The Voice finalist performs at West Shore Middle School

Braiden Sunshine, 16-year-old finalist and popular contestant on The Voice, visited West Shore Middle School Friday afternoon, sang for the students and talked to them about confidence.

Braiden, who lives in Old Lyme, is a singer-songwriter, performing musician, and car enthusiast with a taste for pop, rock and blues, according to his website.

He was a 2015 fan favorite and semi-finalist on NBC’s The Voice.

The teenager got an early start in music: At five years old, he began singing in his church choir before moving on to join forces “with other like-minded/talented musicians and releasing their self-titled debut in 2012,” his website states.

He set off on his own solo path, playing up and down the east coast and opening for national artists like Huey Lewis and Blues Traveler.

“As the summer of 2015 drew to a close, Braiden was finishing up in the studio when he received the call to audition for NBC’s The Voice,” according to published accounts of his music career. “He went on to compete all the way to the semi-finals that season. His young and innocent charm quickly snatched the support of the judges and garnered national attention and [won] the hearts of fans all across the country.”

Braiden began work on a new album in early 2016. He has already released his first three songs on YouTube and iTunes.

West Shore music teacher Christopher Kalafus arranged the visit on Friday. Kalafus’s two daughters were in the band Kicking Daisies, and Kalafus said Braiden’s band, Madison Red, used to play shows with his daughters’ band. He got to know Braiden’s father, Dave.

“While The Voice was airing we chatted a few times through social media, and then over the summer Dave called me to talk about the music business,” Kalafus said. “He told me Braiden was doing a few school shows so I asked if he would like to come to West Shore.

“Our Principal, Paul Cavanna, is so supportive of the arts and along with our PTA I was able to get Braiden to perform,” Kalafus said.

Videos were played of Braiden performing all week long on morning announcements and in music class, and the excitement started to build.

When the young musician arrived, he opened with ‘The Mountains Win Again’ by Blues Traveler. Then he talked to the students about how he didn't have confidence in his voice and was afraid to audition for the The Voice, but his mother, Liz, used his love for cars to trick him into attending the audition. She told him they were going to a car show, but when he arrived he saw it was the audition for The Voice and he decided to give it a try.

Braiden also performed ‘Drops Of Jupiter’ by Train, ‘Hook’ by Blues Traveler and some originals. He told a few more stories about his experiences on The Voice and took questions from the students. Each student received a picture and Braiden took many selfies with his fans.

“He told the students to believe in themselves and to trust their parents and the people who want them to succeed,” Kalafus said.

Braiden’s mother said her son enjoyed playing at West Shore, and she noted the enthusiasm from students at the local school.

“He loved it, loved it, loved it,” Liz said, adding that Braiden’s key message is to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. She said he also tries to impress upon young people that teachers and other adults who try to push them may see a talent that they don’t see themselves.

Overall, it was a great day at West Shore Middle School.

“We are so lucky to have such supportive administration who see the value of a solid music and arts education,” Kalafus said. “Not only was the concert a special treat for the students but Braiden's message of believing in yourself along with just the pure inspiration of hearing a young musician who is so incredibly talented made for a special day at West Shore.”  

To hear Braiden perform, go to his website: