Name: Jayne Jaeger
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
School: Music, Theatre & Dance
Concentration: Vocal Performance

This fall, Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Jayne Jaeger made it to Hollywood on American Idol. What’s it like to be a contestant on America’s biggest TV talent show? Jaeger brings us back into the audition room as she recounts her experience.

What was it like trying out for American Idol this year?

I went to the first audition in July in Chicago at the United Center. There were probably thousands of people lined up outside waiting to audition. It was pretty hectic.

What happened after the United Center audition?

After the audition at the United Center, I had to do a couple rounds of auditions before getting to sing for the judges … I did three auditions and the fourth was in front of the judges … Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey.

What was it like singing in front of the judges?

It was really scary because it was weird seeing them there. I’ve watched the show for a really long time, and it almost didn’t seem real that they were actually there talking to me. But it was a cool experience.

How long were you in front of the judges and what song did you sing?

Probably 10 to 15 minutes … I sang “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles but the version from the movie “Across the Universe.”

How did the judges react?

I told them that I was a voice performance major, so I think that kind of tipped them off to say they didn’t quite know if they saw me as a pop singer and they were debating it among themselves for a little bit. Then they actually had me sing an opera song, since they knew that was what I was studying. So at that point I didn’t really think I was going to get through because I thought they were going to tell me to just study opera. But in the end, three out of four of them agreed and you need three “yeses” to get to Hollywood … Keith said yes, Mariah said yes, Nicki said yes and Randy said no.

Was this your first time trying out for a TV talent show?

I tried out with my sister for “America’s Got Talent” when I was younger, but I didn’t even make it past the first round, so this is my first time actually getting it together and trying out for something … I tried out to see just what would happen, and it’s cool to see how far I can make it in this try. But if I try out again, I think I would go into it with a lot more drive since I know the process a little bit more. I know things that I have to fix that might help me to make it further.

Do you think you’ll try out again?

I think so. If not for “American Idol” then maybe for “The Voice” or “The X Factor.” Just because it was a really good experience, and I didn’t really lose anything from it … I’ve always been an “American Idol” fan. I’ve never actually watched “The Voice” or “The X Factor,” so I think this is a good one for me to audition for since I already knew it well enough based off watching it.

Do you like how TV talent shows are available to help singers get discovered?

I think it’s a really good opportunity not only to get your name out there, but kind of see how the industry works in terms of what kind of drive it would require … because even though (talent shows) seem like an easier way in, you’d still have to work really hard at your image, your song choice — just everything in your package to make sure that it was marketable.

Could you tell who were the “characters” at the auditions?

There were some definitely crazy people that I saw at my Chicago audition. Once you heard people singing in the bathroom warming up, it was easy to tell who was kind of a joke and who had a chance of actually making it. And then there were some definite characters that ended up making it through who had good voices and probably didn’t need their whole physique, but it kind of added to their whole thing.

Was your audition featured on the show?

They didn’t feature my audition, but they flashed my face for like a second. I was happy with that.

What advice do you have for people trying out for TV talent shows?

I think the ultimate advice for trying out would be know who you are as an artist because you can make any song work as long as you know what your persona is and can portray that and they can tell who you are. A big thing they said is, “We’re not going to make you into something. You have to have it figured out and we can market it.” That was their big critique for me — that they didn’t think I knew who I was as an artist. And that was true because I really didn’t. You could tell there were specific people who were kind of like Katy Perry or Jessie J, and then on the other hand there were the rocker girls, the Carrie Underwood girls or the artsy Ingrid Michaelson girls. It was really important to know what kind of singer you were, which was my biggest problem.

Do you know now?

Not yet. I’d have to really work on it and think about it if I was going to audition again.

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