It’s said you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. That’s true of people too, especially Sheridan Archbold, 12, of Yorkville. On the surface, he looks the same as any other 12-year-old boy- with an engaging grin, dimples, and a love for playing with his brothers, or starting a snowball fight.
Sheridan Archbold and his parents, Aelita and Edgar
A closer inspection reveals a boy who is mature for his age, has a natural poise, doesn’t squirm when the questions keep coming, who hails his parents as his personal heroes, who says he is vegetarian, and who would rather practice singing than play video games.
As for the singing he likes, forget any ideas of nostalgic children’s songs or even a pop song or two. Possibly the youngest classical crossover operatic singer, Sheridan sings in six languages- English, Italian, Russian, German, French, and Tagalog (Filipino). His favorites include “Time To Say Goodbye,” “O Sole Mio,” “The Voices of Spring,” and “Funiculi, Funicula,” along with songs written for him by his mother, Aelita Archbold, an accomplished musician, choir conductor, and audio engineer.
His journey began two years ago when one of his choir teachers told him he had an operatic voice. “They said I should look into singing, so my mom did, and she started teaching me opera. I thought yeah, why not?,” he said. While he hadn’t known what opera was, he started watching it on YouTube, particularly Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli, and says he thought, “That’s pretty cool.”
It didn’t take long for Sheridan to figure out that singing opera, though fun, wasn’t easy. “You have to warm up, learn the lyrics, memorize them, and if they’re in a different language, pronounce them correctly, and then sing them. And you have to find a good vocal teacher,” Sheridan said.
Singing in other languages has a cool factor, he said, because “even if you don’t want to learn them, at least you can say I know a song in a different language. If you sing in front of the Russian public, you don’t want to sing in English because they wouldn’t understand you. So you have some songs in Russian that they understand.”
Learning new songs might seem to be simple- read the music and practice, practice, practice. Aelita explained that it wasn’t for Sheridan because he has dyslexia, a condition that makes reading very difficult. Music gives him a freedom the written word does not, as they discovered he has incredible memorization skills and learns the music, lyrics and tune, by listening to it. Those skills allow him to accurately replicate what he hears both on the piano and through singing and makes singing in other languages easier.
“We were so excited,” Aelita said. “He showed he can do it, he can learn, he can sing. Maybe he has difficulties in reading, but he doesn’t have difficulty to memorize other languages, to sing.”
Sheridan piped up at that point to say, with a grin, “But not a very complicated song, like Bach.”
Singing in Russian comes naturally, as the family speaks Russian at home. Aelita is a native of Russia, although she has lived in the United States for more than 15 years, and in Australia for just over a year. Singing in Tagalog, he said, is the hardest, as it is similar to Chinese.
Sheridan’s formal training began the summer of 2012 at the Merit School of Music in Chicago, after he left public schools in order to be home schooled. While he has weekly voice and acting lessons, he also spends about two hours a day on practice- including warming up his voice- at home with Aelita. She said a voice like Sheridan’s is not developed on only one day a week, but with constant use and practice.
Also important for him, she explained, is getting plenty of sleep- usually about 11 hours- and eating well. This means, he said, that he doesn’t drink soda or eat junk food. Soda, he said, because it’s carbonated, scratches his throat and can affect his voice.
Aelita pointed out that, through his YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/ SheridanArchbold, Sheridan has gained a lot of international support—from Australia to Russia, Germany, France, Sweden, England. When they discovered this, she said, “We were so excited and we said he should sing in those languages.”
Sheridan has seen firsthand the reaction from people listening to him sing in their native language. From those at Festa Italiana in Chicago last year, to singing for a group of people from the Philippines in Tagalog, Aelita says people in the audience just “melt” when they hear him.
At Christmas, Sheridan sang for a group of 400 people- many Filipino- in their native language. “When he started to sing in Tagalog, they were so in love with him, they so appreciated him,” she said. Edgar added, “People listen to him sing, so they then ask him to sing in their language.” His friends, Sheridan says, sometimes ask him to sing as well, and once in a while tease him about it.
He has performed for many large audiences and competed in many talent shows, winning first place in several, including the Brown County Fair in Georgetown, Ohio, the Heart of Illinois Fair in Peoria, and the Mid-South Fair Youth Talent Contest in Memphis, Tenn., the same competition that Elvis Presley competed in shortly before he first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. He has also performed at the Kendall County Fair and at solo Christmas concerts in both Aurora and Schaumburg.
Sheridan was also recently chosen as Musician of the Month by Chicago Music Guide and will be singing the National Anthem at the Chicago Bulls basketball game on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
Other upcoming performances include the Performing Arts Center in New York in April, the IAAF state talent contest in Springfield, and a solo concert at the Chicago Botanical Garden, as well as many talent contests in the region.
Singing is the one thing he never gets tired of, Sheridan says.
He and his parents can be contacted at SheridanOpera@gmail.com.