‘This has been a lifelong dream’: ‘American Idol’ hits Santa Barbara for auditions

Hopeful singers lined up patiently at the Veterans’ Memorial Building in Santa Barbara on Friday before auditioning for the nationally televised competition show “American Idol.”

The show’s iconic blue tour bus, which is traveling coast to coast, parked along West Cabrillo Boulevard for only a day, and the show’s judges and host were not present since it is a producer round for open auditions.

Musical tones and the strumming of acoustic guitars filled the air as performers began to warm up their vocal cords.

Santa Barbara native Nicholas Sultan, a 22-year-old with shoulder-length hair and retro sunglasses, wanted to make an impression.

He had a banjo, an instrument uncommon at the auditions.

Sultan, a guitar player, said the performance was spur of the moment, and he was thinking about singing “Wanna Be a Baller,” a song by hip-hop artist Lil’ Troy.

“I thought there’s probably dozens of guitar players, and there’s probably going to be no banjo players,” Sultan said. “I’m chilling. I’m not expecting to win.

“I don’t have my head in the clouds,” he continued. “I have my feet on the ground. This doesn’t define me — what do I have to lose?”

Inside the building, a large room was full with participants standing in a line.

Producers were individually stationed at small tables in the adjacent outside courtyard, where they would call the singers one at a time.

Auditioners sang for about 90 seconds.

Riverside resident Natalia Reina enjoys auditioning, and first started watching “American Idol” when she was a toddler. Reina said the show can lead to more opportunities in the music industry.

“I remember thinking, ‘Maybe one day I could do this,’” the 18-year-old said.

Music runs in her family. Reina’s father plays guitar and her older brother introduced her to some music genres.

The recent Encore High School for the Arts graduate likes singing contemporary R&B. She prepared singing “Wake up alone” by Amy Winehouse for the producers at Friday’s audition.

“I love soulful music,” Reina said. “It comes from the heart.”

Every contestant is advised to have two or three songs of different tempos and ranges to show off everything they have to offer, said supervising producer Brett McCosker, mentioning that the show is getting more singer-songwriters performing original music.

If a contestant is selected to move forward, they’ll have a chance to perform for “American Idol” executive producers, who decide whether or not to put the contestant in front of the judges.

The next stop for people who have passed to the second round of auditions with executive directors is another audition at an undisclosed city.

Not everyone waiting in line was a contestant.

Dana Sidders and her 19-year-old daughter, Lexi, traveled more than 100 miles to Santa Barbara from Templeton.

Lexi began watching “American Idol” when Kelly Clarkson rose to fame in 2002 after winning the season of the reality competition series.

Dana was standing outside the building on the phone with her daughter, a singer-songwriter who performs pop alternative.

Lexi got past the first round on Friday morning, and she had called her mother about song suggestions.

“This has been a lifelong dream of hers,” Dana said of her daughter. “She has tried out many times, and has always made it to the final round, and then she hasn’t gone to the celebrity round — she wanted to give it one more try.”

“American Idol” reboot’s second season will premiere the return of Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry as judges for the reality competition season airing in 2020.

Katy Perry is a one-time Goleta resident, Lionel Richie was born in Tuskegee, Ala., and Luke Bryan hails from Leesburg, Ga.

“This year, the bus will have an opportunity to visit each of the judges hometowns,” McCosker said. “We are excited about the level of talent we’ve already seen this year.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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