Whether she’s singing an operatic aria, a musical theater standard or a tune she helped to write, 15 year old Sara Steven’s ability to embody the soul of a song is a rare gift. More than just displaying technical excellence, she brings a deep emotional commitment to her music, be it in the recording studio, stages like Carnegie Hall, or even stadiums where she performed the National Anthem for the NY Giants.
Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, Sara’s abilities were evident at a very early age. At age 3 or 4, Sara would hear artists like Celine Dion on the radio and after hearing the songs only a few times, Sara starting singing along and was able to hit the high notes just like Celine did.
Sara’s parents encouraged her love of music by taking her to a performance of La Boheme at the Met at age 6 and starting her on private vocal lessons three years later. Around this time, she began singing and playing piano at holiday recitals hosted by her aunt. Classical music held a special attraction for her.
A turning point came when Sara successfully auditioned for the AMTC competition in November 2011. Resisting suggestions that she perform a pop number, she sang the aria “Pie Jesu” for an audience of agents, managers and casting directors at the 2012 AMTC finale event in Orlando, Florida, earning a standing ovation and top honors for her age group. That same year, she entered and won first place in the American Protégé International Music Competition, receiving the chance to perform on stage at Carnegie Hall.
Amidst all this excitement and acclaim, Sara was coping with bullying incidents at school. She channeled these painful experiences into “Dance in This Dream,” a hope-filled song written (with her input) by John Roberts, Atlanta-based composer/CEO of Soundbyte. The tune and accompanying video gave an indication of Sara’s ability to deliver original material as convincingly as a classical number.
Sara came to the attention of Naomi Julia (editor of the website Entertainment Industry Insider), who was floored when she saw the “Dance in This Dream” video. Julia then approached all of her major contacts in the industry. It wasn’t long before she set up an appointment for Sara with the president of a highly regarded artists’ consulting firm, which led to an in person meeting and audition. This was the start of many big doors opening for Sara which led her to renowned cellist/pianist composer David Eggar, who went on to record an eight-song demo with her.
A violinist on the Eggar sessions invited Sara and her parents to attend a Broadway performance of The Phantom of the Opera in December 2012. Invited backstage, Sara seized the chance to meet – and sing for – musical director Paul Schwartz, who was “completely blown away” by what he heard. Schwartz invited Sara to lunch the following day and agreed to work with her in the studio.
2013 saw Sara recording a variety of material with Schwartz, including arias, an Irish folk song and original compositions specially crafted for her voice. Among the latter are “Promise” (co-written by Sara with Schwartz and lyricist Lisbeth Scott) and “A Life That’s Made of Dreams” (an inspiring tune with the makings of a personal anthem). Peter Cobbin, senior engineer at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, is mixing the tracks. “Sara is great to work with,” Schwartz says. “She’s personable, doesn’t get flustered and picks up things really fast. Together, I think we’re developing a sound that’s unlike anybody else’s.”
This year Sara has focused much of her efforts to giving back, especially with her involvement in speaking out against bullying; becoming an ambassador for the Pacer’s Organization, National School Climate Center, the Diana Award in the UK and most recently as the a keynote speaker and performer for Mentoring Partnerships of Long Island Youth Day Conferences. She’s also contributed performance for a multitude of galas, military/veteran ceremonies and even sporting events.
Sara has a big voice and an even bigger heart. One thing’s for sure – the voice that has carried her to Carnegie Hall and beyond is just beginning to reach its full potential. What happens next will be truly extraordinary to hear.