Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Fans converge to watch Underwood - 1 March 2005

At just more than 800 words, this was the longest story I had written. This was the breakout performance of Carrie Underwood, and the scene that night was exciting. I got to talk with an Access Hollywood crew that had made the trip to Tahlequah, and I think I captured the emotions felt by many of those in attendance. The most memorable moment that night was looking at the capacity crowd and spotting Kelli Doolen, Carrie’s music teacher, crying during the performance.


More than 200 of Carrie Underwood’s family, friends and fans gathered in the NET Building Auditorium last Tuesday night to watch her first live performance on American Idol. Many spectators cheered, cried and laughed, while all concentrated on her performance.

Underwood’s mother, Carol Underwood, was present and appreciative of the support from NSU.

We’re very proud of her and we appreciate everything that everyone is doing for her,” she said.

NSU President Larry Williams spoke to the audience before the show began and expressed his high regards for the younger Underwood’s success.

“We know absolutely for certain that she is going to win, because there is just no way they could pick anybody else,” said Williams. “You can see this is one of the most incredible young ladies that have been around in a long time.”

Fortunately, for Tahlequah and NSU, Underwood has been around for a while. She was a performer in NSU’s summer country music show beginning in 2000, when she was still a student at Checotah High School.

“I had the great honor of inviting Carrie, when she was in high school, to come over and be a guest artist in the Downtown Country show,” said C.H. Parker, former coordinator of Downtown Country.

Parker also commented on the support of Underwood’s parents throughout her career as a musician.

“It starts with a mother and a father who cares and doesn’t sit down at the breakfast table and say, ‘You better be a lawyer or you better be a doctor, because if you want the arts, you’ll starve.’”

Underwood performed “Could’ve Been,” a song made popular by pop artist Tiffany in 1988. After she finished, Underwood received a thunderous response from those watching in the auditorium, and compliments from the show’s judges ranged from “absolutely brilliant” to “beautiful” and “wonderful.”

Since she first auditioned in St. Louis, Underwood has been highly regarded as strictly a country singer, and even received praise from Simon Cowell, and “American Idol” judge. Kelli Doolen, director of Country Music and Downtown Country, said after her performance that Underwood had proven she was no one-trick pony.

“The thing I like the most [about the song] was that all the people online who have been saying,
she’s just a country singer,’ you got to see tonight, that that’s not the case at all, said Doolen. “She nailed that song.”

Students and Tahlequah residents were not alone in the auditorium Tuesday as Rowdy, the NSU mascot, showed up early in the night. Also present was a reporter from Fox 23 News in Tulsa and a film crew from “Access Hollywood.” For that show, the on-location shoot at the watch party was unique for NSU’s star.

“I think the decision was really made by ‘American Idol’ itself, because Carrie just pops onscreen with her performances,” said producer Bobby Singer. “You hear Simon, Paula [Abdul] and Randy [Jackson] raving about her; they never have anything negative to say. She’s far and away ahead of the field. She just stands out.”

The celebrity-oriented show has covered “Idol” since its inception and, said Singer, gravitates toward the obvious fan favorites.

“We’ve done quite a bit with ‘American Idol’ every year,” he said. “There is always one or two who you think have a really good shot, and Carrie is right there.”

Williams believes that Underwood is on the right track and all of her praise is justified.

“She is so richly deserving, she is a tremendous, tremendous young lady,” said Williams. “Someone asked me if I could think of a better person to represent NSU, and I said ‘absolutely not.’ Carrie Underwood is the personification of the institution.”

He also commended the school spirit, personified in the turnout at the watch party.

“I thought it was a good turnout,” said Williams. “Those who were here were very supportive of Carrie and excited, and want to help her.”

That help came in the form of telephone voting, either by cell phone or landline. Those with cell phones could send text messages to vote, thereby avoiding the busy signal that most others faced when calling the toll-free number.

From now on in the competition, fans will vote to keep their favorite on the show, with the performers who receive the least number of votes being sent home.

Mike Patton, Tulsa freshman, was present at the watch party and was amazed by Underwood’s voice.

“I was in complete awe and complete excitement. I was like, that was so good. I can’t put into words how good it was,” said Patton.

He is one of many viewers of the show who consider themselves more of an Underwood fan than an “American Idol” buff.

“I wasn’t a big fan of the first season, but [now] I can probably watch it all season long, until that last episode when Carrie wins.”

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