Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Underwood gaining momentum on 'Idol' - 22 Feb. 2005

I began to think if I'd ever get on the front page without Carrie Underwood...


A local hero made one more move towards stardom last Wednesday night, bringing her a big step closer to being the next American Idol.

Carrie Underwood is one of 24 men and women who beat out 193 contestants during the three-day long auditions in Hollywood. The show will resume tonight with the 12 females who have been selected to perform live. During tonight's broadcast, viewers wi11 be able to call into the show and vote for their favorite performer.

Ever since Underwood first auditioned in St. Louis, her popularity has been growing across the nation and on NSU's campus. This, however, is not Underwood's first time being in the spotlight. She has performed several times with Downtown Country, a summer musical program put on by NSU's music department.

"Carrie is without a doubt, one of the most trouble-free full east members I have ever worked with. She always knew her material, was always where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there, and never complained," said Kelli Doolen, director of Country Music and Downtown Country. "Her attitude regarding song selection was, 'Just pick whatever you want me to sing and I'll !earn it.' She was an exemplary Downtown Country cast member."

Underwood is indeed a special talent, and Doolen is quick to point out her strongest attribute.

"Without a doubt, Carrie's strongest talent is her God-given voice. In addition to being one of the most powerful singers I have ever heard live, her pitch is always dead on," said Doolen.

During the past month, Underwood has garnered immense support from the Tahlequah and NSU community. In fact, for some who watch the show every week, this season of American Idol is their first.

Sarah Turner is one of those first timers. She watches the show weekly with her parents and is excited about the local star gone national.

"I'm watching it for her," said the Tahlequah sophomore. “I’m all about Tahlequah pride. You gotta show some hometown pride."

Hometown pride is one way to describe the atmosphere in Checotah, Underwood's own hometown. Fans gather every week with homemade signs to watch for her and celebrate her advancement in the competition. Similar "watch-parties" have sprung up across the area, strengthening Underwood's fan base.

"Some of the Downtown Country cast members, Downtown Country parents and I get together every Tuesday and Wednesday night for an American Idol watch-party," said Doolen. "In reality, though, it's a Carrie Underwood watch-party."

The NSU Carrie Watch Committee, a temporary committee created to publicize Underwood's appearance on the show, had its first meeting last week. The committee, made up of representatives from NSU public relations, the Office of Student Affairs and other relevant organizations are responsible for motivating the campus and community to support Underwood. Nancy Garber is the director of Public Relations and is also on that committee.

"The university has decided to host a watch-party for Carrie so we can celebrate her success," said Garber. "We want to encourage everyone to vote for [her] so she will be eligible to continue in the competition."

This Tuesday and Wednesday nights and throughout the remainder of the competition, NSU will be hosting the largest watch-party in the area with a live cable feed of the show and a phone-bank set up for those without cell phones to call in and vote for Underwood. Tuesday will be the first time that viewers will be able to vote for their favorite performer.

On Wednesday, the results will be announced and four contestants will be cut.

Doolen has been pulling for Underwood from the start.

"Even though we knew that Carrie just had to make it based on her talent level, it was still a little nerve-wracking waiting for the judges' decision," said Doolen. "I can't even imagine how she must have been feeling."

Turner said her family watches the show every night, and she is proud of Underwood's achievement.

"It's cool that she goes to this school and she's on TV, and people are going to know who she is," said Turner.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Underwood a hit on 'Idol' - 15 Feb. 2005

Covering a fellow NSU student's trip through "American Idol" was the first big project my editors assigned me. I remember in my box every Wednesday, the assignment day, a slip of paper that read, "underwood recap. you know what to do." This was also my first Page One story.


Carrie Underwood’s success on American Idol has caused a buzz around Oklahoma, Tahlequah and the NSU campus.

"We're very excited around here," said Dr. Mike Chanslor, assistant professor of mass communication. "We've got a star."

Chanslor is Underwood's academic advisor, and is well aware of her singing talent.

"I'm really not surprised by the success. She has got talent and good work ethic,” said Chanslor.

The Checotah native and NSU senior has no doubt received many compliments over the past few weeks, but the most important probably came from an English record producer best known as a judge on the hit show.

"That was very good. Very good Carrie, great," was the post-audition response from Simon Cowell, who is infamous for his brutal honesty towards performers.

That was during the first round of auditions to determine who would go on to Hollywood for the second round. A week later, Underwood received a unanimous "yes" from the show's three judges to continue in the competition.

Ashlee Smith is a sophomore from Nowata and is a friend of Underwood's.

“I think she's going to go an the way," said Smith. "She's gonna be famous."

If the Internet is a good indicator of fame, Underwood could have it in the making. A search on Yahoo! returns several Web sites mentioning her as an American Idol contestant, and there are already two Carrie Underwood fan sites. "Carrie Fans" is a message board Web site with nearly 400 members, and "Carrie Underwood Online" is an unofficial site which includes photos, news and a biography.

According to site, Underwood has performed in many states and has even opened for the country/western powerhouse Diamond Rio. Singing is not Underwood's only talent. She has worked for The Northeastern and was a producer of NSU's student television program, "The Quah." She is majoring in mass communication and has been a student of Chanslor's in the past.

"She has always been a real good student, and responsible," said Chanslor. “Whatever level of success she achieves, she will be able to handle it well."

It did not take long for Smith to recognize Underwood's talent.

"I knew the day I met her," said Smith. "She sang in her room all the time."

Smith and Underwood belong to the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, and Smith often watches the show with her sorority sisters.

"We have a big group of girls [who watch the show]. We are all proud of her," said Smith.