By Alicia Dziak

Last weekend, SGI junior Alexandrea (Alex) Simmons celebrated her Sweet 16th in a big way—auditioning for American Idol. While she said she had always hoped to try out for the reality singing show, she had always been too young. “When they canceled the show I figured I’d never get my chance,” she said. “Then they brought it back and when they announced they were holding auditions in Buffalo I decided I was trying out no matter what it took.”

Alex was determined to be there, and said potential contestants could either just show up for auditions or apply online in advance. “I applied right away,” she said. “I had to fill out a questionnaire about my back story and sign release forms.”

Alex, who takes vocal lessons every week with Lydia Herren of Blue Herren Music in Springville, said she and her instructor spent several weeks going through songs to see which one best demonstrated her range and vocal ability. “I settled on a song and four days before the audition switched to a different song that just seemed to fit me even better,” Alex explained. “I sang ‘Til the Casket Drops’ by ZZWard.”

The auditions were held at Canalside in Buffalo, where Alex and about 2,000 other Idol hopefuls headed.  “I arrived at 7:30 a.m. and had to stand in a line to show my ID and get a wristband,” Alex said. “Eventually the line led you to security and onto a ‘holding’ area.  That’s where I stood freezing and shivering by the lake on a cobblestone street with hundreds of other people for the next four hours.”

From there, about 100 contestants moved at a time into four rows in the audition line. At this time, Alex’s parents, who had accompanied her to the audition, had to go to a different area. “They were able to watch me from a distance but no one but contestants could go into the audition area,” she said.

Alex headed to a portable building, where there were five tables with a judge at each table. Alex explained that four people would be sent at a table at a time, with each one taking a turn stepping forward and performing for 90 seconds. “In my case, the judge then called all four of us up and thanked us for coming out to audition but told us we just were not what they were looking for,” she said, quickly adding that, “I was not disappointed. It was an amazing experience and how many people get to say they tried out for American Idol on their 16th Birthday?”

Alex noted that one of the audition highlights was when she was in the holding area, she was talking with another contestant and told her it was her 16th birthday. “She started singing Happy Birthday to me and a whole group of contestants started singing to me too,” she said. “That was a special moment for me.”

While Alex said she was nervous preparing for the auditions, she was surprisingly not nervous at all during the actual audition. “I have auditioned many times for musicals and plays. I have sung before audiences so singing before a single judge wasn’t too scary,” she said.

Music is and will continue to be a big part of Alex’s life. She takes vocal and piano lessons and plays the flute, and will be in the Springville Center for the Arts’ “A Christmas Carol” this November and December. She is also in the high school theater program and plans to be in the spring musical. “I have been acting and singing in school and at The Center for the Arts since 4th grade,” she said, adding that, “ I am so grateful that I live in a community where these opportunities are available to me.”

As far as the future goes, Alex plans to go to college for something music-related. “I am thinking maybe teaching or music therapy,” she said.”I have the acting/ singing bug and will most likely continue with it for a long time.”

And as far as American Idol goes? “Who knows! If they come to Buffalo again, I may just give it another shot!” Alex said.