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Local student wins golden ticket at Columbus ‘Idol’ audition

Chris Bournea | 7/24/2014, 3:46 p.m.
John Tucker, a Westerville South High School student, received a “golden ticket” at the July 12 “American Idol” audition in Columbus.

When “American Idol” recently came to Columbus seeking fresh talent, John Tucker, a 17-year-old African-American high school student, was among the hopefuls that the producers chose to give a coveted “golden ticket” to move on to the next level.

“I’ve always wanted to come and try out for ‘American Idol,’” said Tucker, 17, who will be a senior at Westerville South High when school starts next month. “I’ve been singing all my life and performing, but I felt like this year was definitely the year. And I figured since they were coming here, I had to do it.”

The “American Idol” audition at Capital University on July 12 was part of a nationwide talent search in which producers from the Fox television network’s talent contest scour the country by bus, looking for the “next big thing.”

Tucker and other auditioners who were hoping to sing for celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. or meet host Ryan Seacrest may have been disappointed. The Capital stop was a pre-audition in which those selected will move on to cities such as Nashville, where auditions will be videotaped to air as part of the show’s 14th season, which begins in January.

From the estimated 2,000 people who showed up for the audition at Capital, Tucker was one of the select few who received a pass to move on to the Nashville audition on July 30.

“I auditioned with a group of four people,” Tucker said. “Out of those four people, I was the only person to be chosen.”

To prepare for the audition, Tucker spent two weeks rehearsing “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse so that he would be comfortable performing the song in front of the judges.

“Every day, I’d add something different, take something out that you feel wouldn’t be right for the competition,” he said. “You have to get right to the gist of the song.”

Despite his youth, Tucker has plenty of experience performing. He previously participated in “Ohio Idol,” a regional version of the national competition, which gave him a pass to move to the front of the line at the Capital University audition.

“The past few years, I’ve really made strides locally as far as ‘Ohio Idol,’” Tucker said. “We toured across Ohio for a year.”

Tucker is also a member of the Columbus Songwriters Association, a local group that helps aspiring performers hone their craft.

“I’ve been working on my demo lately,” Tucker said.

Tucker describes his musical style as “pop-soul” and said he is often compared to Springfield, Ohio, native John Legend. Tucker added that the work he’s put in over the years has boosted his confidence and helped him do well at the “American Idol” audition.

“When I came to this audition today, I had made up my mind that I can do it and I can get this ticket,” Tucker said. “I just gave it my all and I forgot about the nerves.”