Filmaker Artist in Progress Sean McNally

  • Sayville High School Senior Sean McNally


    Among the three exceptionally talented Sayville music students (Jillian Brudi, Nick Burkel, and Sean McNally) who recently attended the NAFME’s National Conference and All-National Honor Ensembles Concert in Nashville, Tennessee, one of them was there to perform in a most unique way.

    “Sean McNally is the first student—not only the first Sayville High School student—but the first student ever,” High School Assistant Principal Jillian Mackris explained, “invited by NAFME to make a video documentary of NAFME’s National Conference and All-National Honor Ensembles Concert.”

    This outstanding invitation was due to the professional quality of the music video Sean created on behalf of Sayville music teachers for a contest launched last February by the National Association for Music Education (NAFME). Sean’s video showcased Sayville High School’s Orchestra and Chorale performing a song by country singer RaeLynn and won Sayville the privilege of having the rising star visit Sayville on her national tour in March, 2015. RaeLynn, of The Voice fame, was joined by the National Association for Music Education, Give a Note Foundation, and Radio Disney to promote the 30th Anniversary of National Music in Our Schools Month. Although many schools submitted videos, only five schools were selected nationally for this celebration. Along with the other four winners, Sayville was also awarded a grant for $1,000.

    When Jane Balek, NAFME’s Assistant Executive Director, Center for Marketing and Resource Development, came to Sayville High School in the spring of 2015 to present the grant check, she was surprised that the music video the school had submitted had been created entirely by High School Junior Sean McNally. She was immensely impressed by his ability to blend his musical talent and filmmaking skills and wanted Sean to document—“through the eyes of a music student”— the All National Honor Ensemble experience at the upcoming “Nationals” in October 2015.

    This honor was hard-won and well-deserved. Sean's filmmaking and editing skills have been completely self-taught, right up until this summer, when he attended the Tisch School of the Arts Summer Filmmakers Program at NYU. He was one of fifty-six high school students chosen from all over the world to live in the dorms at NYU and participate in this intensive program where he earned six college credits.

    Throughout his high school career, Sean has accrued a long list of accomplishments and extracurricular activities. To name but a few:

    • In the 2015 Fall Production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors at Sayville High School that featured four ensemble casts, Sean played the leading roles of Seymour (in the Thursday and Saturday performances) and The Plant’s Voice (in the Wednesday performance). In addition, Sean electronically engineered all the musical backing tracks for the production, created vocal tracks to help the cast practice their musical cues, and recited the prologue voiceover—a deep, resounding bass—which he had electronically altered to lower his own vocal range.
    • In August, 2015, Sean became a founding member of Actors Care Theatre, a theatrical organization to benefit charities. As technical and media director of ACT’s inaugural production of the 2005 Jerry Bock Award-winning musical Calvin Berger, Sean projected his videos and photographs onto four large screens for a theater-in-the-round effect. The proceeds of this show went to The Neighborhood House, a local charity that supports families grieving the loss of a loved one due to suicide or drug overdose.
    • For the 2014 Middle School musical The Wiz, Sean wrote a computer program that created visual effects and animations (a “live” Wizard Head talked, a digital tornado swirled, and green-screen effects projected a “live” Glinda floating in her bubble and a “live” Wizard floating in his balloon) which he operated during the productions.
    • In May of 2014, Cherry Avenue Principal Lisa Ihne wanted to create a video tribute to the retiring Derek Jeter with fellow Yankee fans among the Cherry Avenue faculty and students. Sean was asked to film, alongside a crew from Yankees YES Network, the interviews conducted by News12 sports reporter Kevin Maher. Fox 5 News Audrey Puente followed-up by interviewing the Cherry Avenue Community and Sean, while three television stations featured the project in their broadcasts, and Newsday interviewed Sean by phone and printed an article about the project.
    • In addition to his filmmaking ventures, Sean is a member of the National Honor Society, Tri-M National Music Honor Society, Sayville Players Honour Troupe, and actively participates in both the music program, and since seventh grade, the drama productions. Sean has been recognized for his fine character (Breakfast of Champions, President’s Gold Award for Community Service), for his three-year service as the photographer for Prom pictures at The Grange, and for his videography skills at sporting events for the Sayville High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team and the Sayville Youth Football League.     

    Sean’s parents Dawn and Jim are amazed by everything he has achieved thus far: “We are very proud of Sean’s generosity in using his talents to help others in the community.”

    Sean’s voice teacher Amy McGrath noticed something special when the Eighth grader “wanted to become a better singer and musician” for his lead role as Benjy Stone in the Middle School musical My Favorite Year. “He was a very special young man in how he viewed the world. It's like his brain was always ‘setting up a shot,’ approaching his musical studies as it would relate to his work as a filmmaker and as a performer.” Mrs. McGrath was most impressed by the NAFME appointment, “I do believe he is a very creative and gifted young man who has only begun to scratch the surface of what he will be doing in the future. These days it seems like everyone wants him to be filming something, whether it be theatrical productions, audition videos, or special projects. Being invited by NAFME to make a documentary at their National Convention in Nashville is almost unbelievable, and the beginning of what I’m certain will be an amazing career for Sean.”

    Joining Jillian and Nick, Sean went to Nashville, Tennessee at the end of October to film the conference, culminating in the All-National Honor Ensembles Concert at the Grand Ole Opry.  There will be no need to ask Sean to explain his experiences. It will all become quite clear in his video documentary, coming soon.