Once he's established, McNeal hopes to his experiences to mentor other youth, especially black youth in the Joliet area.
A music performance student at Northern Illinois University, McNeal recently received the NIU Impact Scholarship, which is awarded based on "academic excellence, commitment to family and community, outstanding work ethic, generosity of spirit and commitment to the mission of NIU," according to a news release from NIU.
McNeal, who wants to be a full-time musician, recently started a student a capella group at NIU. He also is a vocalist for a band and feels ready to tackle opera and writing symphonies.
"I try not to limit myself to a certain genre," McNeal said.
He's also performed in Joliet Drama Guild musicals at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and Theatre in Joliet: "Grease" (2016) and "Hairspray" (2017).
Shortly before being recognized at NIU's 15th annual “Red and Black” gala on Nov. 17 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, a news release called McNeal “a great musical talent with a fabulous work ethic and a generous spirit that has positively impacted the university.”
McNeal credits David Jones, a former music instructor at Joliet Central High School for, instructing, inspiring and mentoring him, which McNeal hopes to emulate one day, he said.