Note: Producers of the hit TV show “American Idol” recently held open auditions at Levine Center for the Arts and Mint Museum Uptown. Two members of the Mint staff agreed to share their audition experiences.
Jen Cousar, graphic designer:
It was 9 AM, and I had absolutely no idea what I’d gotten myself into. I’d chosen my song, practiced for friends and family, got dressed up, and had finally arrived uptown in front of The Mint Museum and there it was: the “American Idol” bus.
Beyond the bus were hundreds of wide-eyed (and slightly sleepy) Idol hopefuls lined up and filling the sunny alley in front of me. It was wonderful and terrifying at the same time. I walked toward the check-in line, and couldn’t help but smile as a large group of auditioners sang the chorus of “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele in perfect harmony. It was pure magic.
I made my way down the alley and into the check-in line. I was immediately greeted by a kind, funny fellow auditioner named V. (I’ll call her V here because she had very intentionally not told anyone that she was auditioning, and I don’t want to mess that up for her). She had a guitar on her back and the biggest smile on her face. I learned that she spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to South America to visit family, was in school and wanted to be a doctor, and was going to sing an original song for her audition. We laughed and chatted as we filled out our extensive questionnaires and video release forms.
Soon after, I was able to submit my forms and jump to the front of the line (shoutout to the Mint and producers on that one!) and was lined up with three other contestants. One girl had auditioned for “American Idol” three times prior; another was nervous because someone in the tent next to us was singing the same song she’d chosen; the final man was in a band and would be playing at Matthews Alive that night.
As I laughed and talked with the many people around me, I was comforted to see so much diversity. We were all there because of a love of music and song, and a desire to share that with the world. It didn’t matter where we were from or our different backgrounds, in this space we were unified in our experience and connected by commonality.
My group was called forward and one by one we sang. Each different, and in my opinion each doing a great job. I sang a country song called “Something More” by Sugarland, a song I’d grown up loving. It felt amazing. Once we each sang, we were politely told that none of us would be moving on.
Sure, I’d hoped for better, but as I walked away to find my way back to work, I felt like I’d accomplished something. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t afraid, I was just a happy girl who got to sing her song surrounded by wonderful people.
Toni Pennington, Mint Museum Shops:
Of all the things I have done in my 24 years, I’d have to say that this is the craziest. Me, being the ambivert that I am, refused and convinced myself that I am not that “special voice” that “American Idol” is looking for. When I told my mom about it, she was beside herself and urging me to audition. At first I was resistant, but finally I decided, what could it hurt?
The days leading up to the audition, I prepared my song and practiced day in and out in preparation. I even recruited my acting coach to help with a video submission. When the day finally came, I was just a bucket of nerves. I put on my favorite outfit, grabbed my unicorn water bottle and head wrap, and made my way uptown to work and the audition. My coworkers were extremely encouraging and gave me the mojo I needed to go into the streets for my audition.
There were a few hiccups on the way to the table, but I finally made it. I was standing in line at the table with only three people in front of me to sing but I was so nervous I was ready to abandon my spot in line. My throat went dry, my arm got all tingly, and I had to go to the bathroom really badly but then finally my courage took over and said, “No matter what, it’s an experience. You can do it and you WILL do it because it’s all just for fun and the love of music. You got this.” With that, I took a sip of my water, shook out my hands and stepped up to the table with my unicorn water bottle, and sang my heart out. The nerves went away, the anxious voice in my head silenced, and I just let go.
In the end, the producer said no, but I was not discouraged or hurt. I felt so proud of myself for going up there and singing even when I had convinced myself otherwise. Was I disappointed? A little bit, but it was the most fun I had that day and can’t wait to do more auditions in the future.