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#UCPSGrads: Sayo Oni prepares for a career on the big stage

When CATA senior Sayo Oni belted out his Rock of Ages solo in front of packed house at the Belk Theater on May 19, he waSayo Oni poses in his college sweatshirt sn’t terribly nervous about what would happen next.

Of course he was grateful for being a Best Actor nominee at that evening’s Blumey Awards, the prestigious music and theater arts competition for high school performing arts students. But whether or not they called his name as the award winner, Sayo was living in the moment solely focused on putting on a great performance.

So when his name was announced as the winner of the Best Actor award, Sayo was completely floored.

“I was nominated last year, so I thought there was no way that I would get it. I was in shock the entire time,” he said, reflecting on the moment. “It was like an out-of-body experience.”

Widely regarded as the Tony Awards for high school theater, past Blumey Award winners have gone on to have successful careers performing on and off Broadway as well as in professional theatre companies across the country.

Now that Sayo has joined this small but elite circle of performers, he will continue to follow in their footsteps this summer as he travels to New York City for an all-expenses-paid trip to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (the Jimmy Awards).

It’s a dream come true for the high school senior whose love for musical theatre can only be described as a domino effect, beginning with his love of dance at only seven years old. By his eighth grade year at Piedmont Middle, Sayo began to perform in plays and soon fell in love with musical theatre.

Once he joined CATA’s musical theatre program in the ninth grade, he knew that this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

“CATA has been absolutely wonderful. Our faculty, directors and theatre teachers are really good about preparing us for whatever we want to do after we graduate,” he said. “They know about this industry and it’s nice to have someone there to prepare you for all types of situations.”

This fall, Sayo will attend the highly competitive music theatre program at Elon University. Often ranked as one of the top 10 schools for musical theatre in the entire country – and with less than a two percent acceptance rate – Sayo is looking forward to the intensive classes that will build on the skills he’s learned at CATA.

As he reflected on the past several years, Sayo said winning a Blumey Award will always be one of the highlights of his budding career. Even so, he’s quick to add that regardless of what happened onstage that evening, it would never determine who he was because he’d taken comfort in the fact that he already had something great in his future.

 “If you would have asked me a few years ago about my future goals, I would have said ‘Broadway, Broadway, Broadway,’” he said. “I’d still love to perform on or off Broadway, but during this past year I’ve learned that as long as you’re making a living doing what you love it’s not always about where you’re performing. Ten years from now, I want to be doing what I love.”

Want to see Sayo talk about his Blumey Award? Check out his appearance, along with the Best Actress award winner, on WBTV’s Morning Break show: