A mix of guitars, stylish fedoras, multicolored hairstyles and practicing hopefuls, who were letting out a few notes before it really counted, waited in close quarters outside of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, in Uniondale, on July 23, hours before it was time to show off their high notes, vibrato and guitar strums to the producers of “American Idol.”
The long-running show, entering its 14th season next January on FOX, chose Long Island as a location for the preliminary rounds of the Idol Live Audition tour, after making stops in Minneapolis and New Orleans.
Although celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban were not present, the contestants were undeniably jittery as they shared with me exactly how they were feeling minutes away from their first audition.
East Rockaway sisters Julie and Brianne Valgoi demonstrated their vocals and ukulele playing for the judges. “There were people singing everywhere,” said Julie. “In the bathrooms, in the hallways ... it was a lot of fun.”
Staten Island resident Violet Tyson, 21, who was singing loudly before I approached, said she didn’t have a song planned for her audition –– an admission I heard often throughout the day. “Do you think I can sing gospel music?” she asked.
Sitting to her right was Moises Feliciano, 20, who said his decision to journey from Hartford, Conn. to Long Island stemmed from a recent promise he made. “Before my uncle died last year, he always wanted me to go after my dreams,” Feliciano said. “And I promised him I’d try.”
There’s a history of Idol success in Long Island — in 2011, Robbie Rosen, of Merrick, made it to the show’s top 24, and garnered tremendous support from his hometown along the way.
Though the thousands of people were aware that, in the end, only one contestant would bask in the spotlight, feelings of competition, jealousy and anguish were absent. Instead, the nerves and shared love of singing created new friendships, as was the case for six girls, who originally arrived in two separate groups of three.
“You brought a lot of supporters,” I said to the girl singing in the middle of the cluster. “Oh no, we just met!” the girls clarified.