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February 10, 2014

‘Singing is my life’

Resident shines during ‘American Idol’

By Sherri Kolade
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Singer-songwriter Jena Asciutto, far right, stands with other “American Idol” hopefuls in front of celebrity judges during a Hollywood Week episode in January.

FARMINGTON HILLS — Several times, Jena Asciutto closed her eyes as she breathed in deep, belting out Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” as Grammy award-winning artist Keith Urban looked on with a knowing smile.

“Baby, I have no story to be told,” the North Farmington High School senior sang as she ended the note in front of celebrity judges, including actress and singer Jennifer Lopez and recording artist Harry Connick Jr., in early October in Detroit during an “American Idol” audition.

“When I walked into the room and auditioned, I don’t know why I was thinking this, but I was expecting it to be a room with one camera, maybe, and I walked into the room and there were hundreds of cameras,” Asciutto said. “I think all of the pressure was building up into one place, and Connick Jr. started talking to me like having a normal conversation, and that kind of eased my mind a little bit. And after that, I was still nervous, but had a sense that the judges are still regular, too — they are just going to critique and see how I sing, so I sang for them.”

Urban told her after the audition that he loved her voice.

“I mean, I really, really loved it,” Urban said. “You know what is great (is) certain people’s personality comes through in their tone and it just does, and I can hear your personality, and you have such an interesting way of enunciating your words. … It is great. It is you. It is your own thing.”

Lopez agreed. 

“This is what I like when we hear a song that we know so well and you don’t sing it anything like the singer. That to me is always a good sign,” she said.

Connick Jr. said she sang well but could work a bit on how she moves her tongue when singing.

Nonetheless, she earned the golden ticket after receiving three yeses.

“I got three yeses, which was really awesome,” she said recently from California.  “Once they were giving me the feedback, it was amazing. It hadn’t really sunk in until I left the room and saw that I had a golden ticket in my hand. It was just amazing.”

Asciutto is one of only 40 finalists from Detroit, narrowed down from thousands who auditioned for a chance to bask under the warm Hollywood lights when “American Idol,” for its 13th season, returned to Detroit for the first time since its second season.

“American Idol,” which debuted in January on FOX, has been a stepping stone for Asciutto, and an opportunity, which her mother, Julie Asciutto, describes as “really beyond words.”

“I have the luxury of being able to listen to her practice every day, and it is just so exciting that the rest of America gets to start hearing what I get to hear all the time, and I love it,” her mother said. “I always felt strongly about supporting her and didn’t really know exactly that it was going to go in this direction. Now that it has, it’s really exciting, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Asciutto said the audition process started for her after a friend told her two days before registration that the show was coming to Detroit.

“So she texted me and said, ‘I wouldn’t pass this on to anybody else but you. You should go if you are not doing anything this weekend,’” Asciutto said.

In addition to waiting in line for 10 hours to register during the summer with about 8,000 others in Detroit, she went to work afterward and got three hours of shuteye.

Noncelebrity auditions started early last summer at Ford Field. The auditions before celebrity judges started in the fall and aired Jan. 22 featuring the Detroit auditions.

Asciutto, who performed during the show’s Hollywood Week — where the contestants’ vocals are tested during solo and group rounds — is no stranger to singing.

From 12-16 years old, the singer, also an A-plus student, was in a local band. She still writers her own music.

“I just love writing and performing, and singing is my life. Music is definitely my life,” she said.

Although Asciutto could not spill the beans on if she was eliminated during Hollywood Week, she has big dreams on the show that she could reveal.

“If I were to win the whole thing, oh my God, that is like so far ahead, I think that no matter what happens, I would be so humble and so grateful that I got the opportunity in the first place,” Asciutto said. “I would just be so honored.”

She added that the reality television show, described as stressful and nerve-wracking, taught her discipline, time management and hard work.

“(It is one of) the best experiences of my life,” she said. “I’m so grateful that I am even a part of it.”

“American Idol XIII’s” “Hollywood or Home” episode aired Feb. 5-6 on FOX.

For more information, go to www.americanidol.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at skolade@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.