Cecilia Sugarman is used to taking things as they come in her musical career. Once, after setting up for a gig at her pool club, a freak rainstorm sent her scrambling to save her equipment.
Now, the young musician is rushing to prepare for what could be her big break.
Sugarman won this year's Baltimore Idol contest on FOX 45 and on Thursday, she flies to Oklahoma City for a Friday audition for American Idol. But she isn't letting this big chance at success go to her head.
“Singing is just one of the gifts God gave me … I’m humbled to have won,” said Sugarman, a Towson resident for the past three years.
Sugarman’s modest disposition is part of what makes her a unique artist, as is her tremendous talent. Starting on the piano at age 7 and picking up the guitar at 12, music and singing have always been a part of her life.
Earlier this year, she won Z104.3 FM's annual SingFest at the Towsontown Spring Festival.
“I first got into music from my mom. She used to sing to me every night, and since then I’ve always been singing,” Sugarman said.
It’s not surprising, then, that music seems to run in her family.
Sugarman began to learn guitar about four years ago, taught by her older brother, Benzi, 20. Her younger sister, Tessa, 14, started taking guitar lessons from Benzi last year, and is already proving to be a talented musician in her own right.
About seven months ago, the three siblings, along with Cecilia’s boyfriend, took their act on the road, playing gigs around Towson. Sugarman wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Really, where I get to the core of my music is when I am playing with family,” she said. “And I never want to get away from that.”
As for the method she uses to write her music, Sugarman said inspiration can come from almost anything—and can strike anytime.
“Something will just come to me,” she said. “Some chords, or a few lyrics, and then I’ll just build around that until I have a song.”
Even though her writing process may be spontaneous and open-ended, there are consistent principles that guide her when she creates music. Sugarman sees herself as a role model for other girls around her age, and tries to set a positive example through the content of her songs.
“I don’t want to lose myself just to sing something popular,” she said, explaining that she tries to incorporate wholesome messages and themes in her music. She does not perform covers of songs she considers offensive or crude.
This resolute moral compass comes from her strong Catholic faith, a central topic in many of her songs. It is also this faith that lies at the heart of her humble demeanor.
“It is always important to remember how you got your gifts,” said Sugarman.
Aside from her considerable gifts, however, Sugarman is a normal teenager. She works part-time at Chick-fil-A at Towson Town Center, where she enjoys dressing up as a cow—specifically a “princess cow”—to promote the restaurant.
Her experiences at the restaurant have taught her a great deal about life, she said.
“It helped me learn how to treat people well,” Sugarman said, adding that her manager at the restaurant has been one of her greatest supporters.
“He is almost like a second father to me,” she said.
Of course, life has been different for her since winning the Baltimore-area competition last Friday. She’s been busy preparing for her journey to Oklahoma on Thursday, where she will audition for American Idol.
She’s also been receiving a bit of star treatment, making appearances on FOX 45 and morning radio shows and meeting celebrities like Joe Jonas and Nelly since her win.
Nevertheless, Sugarman has tried to keep everything in perspective.
“Whatever happens, happens,” said the singer. “I want to go into everything with my heart and mind open.”