage of Figaro" at the Tuscia Operafestival in Viterbo. "It was a great experience."
Sheridan ArchboldAge: 14
School: Parkview Christian Academy
Who inspires you? Italian classical tenor Andrea Bocelli
What book are you reading? I don't like reading.
What music are you listening to? I listen to opera, pop and a little bit of gospel.
The three words that best describe you? Perseverant. Competitive. Hard worker.
Sheridan sings in six languages -- English, Italian, French, German, Russian and Tagalog -- and has built quite the resume over the years. He's performed for the Chicago Bulls, the Foundation of Artists Mentored in Entertainment, a charity event at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, on Memorial Day and Fourth of July in Aurora, and at countless private functions in Bartlett and other suburbs.
He will sing in March at the Young Artists Awards in Los Angeles and is in talks to perform in 2017 in France.
"I was very surprised at the quality of his work," said Pascal Blondiaux of GPOP France Management Press Corp., which is looking into booking Sheridan for lyrical concerts that also might feature French classics. "I wish to present him to the French public just as he was this summer in Italy."
A little closer to home, Sheridan made it through the third round last year of the TV show "America's Got Talent" at Madison Square Garden in New York City before choosing to withdraw from the competition, his mother, Aelita Archbold, said.
Sheridan, of Yorkville, said he's a "classical crossover" singer like American performer Josh Groban. His first CD, to be released later this month, will feature opera and cover songs.
"Basically, you sing pop, rock, opera, gospel," Sheridan said of the classical crossover style. "When you are a classical crossover, it means that there are many genres that you select that are right for your voice. You can sing many different genres."
Opera is his main passion, though. Sheridan first got to know it through the music of the late Luciano Pavarotti, then discovered Andrea Bocelli, who's since become Sheridan's role model.
"It's the way (Bocelli) sings," he said. "He sings with a passion. It's very rare to sing like that. (Singers like him) know what they are singing, and they put everything they have into the lyrics."
His performance in Italy was quite a coup, said voice teacher Janice Pantazelos, who arranged the audition that helped send Sheridan abroad. Typically the part of 13-year-old Cherubino is sung by a mezzo soprano, not an actual 13-year-old.
"He's an extraordinary young man," Pantazelos said of Sheridan.
Pantazelos said she's taught about 500 students over more than three decades, many of whom had professional careers and even earned Tony and Jeff awards. She made an exception to teach Sheridan, who at age 12 was the youngest student she took on for the long haul, because she was so impressed with his raw talent.
"He was a sponge. He wanted to learn everything," she said. "His technique grew, his breath support grew, he was able to sustain notes longer. His quality of work was more even. His boy soprano became quite gorgeous."
Sheridan's voice recently changed from soprano to "baritenor," or somewhere between a baritone and a tenor, which is "pretty amazing," Pantazelos said.
"Most boys at 14 are in the middle of puberty and cracking all over the place."
Sheridan considers himself and his mother "a close team." When they're not practicing his lessons, the two sometimes volunteer together at Hesed House homeless shelter in Aurora.
Aelita Archbold said her son needed guidance when he was younger but now mostly needs support.
"I don't force him. He cannot perform happy with force," she said.
Sheridan says he's is his own toughest critic. "I will sing a perfect performance in the audience's eyes, but for me, I always will know I can do better. Sometimes, I will do so well, I will be very proud of myself, which is rare because I am very picky."
Sheridan has two brothers: Fulton, 17, who is into languages, and Edgeorge, 15, whose passion is computers. All three boys attend Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville. Their father, Edgar, is a physician, while their mother, originally from Russia, was a singer and performer in Belarus.
Sheridan said he has dyslexia, so academics are a bit challenging. He's been mostly home-schooled and will transition back to that in January.
He started singing as a toddler -- tuning up his voice as early as 2 years old -- and he and his brother Edgeorge performed together in church for a few years. But while his brother moved on from singing, Sheridan stuck with it and started formal voice lessons around age 10.
His acting coach, Kevin Wiczer of Elgin, helps him better tell the stories behind his songs.
"Sheridan is one of the kids that are willing to do what it takes to succeed," Wiczer said, adding the teen has a great comedic side. "It is so exciting to see how much he has grown and continues to grow as a performer."
Wiczer and Sheridan's mother are working on a Web series called "Making It Again?" starring Sheridan as a former famous boy soprano who decides he wants a normal life.
Aelita hopes her son will attend the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, which Sheridan said he's open to.
"I want to become a professional opera singer, but it depends where life takes me," he said. "If they want me to become a classical crossover, if the audiences see me best at that, I'll become a classical crossover."
That might be a smart choice because there aren't many parts for teen opera singers, Pantazelos said.
"It's a tough, tough profession, but I think that if he stays open-minded and keeps working on his musicianship, I think he's got a lot of what it takes," she said.
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