2018: American Idol holds auditions in Kansas City
There’s an excellent chance that someone from Wichita will appear on the next season of “American Idol” and get to meet celebrity judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.
That’s because this year, the show is sending a crew of producers to Wichita to scout for talent.
The auditions, which were announced earlier this summer, will happen this Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Century II, 225 W. Douglas. A crew of about 12 people sent by the show will start welcoming hopefuls at 9 a.m. and will continue to listen to them sing until 5 p.m.
It’s the first time the show, which is in its 18th overall season, has come to Wichita to look for possible contestants, though plenty of Wichitans have auditioned in nearby cities over the years. “Idol” visited Kansas City last year and Tulsa in 2017.
During a phone interview this week, “American Idol” supervising producer Brett McCosker, who is among the crew coming to Wichita, said there’s an almost 100 percent chance that someone from the Wichita auditions will end up appearing on the show singing for the celebrity judges.
“There’s always somebody with some kind of spark, some kind of something we can see,” he said. “I guarantee there are people like that in Wichita.”
Not that everyone who auditions in Wichita will be from Wichita. When the ‘Idol’ crew travels the country — this year, they’re visiting 22 cities over a two-month period — aspiring singers will travel from great distances to attend. McCosker said he expects the crowd in Wichita to be in the thousands.
Those who stand out in Wichita will go through “several more rounds” of auditions, said publicists with the show. The best ones will make it to the “Hollywood Round” in California, where they’ll sing in front of Perry, Richie and Bryan and possibly appear on television.
The show, which originally debuted on Fox in 2002 and aired for 15 seasons before moving to ABC in 2018, will return to the airwaves in the spring of 2020. It will ultimately crown one winner, who will walk away with a cash prize and a recording contract.
Over the years, “Idol” has produced celebrities like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert. The most recent season, which ended in May, awarded the top prize to Louisiana singer/songwriter Laine Hardy, who released the hit single “Flame.”
Even without auditions ever coming to Wichita before, the city has had many of its own either make it far enough to appear on the air or to get a chance to sing for the celebrity judges.
Wichita teen Emma Grace Smith was one of 150 people to make it the Hollywood Round of last season’s competition and particularly impressed judge Perry, who gave her a special pass to the next round.
The previous year, Wichitan Injoy Fountain, who auditioned in Tulsa, made it far enough to sing for the celebrity judges in Los Angeles and wore a T-shirt that read “Wichita Made.” Wichita singer Harrison Steele also auditioned in Tulsa that year and also made it to Hollywood to sing for the judges, though he didn’t make it to the final rounds.
The Wichitan who made it the farthest on “Idol” was 1997 Northwest High School graduate Phil Stacey, who finished in sixth place in 2007.
Cameron Bedell, a 2007 graduate of Maize High School, appeared on the show in 2015, one if its final years on Fox. He also made it to the Hollywood Round and sang in front of celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.
Bedell, who is now married and working as a professional songwriter and singer in Nashville, said that making it even that far on “Idol” gave his career a boost. When producers see that accomplishment on his resume, he said, it catches their attention.
“It helped with a lot of things,” said Bedell, who is working on recording an R&B/country album in Nashville. “It also helps you garner more interest online and gets you more plays on your stuff, and when you go to take meetings with publishers, the more stuff you have out there, the more views you get, the better.”
The day of auditions
Here’s how the auditions will work:
People will likely start lining up early on Wednesday outside on Century II’s Kennedy Plaza. The media has been invited to arrive by 6:30 a.m. Overnight camping isn’t allowed.
Contestants will be given wristbands and will be asked to fill out paperwork and release forms. They’ll also be asked to share their personal stories and to disclose how long they’ve been singing.
The celebrity judges won’t be in Wichita. Instead, there will be several “table judges” set up in Century II. If there’s a big crowd, up to four tables with two judges each will be set up inside Exhibition Hall. Contestants will be shuttled to different tables and will appear in front of the judges for approximately 90 seconds each.
McCosker said that hopefuls should have several songs prepared. They can be original songs or covers of songs, and they’re welcome to bring guitars, keyboards or even accompanists along with them.
Producers will let contestants know the day of the auditions if they’ve made it to the next round.
People can show up throughout the day but auditions will stop at 5 p.m. If the crowd is big, it’s possible latecomers won’t be able to audition. If it’s not, judges will be able to see everyone who shows up before auditions close.
Anyone who can’t attend auditions in person in any of the 22 cities can submit auditions online at https://abc.go.com/shows/american-idol/auditions.
All hopefuls must meet the following criteria:
McCosker advises hopefuls to start with their strongest song and to prepare a variety of different types of song from different genres or with different tempos. He said they’re fulling expecting to see country singers, rappers and singer/songwriters with their own material.
Inevitably, he said, producers will also see a few contestants who are there to be as weird as possible with the hope of appearing on the show. That’s fine, he said, but if they can’t sing, they won’t get far.
“They need to be able to sing,” he said. “Essentially, it’s also kind of the package deal. If they come in with a great look about them, if they have an interesting story or background, if they perform a dance... All these little facets of them might make a producer say, ‘I could see you on the show.’”
Bedell, who went through more rounds of auditions they he can count before making it to the Hollywood round, says contestants should try out with a song that best suits their voice, not just their favorite songs. He remembers he performed Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed Delivered I’m Yours” during his auditions in Nashville.
Contestants also should find a way to stand out to the judges, he said.
“You’ve got to be very strategic,” he said. “You have to do something that makes you stick out Find a song that you like and turn it into your own little thing. Do a little dance with it. If you can grab their attention, you can grab anyone’s attention.”
American Idol auditions
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Century II, 225 W. Douglas. Contestants will line up on Kennedy Plaza and food trucks are scheduled to be set up throughout the day
Rules: People must bring with them a photo ID and can bring one friend or family member. Anyone under the age of 18 must bring a parent or guardian that will remain with them throughout the day. Children under 5 are not allowed at the audition site. People should not wear clothing or bring any items that have designer names, corporate or sports team names or logos, copyrighted images, celebrity names or images, cartoon character images or inappropriate messages or words.
Paperwork: Hopefuls are encouraged to fill out a release form and a story form before showing up at the auditions. They can be found at this link.
For all the fine print on how to audition or for a link to submit online auditions, visit https://abc.go.com/shows/american-idol/auditions