Andrew Jones was one of the lucky ones.
Out of the 15,000 people who tried out for the Chicago audition for American Idol last summer, Jones heard the coveted words “You’re going to Hollywood.”
But Jones, choir director at Christ the King Jesuit Prep High School, 5080 W. Jackson Blvd., admits it almost didn’t happen.
“I felt liked I walked in the room knowing that it was going to happen, but when I got those no’s, I’m like this can’t be right. Something’s off,” said Jones, a former Englewood resident, who now lives in LaGrange Park.
Jones got no votes from Idol judges Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson. He said Jackson was the hardest to convince he was Hollywood material. Determined, he sang two more songs. But the third song was the charm.
He sang “This is My Now” by Jordan Sparks and punched his golden ticket to become a semifinalist on the FOX network show. Sparks’ song, Jones said “is the one … that convinced Randy that I had star power.”
Being part of American Idol is an experience Jones soon won’t forget. He said seeing Minaj, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Jackson “in their own element” brought levity to the grueling 16-hour rehearsal schedule.
“Mariah Carey has a really sweet spirit, but she is a diva,” he noted.
Jones, 28, is no stranger to the stage. At 13 years old he appeared on the storied Apollo Theater’s amateur night and even auditioned for Star Search. He also performed at a CD release party with a then unknown Jennifer Hudson, who was in high school at the time.
Growing up, Jones always wanted to be a singer. He honed his musical chops in the church and began directing church choirs at the age of 6. Jones said when he makes it big in the music industry his first album to drop will be an inspirational CD.
“When I was a teenage I wrote down in my book of positive affirmation that I wanted to be an international worship leader,” Jones said. “I love singing gospel music.”
For the classical trained singer, being in the military gave him a taste of that international stardom. After college, Jones signed on with the U.S. Air Force Band, performing in Japan, Korea, Haiti and Australia. He had set his sights on American Idol before but couldn’t audition because of his military obligation.
“While I was in the military I couldn’t audition because I was already under a music contract,” he explained. “You have to be free from any contracts and be able to sign a music contract with American Idol in order to audition.”
Jones’ rekindled Idol dreams began oddly enough in his Austin school’s music class. It was his students who encouraged him to try for the show.
“They’ve heard me sing. They knew I love singing, but they knew I hadn’t really auditioned for a show like Idol. The students here at Christ the King are my primary reason for auditioning,” said the single father of a 7-year-old daughter.
Johnny Hatten, 16, knew his teacher would be perfect for Idol.
“He is just a great singer,” said Hatten, a junior at the school. “There was nothing else for him to do, but American Idol or some voice show.”
But, he said, his teacher could have picked better songs to show off his voice.
“I think he could have done way better, he just got nervous,” Hatten said of his performance on the January 17th show. “I heard him sing, and he can do, like, some amazing things.”
Sophomore Jarqueze Halley agreed, saying that his teacher can hit all kinds of octaves with his voice — something most singers can’t do.
“If he has all those gifts and talents to make it to American Idol, he should do it,” the 15-year-old added.