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.

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