Waiting for her big moment was Antioch High 10th-grader Christianne Abad, a finalist in last year's East County Idol contest. "I'm auditioning again because I want another chance to show what I am capable of," she said. "I also want to sing and show what I feel about music."
Last year's Idol winner Neyshia Go went on to compete - and is still in the running - for the American Idol Dallas Regional finals. She moved to Dallas and hopes to move to Hollywood.
Justine Rinn from Deer Valley High wants to follow in Go's footsteps. Rinn won second prize in last year's Pistang Pinoy Singing Contest and was also a finalist at last year's East County Idol. "It's been a dream for me," she said. "I auditioned for American Idol in San Diego. We had to wait for seven hours and there were thousands of people."
Her mother, Emma de Vera, is by her side at all auditions. "I support her all the way," said de Vera.
Pittsburg High student Laketha Atkins also has a supportive mom in Jimmie Lee Atkins, who in a couple months plans to join the TV show "Don't Forget the Lyrics." Laketha auditioned for the show last November. "I have four daughters, so maybe like the Jackson Five, we can form the Atkins Four," said Jimmie Lee.
Judging the contestants were Antioch Music Foundation board members Rudy Fernandez, Sharon Vela and Linda Thompson. The panel noted each singer's strengths while dishing out constructive criticism on poise, pitch, tone and the song's level of difficulty.
Heritage High senior Brandi Bowser, worried that her energy was down because her boyfriend was ill, took the mike confident that her emotional performance would carry her through.
Frank Sierra, a junior from Pittsburg High, also expressed confidence going into the competition. "I've been singing since I was little," he said. "Singing is like a release for me. Nothing bothers me when I'm singing onstage. I plan to audition for American Idol after I finish high school."
"We are looking for the next great American idol," said Antioch Music Foundation President Walter Ruehlig. Ruehlig and his wife, Cynthia, have renewed their commitment in the talent search. "Every time I tell myself that this is the year I need to cut back on this kind of extra activity, I see the excited kids again and get re-hooked.
"Raising cash or collecting used instruments to donate to the schools is dandy, but it doesn't get any better than this teen talent search. I tell my wife it's a fountain of youth for us to live to a hundred. We and all the board members get exhilarated by the kids' unfettered dreams, unbridled exuberance and by our natural fascination over whether the next starry-eyed kid through the door will turn out the future American Idol."
The East County Idol finals will take place March 9 at Antioch's El Campanil Theatre, 602 W. Second St. Tickets, $5 for students and $10 for adults, can be purchased by visiting or calling El Campanil at 757-9500 or Walter Ruehlig at 756-7628.
The East County Idol is sponsored by the Antioch Music Foundation and funded by Sharon Beswick (Beswick Family Fund) and District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover (Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund). Information on the Antioch Music Foundation and the Idol event can be found on www.antiochmusic.org.