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Where you can see the youngest SAMMY award winner perform this summer

Two men and a young teenager stand in front of a WAER sign with microphones in front of them.
Ashley Kang
Dylan Michael (middle) poses in a sports jersey in the WAER studio, April 3, 2023.

Local musician Dylan Michael made history this year. At 13 years old, the singer and songwriter earned Best New Artist at the Syracuse Area Music Awards. That made him the youngest SAMMY winner in history.

The acoustic and electric guitar player is now preparing for his next show later this week in Cazenovia, where he will be covering classics from Guns 'N' Roses and playing his own original tunes. His latest album "Dead on Arrival" features his harder rock and roll side, but includes a special song dedicated to his late mother, who died one year ago.

Dylan and his father Mike Spadaro, who is a nationally touring musician and plays bass in his son's band, visited WAER to speak about his musical journey with WAER's Morning Edition Host John Smith.

JS: Glad to have you here. What would you say is your most favorite, you know, genre of music? Or is it too difficult to say?

DM: I do like a lot of different genres. But I'm gonna have to say rock like classic rock, like Guns and Roses. And even as early as Led Zeppelin.

JS: Your performance at Liverpool high school really got a lot of attention last year.

DM: Yeah, that was fun.

JS: Well, that's out there on YouTube. People have seen this a lot.

MS: A full fully orchestrated performance of "Sweet Child o' Mine," where Dylan as a fifth- or sixth-grader is the featured artists surrounded by 17-year-olds all the way down to middle school orchestra students. And it was all truly inspired by the fact that Dylan was able to do this. He, his music teacher, saw him play "Sweet Child," and it sparked the idea and the rest is history.

JS: And so you had some pre-recorded portions in the studio at SubCat Studios, right, and then got that together for the orchestra.

MS: It's all happened during COVID. So when he was in fourth grade, and they did a little online talent show, Dylan perform "Sweet Child" and the orchestra teacher saw that and the idea was born. So all of fifth grade was a COVID yea, with some students returning later in the year, but he set up a recording where the bass, drums and guitar—Dylan and I and a drummer were at Subcat Studios recording our parts. And then Chris Notre Thomas of Liverpool, the orchestra teacher, took that and wrote and arranged strings and handed that out to all the orchestra teachers and had whole groups of kids recording. He had kids just record just their parts by themselves and send it in, and he compiled a hundred different videos and cut them all together to have the whole performance come together. It was impressive.

JS: Must have been quite a rush there, Dylan.

DM: Yeah, it was. It was a really fun opportunity that I got to have, you know, a song that now I've played so much, I've used to play every single show. I slowed down a little bit because it got tiring, but my voice isn't as high as it used to be to hit all those—Axl Rose...

JS: Axl really hits the high notes, man.

DM: Yeah, I mean, he's a amazing singer, one of the best in rock history. So I can't hit all of those notes. But I try.

MS: Oh, and you know, we released the album in August—he was 12—and we started the process that summer. And that was like, right when puberty was—oh, it was everything was changing in his voice. But you know, he is, and I have to give him credit, he has always sang and his singing continues to improve because he put so much time and effort into that singing and so I'm just waiting for everything to settle. And then we'll see how the voice cooperates moving forward. And yeah, we can pick our artists to sing.

JS: The summer music scene is almost upon us. And are you going to be out and about playing a lot of shows this summer?

DM: Well, it starts on April 13 at Meyers Creek and Cazenovia. We're opening for the Belkin brothers at 6.

MS: Dylan will be performing acoustic at the Crawfish Fest on Saturday, the first Saturday of May have around 2:30 or so. And that'll be his second year doing that.

JS: Dylan Michael, Mike Spadaro and Papa Vince. Thanks so much for joining us.

DM: Thank you.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.