But by the end of the day, they were feeling golden. Following several auditions, all three advanced to the Hollywood round of the acclaimed TV show. “My first thought was ‘I can’t believe this,” Crossen said of the moment he received his golden ticket to Hollywood. “I wasn’t feeling anything besides pure happiness and joy.”
Crossen and Oakley, both 16-year-old Antioch residents, and Stephens, 21, of Livermore, were all elated to move on, but in the process they nearly gave Brentwood resident and voice teacher Nuhad Levasseur a heart attack. Levesseur teaches all three, and attended their auditions.
“It was so exciting,” Levasseur said. “My heart was beating so fast. When they came bursting through that door, we went crazy.”
The trio hopes Hollywood is merely the first stop on their journey to become American idols. They’ll now compete against 248 contestants to secure a spot in the show’s top 20 men and top 20 women during episodes that aired this week and continue Feb. 13-14.
“Ever since the show has started, I’ve wanted to audition,” Oakley said. “Even getting this far is really, really exciting. I just hope I move on.”
Crossen and Oakley’s path to the Idol stage is remarkably similar. Both attend high school in Concord – at De La Salle and Carondelet, respectively, and both chose Levasseur as their voice teacher when they started professional lessons.
Their paths crossed in June 350 miles from home when they arrived in Long Beach to audition for the show. “I was like, ‘Dad, is that Briana?!’” Crossen said. “He said, ‘That sure is.’ We kind of cheated because we let her go ahead of us in line.”
The audition in Long Beach was also special for Stephens, a music major at Cal State Monterey Bay, who has been taught by Levasseur for three years.
“It was a great experience,” Stephens said. “I felt like I was in there with the judges for about seven minutes. It wasn’t only that I got through to Hollywood, but that they were so sure that they wanted me.”
Of the three auditions, only Oakley’s was shown on the edited version of the show that aired Jan. 31.
Oakley, who attended school in San Francisco until she reached high school, was verbally bullied and occasionally shoved by her classmates for about a year after she sang on the Maury Povich Show in 2009.
“I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t be happy for me,” Oakley said. “It was a bit confusing, but I decided that I wasn’t going to let anyone change who I am.”
Using her voice as a tool, and the torment of bullying as fuel, Oakley has motored through the rough patch in her life. Since her audition aired, her YouTube videos and Facebook page have been floodded with positive messages.
“My whole school has been rooting me on,” Oakley said. “The local community has been really, really supportive. They’ve been like, ‘I saw you on TV and I’m going to vote for you.’”
While her three students bask in the Hollywood limelight, Levasseur is thriving in the shadows. The former professional singer, who has been a voice teacher for the past 22 years, is no stranger to ushering students toward Idol fame. Prior to Crossen, Oakley and Stephens’ run on the show, Levasseur worked with Neyshia Go, who made the top 24 in 2008, and 2011 contestant Storm Lever. Her students have also been featured on “Oprah” and performed on Broadway.
“It’s a combination of teamwork between my students and me,” Levasseur said. “I try to develop them with their own unique style and sound. The greatest joy as a teacher is seeing my students succeed.”
Regardless of the success Crossen, Oakley and Stephens attain, they all agree the experience will help fuel their undying passion for performing. “I would love to always be a performer,” Crossen said. “Passions change, but right now I want to do this for the rest of my life.”