Miramonte Grad Takes Hollywood By Storm

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Ames gives her all auditioning for the celebrity judge panel. On stage, she performed one of her favorite songs, “Beautiful Disaster,” by Season One winner Kelly Clarkson.

Mary Kate Engstrom, Staff Writer
March 11, 2011

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Coming from a small town like Orinda, not many people stand out in big cities like Hollywood. Any attention given to our humble town gets residents buzzing. When Miramonte alum, Sarah Ames ‘09, was featured on “American Idol” last month,  our community was bursting with excitement. People tuned into FOX on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. in the hopes of seeing a familiar face on national television. Orindans were proud, and they hoped to see their very own Sarah Ames become the next “American Idol.”

Ames was a four-year Miramonte choir student, starred in many OIS and Miramonte plays and musicals, and won the 2008 high school category of Orinda Idol. It was obvious that she had talent and loved what she was doing, but people wondered how far she would go.

“I always thought Sarah would try out for ‘American Idol,’” said Miramonte choir teacher Sarah Downs. “She loved singing when she went here and she had the drive to pursue it.”

Throughout her journey on “Idol,”  Ames received only positive feedback from the judges, nothing constructive or negative.

“The judges are really nice. I don’t know if what they say is scripted, but they’re never mean,” said Ames.

Although the judges didn’t give her pointers on how improve, Ames managed to get inside help to strengthen her performance.

Ames is majoring in popular music at USC and coincidentally, the executive producer of “American Idol” visited and spoke in one of her classes. Ames asked him what advice he had for making it in the business and he told her the most important thing is to always stay young. He told her to sing young songs, have a young look and personality, and above all, always give it her all.

Unfortunately, Ames’ “Idol” run was put to an end during group auditions when she was cut.

The first two days of Hollywood week were solo auditions and Ames performed in the last group. Ames spent this free time in the audience scoping out the competition and looking for talent she could work with in a group performance.
Although her group consisted of talented singers, their talent didn’t outshine their personalities. The quartet of girls lacked the chemistry of a successful group and couldn’t stand each other by the end of their night practice.

“Group week was absolutely awful. I’ve never met people with more attitude or rudeness in my life. There is nothing I could do about what happened. You just have to deal with people under pressure,” said Ames.

For her auditions and performances on “Idol,” Ames sang “Beautiful Disaster” by Kelly Clarkson, “Last Name” by Carrie Underwood, “Up to the Mountain” by Kathy Griffith, and “Misery” by Steven Tyler and P!nk.

“I chose those songs because I felt that they really showcased my voice. With the fast one, ‘Last Name’, I felt I could showcase my personality. However, they gave us lists to choose from for the first Hollywood audition and the group round audition.  The group round song list was much smaller than the first round’s song list,” Ames said.

“American Idol” only broadcasts one step of auditions on TV, and yet the audition process was a long and tedious one for Ames.

In August, Ames and all other “Idol” hopefuls registered and auditioned for some of the show’s producers. A few days later, those who managed to remain in the competition auditioned again for mid-level producers. After this audition, contestants returned for a third audition with the show’s executive producers. By this time, a majority are cut. In November, those who are still in the running return to their original city for the next audition, performing in front of top-level producers. After all these steps, the remaining contestants audition for the celebrity judges.

Ames has gone through this tedious process not once, but three times. Prior to entering her senior year of high school, Ames auditioned for “American Idol” in San Francisco and Kansas City. Although she didn’t make it to the celebrity judge panel either of those times, Ames persevered and entered another round of auditions.

“I think I’ve just gotten older and better with time. I have more experience and confidence now,” said Ames.

Although her journey on “American Idol” is over, Ames is still working on pursuing a singing career.

“I’m not sure if I will audition again. I’m thinking not.  I want to maybe try to do my own thing with my music before trying ‘Idol’ again.  It’s such an intense, emotional experience,” said Ames.

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