Friday, May 28, 2010

My American Idol Experience - Part 1

I've never been a big fan of "American Idol"

Sure, I've tuned in at the beginning of most seasons to watch the crazy people audition.

I'll also watch at the end of the season to see what type of talent has made it to the top four or five.

But I'm probably not the target audience Disney was envisioning when they created "The American Idol Experience" at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando.

The idea is that a live studio audience gets to watch three ordinary park guests perform pop songs just as contestants do on American Idol. At the end of the performances (and the judges critiques), the audience chooses one winner. At the end of the night, the winner of each preliminary show competes in a grand finale.

The winner of that final show receives a "Dream Ticket" that lets the singer jump to the front of the line at a real American Idol audition.

And if you think it's all for show, you're wrong.

Aaron Kelly, who was in the Top 5 of the 2010 American Idol competition, got his start (and a Golden Ticket) on the stage at The American Idol Experience.

According to Walt Disney World, the attraction "features all the glitz and glamour of the hit television series' stunning set, and gives you an opportunity to experience the thrill as if really at the show."

I first blogged about this when the show was announced a few years ago. I said that I didn't think an attraction that was essentially a glorified Karaoke bar would work.

But I changed my mind when I visited the AIE last October. I was amazed that the stage show, with all of its lighting and music and HD television cameras really did recreate the experience of seeing the actual show in Hollywood.

It was fun, but I had pretty much forgotten about seeing the show until one night last winter.

I was thinking about the podcast and trying to come up with some interesting content to put on the show during the long winter off-season. That's when it hit me!

I'd audition for the American Idol Experience! And I'd put the whole preparation process on the show for everyone to hear!

The first thing I decided to do was to study the American Idol Experience Song List that Disney graciously put online.

That's when I figured out I was in some trouble.

Most of the songs were out of my vocal range. I'm a bass, so there's no chance I could hit the high notes that most pop acts do today. To make matters worse, most of the songs were out of my league too.

I had done some singing before in high school and I've even been in some good community theater productions.

But my vocal style isn't really pop or R&B.... and that seemed to be what made up the majority of the AIE song list.

However, after eliminating the songs that were out of my voice range and getting rid of anything from High School Musical, Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers, I did find two songs that I could pull off convincingly.

The songs were "Sway" by Michael Buble and "Walking in Memphis" by Marc Cohn.

I felt could pull off "Sway" because my voice sounds a little like Dean Martin, who sang the song originally. I felt I could pull off "Walking in Memphis" because I can make it sound like I'm belting it out, without straining for high notes.

So, I went on the podcast and announced to the audience that I would be auditioning for the AIE when I visited Orlando in May. To my surprise, the audience was really into the idea.

Over the next few months, the audience listened in as I rehearsed the songs. They heard me get critiqued by a professional West End musician from London, England. They heard us interview Stacey Lantz, who was a contestant on the AIE a few months before and who gave me some valuable advice on how to audition (more on that later).

They even got to watch as I did a "test drive" of "Walking in Memphis" at a shady karaoke bar in front of a bunch of drunks.

If I could sing there, I could sing anywhere!

Ultimately, after months of on-air prep on the podcast, it was time to head to Orlando and audition for the AIE.

Strangely enough, I was nervous!

Even though I knew it was just a theme park attraction, there was something about having to walk into a room full of strangers and sing that made me feel uneasy.

What was weird is that I have been on stage before in front of thousands of people. But I guess there was added pressure because the whole audience would be waiting on the results of my audition.

If I didn't get in, thousands of people would know.... and it would be embarrassing.

In part two, you'll hear about the whole audition process! I'll tell you everything that went down from the time I walked into the American Idol building until the time I left!

Would I make Ryan Seacrest proud?

By the way, if you don't want to wait for Part 2, you can listen to the podcast episode where I tell the whole story!

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