So this past Sunday, I decided to make the seven-hour journey to Pittsburgh, PA to audition for ABC’s revival of American Idol.
There’s not a lot of people who knew I was going to audition because I felt that the pressure would build on me more if almost everybody knew. So I kept it on the down-low for quite some time. Keep in mind, I’ve always been extremely self-conscious about my ability to sing. I’ve always gotten embarrassed and red in the face to a point where singing in public was the one thing that terrifies me more than anything.
I stayed overnight in a hotel, alone, where the only company I had was college football’s kickoff weekend. Why did I go alone? Because it was just something that I felt that I needed to do by myself, with no one’s help or on-the-spot moral support. I’ve always done a lot of things alone, so this was another one of those things that I wanted to take on myself. I still had many texts and direct messages coming my way the day before and of the audition wishing me luck, so thank you to those of you who sent them. I greatly appreciate it.
The auditions took place at Bakery Square within the city in an open field outside of an apartment complex. The American Idol bus was way out in the open and you could see the masses of people already lined up by time I got there at around 7:15.
The men who worked security asked only those who were auditioning to be in line. Friends and family would have to wait on the side. Many mothers were holding up signs saying things like “My daughter is the next American Idol” and putting on a huge scene for their children.
Security organized us into groups of four to be brought in front of producers to audition. The show works very differently than how you think; producers are the ones to listen to you first and then grant you permission to go in front of the celebrity judges depending on how well you perform. They would never let Katy Perry and Ryan Seacrest sit through all 700 people that day.
While in line, others were practicing their song and group singing together for the news cameras that were on the scene. They also talked up a big game too.
“I was the lead in my school play all four years.”
“My vocal teacher has been preparing me for this for months.”
“If I don’t get a ticket to go in front of the judges, I will be furious.”
Me? I refused to join in. I was trying to find the perfect zone and composure so that I could go up and blow the producer away. I continued to see those who were talking a big game and had such high hopes walk away declined and in tears, so I knew that this was about to be one of the scariest moments of my life.
My mind was racing about what song I should choose to sing; I think I changed it three times that morning before I went in front of the producer. I made the final decision almost at the last second before it was my turn and I went with this song.
No change to it from here on out.
My group finally made it in front of the producer who had a very heavy British accent. He asked for all of our paperwork (the “What is Your Story?” form and the release form) before we started. I was the second person to go and I messed up within the first 10 seconds. Thankfully, he allowed me start over. I cruised through my allowed 90 seconds of singing with my voice a bit shaky towards the end, but afterwards, I felt that I did pretty well for myself. I think that was the most heart I’ve ever put into singing ever.
After all of our group was finished, he looked over our story forms one more time and called us up to the table. He told us altogether that this was going to be the most competitive season and that, unfortunately, it was a “no” for today. He reassured us, however, that we all had excellent voices and that he’d love to hear us sing in the future.
This gave me such relief because, to be honest, he genuinely didn’t sound like a complete, pompous dick about it. Either that, or he was giving us the same plastic response he gave to everyone else he said “no” to that morning.
I walked away from the audition noticing the line going down the block and a small tent set up off in the corner of the field where people who earned a ticket to go in front of the judges were waiting. Out of the 700 people that were there that day, only six or eight people were under that tent.
It’s understandable because it’s television; they’re looking for the people who will make for interesting, watchable content. They were also probably looking for people for us all to laugh at on social media. I guess that’s just the way the show works. There’s a lot more that goes on “behind the scenes” than we’re actually aware of.
I would’ve liked a different answer that day, but so would a lot of the other people who were turned away. I drove the entire seven hours back still singing, knowing that I have a good voice and that this audition changed nothing about how I perceived my ability to sing.
After miles of seeing nothing but Amish cornfields and occasional, unexpected sightings of strip clubs and adult video stores, I can honestly say that this was a very eye-opening trip for me. It showed me that I was way too shy about it and that it’s nothing that I should be ashamed of. It was an enormous ball-buster for me.
Plus, I got to pass by “Happy Valley” where Penn State plays football on the ride back and it is friggin’ huge.
Imagine seeing that thing off the side of the highway. I mean, just look at it.