'American Idol' auditions an opportunity, but not all are singing same tune

Idol auditioners ham it up for the production photographer as they waited to register outside CenturyLink Center Omaha on Saturday morning.

One of the people in line to audition for “American Idol” may become a star.

It happened to David Cook, the show's season seven winner, after he auditioned in Omaha in 2007.

Today at CenturyLink Center Omaha, thousands will line up and sing their hearts out for a shot at becoming the next “American Idol.” Some will be experienced singers, and others will be looking for a quick way to the top.

A few of Lyn Bouma's vocal students have tried out for the show in the past, and at least one will be in line this weekend. Bouma, choral director at Central High School, encourages any student hoping to be a performer to do as much auditioning as possible.

“No audition is a bad experience. You can only learn from auditioning,” Bouma said. “The answer is always 'no' unless you try.”

She cautioned that the odds are pretty long that one will succeed on a competition show such as “American Idol.” Aspiring to be a professional singer is like aspiring to play professional sports: It's great to dream, but you should be realistic.

Many musicians are outspoken about “American Idol,” including Dave Grohl, leader of the Foo Fighters and former Nirvana drummer. A portion of an interview published in Delta's Sky magazine went viral last year when Grohl derided singing shows.

Grohl said “American Idol” and shows like it are “destroying the next generation of musicians.” Talent shows, he said, are the wrong way to go about becoming a professional musician.

“Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old ... drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they'll suck, too. And then they'll ... start playing and they'll have the best time they've ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they'll become Nirvana,” Grohl said.

That's how Nirvana became “the biggest band in the world,” he continued. Grohl, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic had bad instruments and little classic training, but played their hearts out.

“That can happen again!” he told the magazine. “You don't need a (expletive) computer or the Internet or 'The Voice' or 'American Idol.' ”

It's easy to slam the show, but one producer said it's not so simple. Many of those who audition have put in a lot of work, and “American Idol” is just the next step in their career.

Patrick Lynn, a supervising producer for “American Idol,” often hears that the show is the fast way to the top, but he disagrees.

“It can get you to a point, but you really have to take yourself the rest of the way,” he said. “It's a good launching pad.”

Lynn and other producers look at performers' musical talent as well as personality. As they walk the lines of auditioners, they look for those holding court, he said.

After someone makes it to the next level of the audition process, they still have a lot to prove. Some who proceed far through the show won't become superstars even though many think it will happen automatically.

“You gotta work hard,” Lynn said.

He spoke highly of Chris Daughtry, the singer who got cut in “Idol's” season six and still went on to become one of the show's success stories with his eponymous band, Daughtry. The singer didn't succeed purely because he appeared on the show, but because he put together a band immediately following his departure. Lynn said he admires how Daughtry toured relentlessly and, after a lot of hard work, became a star.

David Cook traveled from Missouri to Omaha for the city's last round of auditions. He eventually won the seventh season of “American Idol,” and though he never reached the heights of stardom of “Idol” winners such as Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, Cook continues to tour and release music.

Bouma worried that “Idol” and shows like it put too much emphasis on the performer's look and personal style rather than the music.

“It doesn't have a lot to do with the music or even the level of talent,” she said. “That's where our culture is right now, and that's an unfortunate thing.”

But she hopes that those shows encourage people to sing and to practice harder.

“There's nothing bad if it gets kids to sing,” Bouma said.

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