Burbank ‘Idol’ Finishes in Top 20

Photo courtesy ABC / Eric McCandless | Sage McNeely, a 21-year-old former Burroughs High School student, made it to the top 20 contestants on “American Idol” before being eliminated from the show in an episode that aired this week.

First published in the April 23 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Despite being among the top 20 contestants, Burroughs High School alumna Sage McNeely departed “American Idol” in an episode of the show that aired this week.

McNeely, a 21-year-old Valley Village resident, received high praise from the show’s judges. But she didn’t receive enough votes from viewers to move on to the next round of 14 performers, with her journey ending on Monday’s episode of “Idol.”

Just moments after learning she would have to perform in a bid to be one of the four judges’ picks who would remain on the show with 10 audience-selected contestants, McNeely performed a rendition of Allen Stone’s “Brown-Eyed Lover.”

Show judge and singer-songwriter Lionel Richie lauded her spirit.

“That is the way you come out after bad news,” Richie said in the episode. “You absolutely took charge. It’s like, who [voted] no?”

McNeely said in an interview that she didn’t go into the competition with any expectations, and feels she did the best she could — particularly in her final performance.

“When you give it your all, you’re expecting something,” she said, “but I think in this show I just was excited that … under that amount of pressure, I was able to bounce back and be resilient. I mean, my heart was in my throat.”

“At the end of the day, the work that you put into it is going to be what the outcome comes out like,” she added. “And I think I worked my butt off in that competition, and I’m really proud of the outcome.”

The singer-songwriter, who performed with Burroughs’ award-winning Sound Sensations and Powerhouse show choirs, said appearing on “American Idol” was an incredible experience, but that the hardest part was leaving the contestants to whom she’d grown close. The other musicians are like family members to her, McNeely added, and she’s confident she’ll remain connected with them.

For now, McNeely plans to return to her personal projects. She intends to release her first album soon, having recently released a two-track EP. And she hopes to perform at local clubs in the Los Angeles and Burbank area.

McNeely said she’s grateful to those who have supported her during her appearances on “American Idol.” For some of her fellow contestants, coming to L.A. was an intimidating process, but for her, it’s home.

“Everybody in my hometown has been so sweet and supportive,” McNeely added. “I’ve just been so blessed, and I’m so excited to be back and continue to make L.A. and Burbank proud.”