Sunday, May 19, 2013

My American Idol Experience

I'd like to tell you about how I won a Dream Ticket on American Idol and how YOU or someone you know can win it from me.......

I have loved to sing pretty much my whole life.  I never took any serious singing lessons nor did I major in voice or theater in college.  I simply learned from harmonizing with my mom during church and belting out the entire LP record of Annie much to my older brother's dismay (on a daily basis, over and over and over). :0

First, a little background.... I sang in some high school shows, the highlight of which was playing my lifelong dream role (well I was only 17) of playing Sandy in Grease my senior year.  Want to see some clips ?  Check this out....

 There are 4 songs in this short clip.  Note- it's not me singing in the first song that plays but I am standing there behind Rizzo and it links to the whole scene and my next solo- plus Sharyn has a great voice too! ) The songs here are:  "There are worse things I could do" sung by Sharyn Peoples as Rizzo, "Sandra Dee" sung by me (at 2:45), You're the One that I want sung my myself and Shane Walker who played Danny (at 5:40) , and the finale We Go Together (at 9:30) sung by the cast.  That was quite a blast.  (You will have to forgive that992 video cameras were not quite as advanced as the ones today, and my dad was pretty focused on me mostly of course :)

I also sang in an extremely fun show called Candide at Rollins College my freshman year before transferring down to south Florida to get my degree and be closer to family.  The cast was absolutely incredible and inspiring- all of whom were musical theater majors except for me so I was very lucky to get be included.  Our lead (Chris Fitzgerald) went on to become a tony nominated broadway star- and was the original Boq in Wicked and Igor in Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein among many other roles.  Many of my fellow actors are very successful and still in the field today- it was an honor to work with them.  I met some wonderful people at Rollins and am happy to still call them my friends (shout out to Paul "Kid" Castiglione who is also an amazing actor and singer!)

And finally I did some community theater again with an incredible cast whom I became dear friends with.  We did Jekyl and Hyde and I played Nellie and had incredible fun!  (Obligatory shout out to everyone who was in the show with us- far too many friends to list here, but since the first one I met at karaoke even before we auditioned and since he played my "pimp" Spider  I want to give a shout out to award winning author and amazing singer and friend Benn Perry!)  We even received a very rare community theater visit and critique from the renowned late theater critic Jack Zink who had some great things to say about our production here

But I digress.....

This past spring my husband and I celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary at Disney World.  He really wanted to spend a couple hours at the old MGM/Hollywood Studios park (something about the renovated star tours ride) and I reluctantly agreed to leave the magic kingdom and we headed over.

As we were walking around we passed a sign that said American Idol auditions today!  I asked some guy with a clipboard what it was all about and he said it only takes 5 minutes and if you audition well you may be asked to compete in a show later that afternoon and win a cool prize, so I thought -why not!  They ushered us inside and I auditioned 3 times in front of different producers as they gave me some feedback and picked several different songs for me to try out.   By the time I met with the final producer they told me I had definitely won one of the 2 slots for a semi-final show for later that afternoon! 

We proceeded to spend a couple of hours with them doing photo shoots, video shorts and fun interviews thoughout areas of the park with lots of bystanders wondering who the heck I was.  Here are some pics... my hubby was such a trooper.  I think he was having more fun than I was.... Then they sent me in for makeup and hair and a little time with a vocal coach (whose gave some good advice - he told me to stop closing my eyes when I sing.... to share the passion in my eyes with the audience and not shut them out.... I never realized how much I used to do that when I sing.

 So, the way the experience works is they do 3-4 semi-final shows a day with 2-3 performers in front of a live studio audience on a stage setup exactly like AI.  You sing one song and 3 "local celebrity" judges (I have no clue who they were by the way, sorry.... ) and the audience votes at these little devices at their seats and they announce a winner.  Each of the 4 winners has to agree to come back that night for the Final Show of the day to announce the grand prize winner, who win a "dream Ticket".  The finale shows at 8pm and is played on large jumbotron screens throughout the park too in addition to the live audience inside.... smart way for them to encourage people to try out the next day for another round. 

One dream ticket that gets awarded basically guarantees the holder to a front of the line pass to any of the cross country regional auditions for the TV show American Idol.  You are guaranteed an audition in front of the shows producers and you MIGHT get called back to sing in front of the celebrity judges and be on tv.  There are NO guarantees that you will be "sent to Hollywood" so it is all talent based. 

So, the only issue with this is I am 38 years old and to be on the show you have to be 15-28 years old (although you can audition even if you are 90, they will only cast a young potential star - which is pretty understandable).  Honestly, I don't think I would have the nerve to have gone through with auditioning myself it anyways - I truly do not like singing in front of a crowd unless it is karaoke and I have a beer nearby... too many butterflies and it shows in my voice).  Although at the AI experience I was surprisingly not nervous at all.....  It was nice of Disney to allow anyone to audition for the AI experience though and also fortunately for those of you who want my dream ticket now :) ! 

Here are some pics of my semi-finals competition - the girl I sang against was there on a school band trip and this was her second time in a year coming back to Disney to audition for this.  I felt really bad for her thinking of the long bus ride home back to Pennsylvania she had that night after not winning....she literally had 80 of her fellow musicians in the audience cheering for her and assumably voting for her so I really thought I had zero chance.  She was a sweertheart and I am sure she will be back to try again.

And then the finals...... when the confetti rained down on me I was in shock!  The other 4 singers were amazing!!!!!   I still cannot believe I won - the producers picked "Colors of the Wind" originally sung by Vanessa Williams for the movie Pocahontas.... I had sung that several times at karaoke so I knew it well.  The judges said it took a lot of nerve to sing a Disney song right at Disney World and emphatically said that I did it awesome justice :)  The others sang country, pop, etc.  We were not allowed to videotape the event so my hubby took lots of pictures and a Disney photographer gave me 2 cards (photo passes) full of great shots!

FINALLY, here is the good news for how YOU or someone you know that loves to sing and is between 15-28 years old can win my dream ticket......

I tried to give it away to a charity as I truly love philanthropy and I volunteer a great deal.  I contacted Disney and they said I can only transfer it one single time to a person (not to entity like a charity) and I cannot auction it off for charity either :(  I have to submit the persons information directly to Disney for the ticket to be officially signed over and for the audition appointment to be made. 

SO, I decided to hold a contest for family and friends of friends on facebook.  You have until June 1st to submit a 2 minute video (anything longer is ok but I will stop reviewing at 2 min.).  It can be a link to  a youtube video, from a karaoke contest or even your school musical... just something where myself and 2 friends who are helping me judge can hear your voice.   (The judges are high school musical theater teachers are extremely knowledgeable about great voices.)  Here is the link to my contest page  - let me know what you think.... I am hoping the entries start rolling in with 2 weeks to deadline.   And if only one person enters and can carry a tune-then they win!  So pull out those old video clips or head over to  a karaoke show and have some upload a camera video of you singing away - who knows, YOU could be the Next American Idol! 


  1. What a cool experience. :)

  2. Cathy, I've never seen those clips from Grease! You have such an amazing voice and a real talent for winning... Loved reading this!

  3. Congratulations to Briana Thomas for having the winning entry. My self and two musical theater teachers chose Briana as the winner from all of the great entries! She has quite the future ahead of her. Briana did get the front of the line audition opportunity in August 2013 at the Boston Auditions, but sadly was not chosen to "go to Hollywood".... we know she will go far in her own endeavors though.... here is a link to her winning entry.... thanks XOXO, Cathy


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