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Ben Bright: Plattsburgh's American Idol

PLATTSBURGH- Though there's been a media blackout surrounding Plattsburgh resident and Rome native Benjamin Bright going to Hollywood to be on American Idol, his fans and friends back home are singing his praises.

Bright was featured on the Jan. 12 season premiere of Fox's American Idol where he auditioned for the panel of celebrity judges singing a rendition of The Beatles "All My Loving." The infamous Simon Cowell and the rest of the panel gave Bright the thumbs up to move on to the next round in California, and the excitement back home has only grown from there.

Diane Fox, principal of Cumberland Head Elementary School, where Bright teaches general music to grades K-5, said there's been an energy in the school since everyone learned Bright was going to be on the critically-acclaimed show.

"Everybody's talking about it. It's filling our halls. The kids, the teachers," said Fox. "We're all excited."

When Bright began teaching at the school nearly two years ago, Fox said she was impressed with both his talent and his initiative.

"He took the initiative to start our third-grade chorus. We only had a combined fourth-grade/fifth-grade chorus before," explained Fox.

Now, the school's chorus participation level is "off the charts," said Fox.

"We have over 50 percent of our third-graders - probably closer to 75 percent of them participate," said Fox. "It's great because it allows our kids to have an additional opportunity to enjoy the choral experience."

Fox said though she was surprised to learn Bright was going to be on American Idol, she wasn't surprised of the level of talent he has that got him there.

"I think we've all known he's really, really good," she said. ""There's no question - his love of music just pours out of him."

Matt Spiegel, owner of Olive Ridley's, where Bright performs on a regular basis, said he, too, isn't surprised by Bright's level of talent.

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