Whatever happened to Limelight’s Most Talented Kids in


Back in 2011, a musical generation ago, Limelight hit the YouTubes in search of the prodigal talents tipped to become the next generation of classical and crossover stars.

But how many of them actually made it? Did those pre-teen and tween musicians and singers flame out, or have they gone on to substantial careers?

Let’s find out…

Jackie Evancho

Then: Evancho was 11 back in 2012, an overnight sensation on America’s Got Talent who sang with Sarah Brightman. She sold more than 2 million albums and in November 2011 and became the youngest person ever to give a solo concert at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Jackie Evancho: Then and now

Now: Aged 23, Evancho has certainly “made it”. In 2019, she released her eighth studio album, The Debut, focusing on songs from 21st century Broadway musicals and musical films. The album was Evancho’s eighth consecutive release on the Billboard Classical Albums chart to reach No. 1.

More recently, Evancho has been exploring the songs of Joni Mitchell (a CD, Carousel of Time was released in 2022) and she continues to tour.

It hasn’t all been a charmed ride, however. Just weeks ago, Evancho posted a video to Instagram revealing the inspiration behind her new song, Get Out of My Life.

“It took me a bit to work up the courage to do this,” she said. “I’m talking about something that’s very personal… And it’s something I think we all struggle with because of these societal pressures to attain something that is just not attainable — and that is, perfection.”

Emily Bear

Then: Pianist Emily Bear was six years old and already being sensationalised as “next Mozart”. Taken under the wing of Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal keyboardist Mary Sauer, she demonstrated jaw-dropping facility and made her concert debut playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23.

While still in single digits, Bear was performing on stages including Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Lincoln Center, Montreux Jazz Festival, and at the White House. When she was nine years old, Quincy Jones produced her debut jazz album Diversity.

Emily Bear: Then and now

Now: In 2022, age 20, Bear won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album for The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, which she co-wrote with Abigail Barlow. Barlow and Bear composed the musical live on social media, composing 16 songs in 5 weeks, resulting in more than 300 million views on TikTok.

Bear co-wrote, produced and orchestrated the project, which shot to #1 on the US iTunes pop charts within hours of its release. She also has the distinction of being the youngest person to ever score a feature film to be released on any streaming platform, composing and producing the score for the Netflix film Dog Gone.

Brianna Kahane

Then: Brianna went viral aged 7 playing a 1/4-sized violin. Aged 9, the American violinist performed on Oprah. She then entered the Juilliard School in New York City.

Now: After studying under tutors Hyo Kang and I-Hao Lee, Kahane has maintained a relatively low musical profile. Charity events seems to be her forte and apparently, she has never requested a fee for her appearances at events raising money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre, among others.

Sally Cooper

Then: Adelaide-born violinist Sally Cooper was 11 when Limelight spotted a clip of her performing the Bruch Violin Concerto with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. She was already a veteran, having been accepted into the Conservatorium of Music aged 8.

After performing solo concertos with orchestras and in national television and concert appearances, Cooper turned professional leading string sections for rock and pop acts (Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, Lionel Richie, Rod Stewart and Michael Bublé, to name a few).

Sally Cooper. Photo © Redouane Chaouki

Now: Cooper continues to work in television, performing, recording and leading the string sections on Dancing With The Stars, X Factor Australia, Australia’s Got Talent and The Footy Show. She also plays throughout Australia and Asia at private events and in the corporate events scene on electric violin.

Jonathan Miron

Then: American-Taiwanese violinist Jonathan Miron went a little bit viral in 2012 with a grainy clip of him playing, aged 12, Bazzini’s fiendish Round of the Goblins.

Jonathan didn’t do the talk show circuit or record a platinum-selling album. Instead he studied, eventually enrolling in the Master of Music degree program at Juilliard. By 2017  he was performing solo engagements with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Sejong Soloists, and concerts in venues such as the Musée du Louvre, Kennedy Center, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts Beijing.

Now: Last we heard, Miron was performing in the electroacoustic duo ARKAI, devoted to creating “genre-bending music that explores diverse sound worlds and charts new possibilities for what instrumental music can be.”

Natasha Binder

Then: In her performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto at Argentina’s Teatro Colón, this Brussels-born 10-year-old from a musical family (her mother is pianist Karen Lechner, her uncle is Sergio Tiempo) had to shimmy her way up and down the length of her seat to preside over the full range of the instrument.

Now: Binder’s internet footprint is a small one, but it seems she continues to play concerts with the Brussels Choral Society among others. In 2015 she appeared in the documentary Piano Street, one inspired by the unusual concentration of star keyboardists in one Brussels locale.

Melissa Venema

Then: Aged 14, this young Dutch talent was already recording albums when she was noticed by André Rieu. When she was 10, she auditioned for and got into the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, where she trained under Frits Damrow, principal trumpet of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Melissa Venema: Then and now

Now: Still playing and still performing regularly in Europe and America. She’s played with the Johann Strauss Orchestra (with Rieu), the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London, the Metropole Orkest, Taipei Chinese Orchestra, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mexico’s Durango Symphony Orchestra.

Elli Choi

Then: A California-based prodigy, Choi was already travelling the world performing in concert and on television, often accompanied by her pianist mother.

Now: A seasoned performer Choi performs extensively throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and with orchestra such as The Juilliard Orchestra, Orchestre Philarmonique de Monte-Carlo, Salzburg Chamber Soloists, and the Sofia Philharmonic. In 2018, she performed at the Berlin Philarmonie with the Sinfonie Orchester Berlin.

Choi also found time to pursue a degree at Columbia University while simultaneously enrolled at the Juilliard School.

Isabel Suckling

Then: At 13, Isabel “The Choirgirl” Suckling was the youngest artist ever to sign to Decca and was considered heir apparent to Charlotte Church. She was a protégée of the Welsh former boy soprano Aled Jones, who also became a best-selling artist at a young age.

Now: Her website is no more and Suckling self-identifies as a “one-time singer”. These days, she works in documentary production.

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