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Ti Idol contestants step up

TICONDEROGA Three small town girls with big dreams, and even bigger voices, decided to spread their wings recently. Abbey Agee, Amber Elethorp and Kelsey Finley ventured to the IZOD center in East Rutherford, N.J., to audition for next seasons American Idol on Aug. 19. The phenomenally successful talent show inspires hundreds of thousands of aspiring singers to audition each year. Watching talents like Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry become overnight sensations, young people from all corners of the country are drawn to the idea, hoping to make their dreams a reality. The three young women did not attend the auditions together, but each described a similar scene and overall experience. The reality of the process proved to be less glamorous than the shows final production eludes. All three recalled waking up at about 3 a.m., arriving at the IZOD Center at 5 a.m. and waiting for hours in a crowd of up to 15,000 other hopefuls, for their 30-second shot at fame. They all described the long wait as a rollercoaster of emotion, ranging from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and fatigue. They agreed that one of the highlights of the wait was the people-watching and camaraderie of the crowd. Agee, 16, of Crown Point, described the enjoyment she found in the crowd. I have never been anywhere that big, she said. There were so many other singers. At one point a couple of people started singing Lean on Me and we all just joined in. It was pretty awesome. Finley, a high school senior from Fort Ann is known locally for her powerful voice and wide range. She is a former Ti Idol contestant. Elethorp, 20, of Ticonderoga, shared her thoughts of the singing around her as being a little nerve-wracking at times. They were all either way better or way worse than I am. It didnt seem like I saw anyone with the same level of ability, she explained. All three found the wait to have exciting moments. Elethorp said that there were television cameras everywhere, all day long, and said she was able to see American Idol host Ryan Seacrest a couple of times. According to the girls, the tension and frustration increased once they got inside for their auditions. It just got more intense, said Elethorp. People who were happy and calm outside just got really nervous all of a sudden. I felt butterflies as my time got closer. Elethorp said one of the more nerve-wracking parts was the group singing that the producers asked them to do. We had to sing the same song over and over for about an hour and a half, as they recorded takes, she said. It was very strenuous on our voices just before the audition. For the audition they were placed into groups of four and were weeded through one of 12 stations which consisted of tables divided by black curtains and judges. You could hear, but not see, the other contestants auditioning, explained Agee. You had to just block everything out and sing your song. Agee, who sang The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, said they were told to sing the best part of the song, and they were stopped after about 20-30 seconds. The girls each described the frustration of singing for such a short time, and having the judgment based on one persons impression. They each saw many very talented people get turned away, while less talented, but more animated people get through. For production reasons, American Idol sends some of the worst singers through to the main judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, for entertainment purposes. While that is amusing to the television audience, it proves disheartening to prospective stars with talent. Elethorp, who sang At Last, for her audition, realizes that she was fortunate just to have an opportunity to audition. It is a misconception that everyone gets to audition in front of the main judges, she said. Not even everyone gets to audition at all. She explained that due to the huge number of contestants and the limited number of hours in the day, many people were left without an opportunity to even audition in a preliminary round. Of the approximately 15,000 auditions at the IZOD Center, the girls estimated only 35-50 made it through to the next round. Elethorp suggested that it may be due to the fact that New Jersey was the final audition stop and the producers may have been close to their maximum number of contestants. Upon learning that they did not make it through to the next round, each of the girls was disappointed. Agee, who was accompanied by her mom, Linda, said, I cried a little. She described the scene as she left the auditions late in the day: It was such a different energy than in the morning. Beforehand, everyone was excited and singing. As we left, everyone was just standing around, no one was singing. Some were furious. Some were bawling. I was sad, but just tried to think about the positive parts of the experience, she said. Elethorp, who was unaccompanied felt numb after her audition. As I walked out I felt a little baffled but mostly I felt nothing, she said. As time passed I began to feel angry and frustrated. It was when I finally called my mom that I let it all loose. Of the overall experience, the girls were pretty positive and optimistic about future endeavors. Agee said that she really wants to try again next year. It was disappointing, but not discouraging, she shared. She hopes to pursue a career in music, but also plans on attending college, probably in Alabama, where she has family. She attributes her aspirations to her familys support. My family is very musical, she said. My mom was always singing to me and teaching me to sing when I was little. My mom and dad tell me thats where my gifts are, thats what I should pursue in life. Elethorp, who said she grew up a little as a result of doing something so challenging all on her own, said she will think about whether or not to try again in the future. I definitely wont pass up opportunities to do things in the future, she said. She may explore other options, such as Nashville Star, a country televised talent search. She is currently a junior at Hartwick College in Oneonta, where she is pursuing degrees in education and business administration. All three young women have entertained local audiences through their participation in school and community productions, as well as being contestants in Ti Idol. Finley was this years winner in the teen division, and Agee won the teen division at the Essex County Fair Idol competition. Elethorp was a previous Ti Idol contestant and was a judge for the contest this year.

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