When you see Seagle alumni Sean Panikkar onstage tonight at Radio City Musical Hall -- waiting to hear if the Opera Trio of Tenors in Forte wins it all on “America’s Got Talent” -- consider this: the moment may never have happened if not for his time up on Charley Hill Road.
Sean was a student in the Seagle Class of 2002 – and came that season to figure out where he was going in life, Seagle Director Tony Kostecki, recalled today.
“He was obviously a very talented singer when he came here, but he was undecided about whether he would be a singer or a engineer. He was being pressured by his family to become biology major, but he wanted to give singing another try”.
Fast forward to the 2008, when Sean was the featured honoree at the Seagle Gala, with multiple opera production credits on stages around the world under his belt.
“He will tell you directly that his experience here at Seagle changed his trajectory in life.”
Indeed. From Sean’s own mouth, in this interview to the Opera WarHorses Blog, he gives a
blow by blow account how everything changed for him at Seagle.
Well, I was a practical thinker, who seeks to make logical career choices. I went back and forth between being an engineer and being a singer. My brother, Rajiv, and his wife Julie were always on my side, whichever choice I made. My parents, being parents, wanted to make sure I was making a safe decision and that I would be able to make a living doing whatever I was doing.
It wasn’t so much that they were opposed to a career in music, they just didn’t know it was possible. I think if they were more informed, they probably would have been even more strongly against it, as very few are able to sing opera professionally and make a decent career out of it. I was torn between two things that I really enjoyed.
Following my junior year I was accepted to the Seagle Music Colony, a summer music program in Schroon Lake, New York. It was there that I first met Darren Keith Woods (general director of the Fort Worth Opera) and soprano Ashley Putnam. Although I had sung baritone prior to that summer, I was starting to transition to tenor and they cast me as Ferrando in Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte.”
Tony last caught up with Sean in May, at the Fort Worth Opera Festival. Tony says when he heard the news that Sean was on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”, he was a little taken aback.
“I was surprised at first. It came out of nowhere.”
On the show, Forte’s formation is explained this way: Sean was a last minute addition to the group just before their audition in Las Vegas, when an original member suddenly dropped out. The producers storyline is that the other two members found Sean through the internet. Sean’s impressive Operatic Career is totally down played on the show, which features him as a “stay at home dad”.
On Tuesday night’s show the group performed a breathtaking version of Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer,” the song that helped get them into the finals in the early rounds.
Tony, like many other Seagle Fans, will be watching the results show tonight. The winning act takes home $1 million and is guaranteed a show on the Strip in Las Vegas.