By Shana Dhillon
After traveling to and auditioning in the first session of American Idol auditions in San Diego, what I realized most is that American Idol is a television show before it is an actual singing competition.
I flew down and registered on Sunday, July 29, and received my wristband for the next day. I was told to return between 5am and 6am and not earlier because they would not allow people to stand in line earlier. I was handed a piece of paper with instructions and I was told to learn the two "crowd songs," " California Dreamin'” and "Walkin' on Sunshine." My dad, uncle, and I drove around downtown San Diego for two hours, going from store to store, looking for CDs that had these songs on them.The first two stores were sold out. We went to Borders and the salesman said, “You are the third or fourth family to come in here asking for those songs. What’s going on?” We explained to him that the American Idol auditions were being held just down the road and they had advised us all to learn these songs. I spent the day shopping in San Diego, with my headphones on so that I could learn these songs. Because of the yellow wristband I was wearing, I was noticed in every store I shopped in. The employees tried selling me a dress to wear to the audition in one store so that if I was picked, I could advertise for them.More…When I returned the next morning at 5am, the line was already extremely long and it seemed that they had let people camp out from the night before. People had camped out and spent the night in line, only to realize that the earlier you registered, the earlier you get to audition. Where you were in line that morning made no difference at all.We stood outside the QualComm Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers play, for 5 hours, before we were let into the stadium to sit down. I was standing with a family that had driven all the way from Utah for the auditions. The guy that was auditioning was named Dallan and he was going to be singing “You Raise Me Up,” sung by Josh Groban. While we were standing in line, waiting and waiting, we were entertained by a girl with a guitar, who was singing songs that she had written. They were quite interesting to say the least, and she kept us awake when she got to the songs that were violent and just plain scary.At around 10:30am, the crowd was addressed and given an idea about how the process was going to work. Then we all sang the crowd songs and were recorded by the camera crew. My dad even got in the groove and started singing the male parts of the songs and waving his arms along with the rest of us. It was really nice having him there with me because he was so patient and understanding. He knows that it’s been my dream for so long to become a singer, and having him there singing along made me feel happy that not only do I have so much support from my family, but they’re willing to make sacrifices along with me in order to help me attain my dreams. The judges were sitting at 13 booths on the football field. Four people at a time went up to a judge and were given a limited amount of time to sing. If the judge liked you, then you were able to sing another song. If they still liked you at that point, you were awarded with the "golden ticket" and got to go inside to meet with the producers. It was quite rare when we saw competitors awarded with the golden ticket, so the whole audience applauded every time this happened. Over 12,000 people auditioned that day, and with all of the auditioning competitors, and their friends and family, there were about 18,000 people present. While walking around the stadium, you could see and hear groups of people that had just met that day singing songs and cheering each other on while waiting for their turn to audition. At seven o'clock, after waiting for fourteen hours, I was finally called to walk down to the field and audition. I was placed in a group with three other girls. When the four of us got to the front of our assigned line, the female judge says, "You have 10 seconds to wow me. Go." One by one, we stepped forward and sang to the best of our ability. Considering we all had been waiting in line since 5am, it is easy to imagine how exhausted we were and how our voices were probably not as good as they could have been. When it was my turn, I was able to sing the first four lines of the song before the judge stopped me by smiling and saying, "Thank you very much." She addressed all four of us and told us, "It's been a long day and I have heard some really strong voices, so I will not be able to accept any of you. Good luck though and keep doing what you're doing." It was disappointing, but expected at that point, especially when it seemed like the only people that were being passed through to the next round of auditions were those who were extravagantly dressed in swimsuits or go-go dancer outfits. Although I did not make it past the first audition, I am very happy that I was able to experience an audition on such a mainstream level, and am able to tell people, "I auditioned for American Idol. Shana Dhillon is majoring in communications at St. Mary's College and hopes to go to law school afterwards. Picture courtesy Creative Commons