At the age of 17, High School Academy student Sarah Coelho was nominated for Upcoming Artist at the Press Awards USA. The Press Awards USA is to Brazil what the Oscars are to America, with similar categories such as Best Actress, Best Movie, and Best TV Series. Out of the chosen 15 for each category, the top five travel to Florida for the ceremony to find out the winner.
How did you get nominated?
I keep a lot of my music on YouTube: original songs, audition tapes, and performances with my band and my school choir. One of the Press Award committee members had been following my work on social media for a few years. He sent my work to the committee, and I got nominated with an invitation to the ceremony!
What will you do if you win?
I was shocked to even be nominated, so that’s taking a while to sink in because there are so many talented Brazilian artists in the U.S. If I win I’ll be able to interact more with that community. I’ve also met a lot of people through social media because of the nomination. Regardless, I’ve gotten more exposure, which will help me to book performances for the future. I hope to bring my band to Brazil before I graduate next year.
At the time of the interview, Coelho was planning to travel to Florida for the ceremony. Because of a deadline for a senior grant project, she decided not to attend the ceremony. She ultimately did not win but gained a lot from the experience.
What are you doing for the summer?
I’m attending the Five-Week Summer Performance Program for the third year in a row thanks to the City Music Summer Scholarship. I’ll also be performing with Will Dailey (a local Boston performer). I’ve been fortunate to work with him before, and we’ve kept in contact ever since. He’ll be doing a Prince tribute, and I’m opening for him and doing backup.
How did you get involved in playing music?
I was very sick when I was little, and my parents played a lot of music for me in the hospital. Because my dad is a musician, there’s always music around us, for good and bad moments. When I was 6 they put me in a music exploration class where you can try out different instruments and sing whatever songs you know. I really enjoyed singing at that time and started taking piano lessons. I joined the City Music Prep Academy in fifth grade as a vocalist, moved to the Mentoring Program for a few years, and will be going into my second year in the High School Academy.
What kind of performing do you do?
I’m in three bands right now. My main band is named Firehouse, and three of us are in City Music. We don’t have a set rehearsal every week, but we try to rehearse at least twice a month. It’s hard to find time for all of us to meet, which can be frustrating only because we’re so excited to work together. I’m also in another band called Divercity, and we meet every week.
What is your process like when writing or arranging music with your bands?
It’s definitely a group effort to create songs or arrange a cover. We do a lot of sending each other videos of performers, like “Look at this drummer and what he’s doing,” because we want to do justice to the song and have the free space to put our own feel to it. For the most part, we don’t use charts or rely on anything written down. It allows us to be creative and more receptive to interpretation.
How is your family involved with your music?
My parents will wake up at 3:00 a.m. to drive me to a class if it's important to me. I couldn’t ask for any more support than that. They always look out for what’s best for my bandmates and me. They transport us to gigs, hall gear, and help us fundraise. In the beginning they were there for every performance. Now I can tell them that they don’t need to go to everything. As a kid, you think that your parents exist only for you. As I’ve grown up I’ve realized that they have lives of their own to live. Rather than mostly physical support, they’re now able to give me so much more emotional support, and that means even more to me.