Brayden Cunningham has been surrounded with music for just about his whole life.
Some students discover they have musical talents in high school and some in grade school, but for this 17-year-old Fieldcrest High School senior it was around age 4.
It’s an interest that has carried through his life with his personal favorite musical outlet being choir.
“What I really like when I listen to music is the vocal extremes,” Brayden said. “I like hearing the limits of the human voice being pushed. I like that humans can produce such impressive sounds.”
And he’s quite good at it too. Brayden performs in the Illinois All-State Honors Choir, which is the highest high school choir in the state. The choir is separated into eight voice parts from highest to lowest with Brayden performing in the bottom one. Their big performance was at the Peoria Civic Center.
“I just went in January and it went really well,” Brayden said. “It was amazing just being around all those great singers.”
It started at a young age with his grandmother, Elaine Cunningham, who babysat Brayden while his parents worked.
One of Brayden’s earlier memories was watching “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” with his grandmother.
“The stage, the music, everything. I loved it all,” Brayden said.
Elaine is a retired music teacher and started Brayden off small.
“We kind of just sat at the piano and sang songs and did little exercises,” Elaine said. “He was always eager.”
Then she slowly introduced him to more of the many instruments that filled her music room. His current instrument of choice is the trumpet for the high school band where he sits as first chair, but he’s also dabbled with the guitar and trombone.
The two have become quite a pair with Brayden accompanying his grandmother on vacations after her husband and Brayden’s grandfather passed away.
Never the one to turn down the opportunity to try an instrument, he gave the bagpipes a whirl while on a trip to Scotland.
“I did OK,” Brayden said with a smile. “You have to have a lot of air.”
Brayden’s parents also dabbled with music in the past and understand their son’s interest.
“They’re always supportive of what I do,” Brayden said. “I have great parents.”
He's also performed on the stage and noted his personal favorite performance being the Reverend from his school's performance of "Footloose."
The struggle to start a professional music career as well as not having a desire to teach has Brayden leaning toward a career in communications.
“Something with the news. I’ve seen news clips online most and I like the idea of informing people. I think people need to be informed,” he said.
Still, music will never be far from his heart as he plans to continue performing music as a hobby in his spare time.
His grandmother looks forward to seeing him continue to evolve his talents.
“It’s wonderful. It’s been a real blessing,” Elaine said. “He’s been a blessing for his family.”
“It’s great to see him succeed,” she added. “It does your heart good.”