Heading to Hollywood – Rodriguez earns spot on American Idol

Ashley Rodriguez is heading to Hollywood.

Rodriguez, a Chelsea High School graduate and senior at the famed Berklee School of Music, earned a highly coveted spot on Season Nine of Fox Television’s “American Idol” after excelling at an audition held in Boston.

Rodriguez wowed the four Idol judges – Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson, Victoria Beckham and the inimitable Simon Cowell – with a stirring rendition of Alicia Keys’ song, “If I Ain’t Got You.”

DioGuardi was first to praise the 21-year-old Rodriguez on Tuesday night’s show, saying, “I love you. I think you’re great.”

But the beautiful music maven wasn’t finished. “I love your look. That’s a very difficult song to sing and I think you brought your own personality to it. And really you have the kind of look and voice that could be very commercial – and I think you’d do very well in the competition. I’d like to see you go to Hollywood.”

Beckham, a former Spice Girl and wife of soccer superstar David Beckham, was next in the chorus of appreciation for Rodriguez’s efforts.

“I think you’re great. You look fantastic. You’re one of my favorites,” said Beckham.

Cowell agreed with his fellow judges’ assessment. “I thought that was a very, very good audition. Some people have got ‘it’ and I think you may have ‘it’,” Cowell told Rodriguez.

The judges then voted unanimously for Rodriguez, earning her a trip to Hollywood where the popular national television show is filmed.

“Two million thousand, five bazillion trillion yes,” said Jackson.

“Definitely yes and I love the way you’re dressed – you are naturally beautiful and very talented,” added Beckham.

“I think you got a good shot this year,” concluded DioGuardi.

As Rodriguez exited the audition, her family and show host Ryan Seacrest was waiting outside.

“I’m excited. I’m so excited – my audition went really well,” said Rodriguez as family members celebrated with her.

In Chelsea and at her alma mater, word spread quickly about Rodriguez’s successful audition.

John Nichols, music teacher at the high school, had Rodriguez as a student in his music and piano classes. He also served as music director for two plays – The Wiz and Working – in which Rodriguez performed in the lead role.

Nichols and others at the high school helped Rodriguez set the foundation in her aspiring music career. “I think I provided the atmosphere and nurtured her, gave her a good repertoire, gave her the best technique that I could – and she in her self had the determination and the perseverance to really keep on going,” said Nichols.

Nichols recalls Rodriguez as being a shy, reserved student when she entered the high school.

“She was a very quiet student in her freshman year and a lot of freshmen are that way, kind of laid back, but then she started coming out in her sophomore year, and then really came on strong junior and senior years,” said Nichols. “I think she always had it in the back of her mind that she wanted to do music, but was a little not sure of herself. I tried to foster that self-confidence in her and give her the opportunities to perform as much as I could.”

It was Nicholas who recommended her for admission to Berklee School in Boston.

“I like to think that I set her on the path, but you can only do so much and then the student has to take over from there, and she’s gotten some great breaks,” said Nichols. “She’s sung at the Boston Pops, she’s gone on tour in Europe, and she has a great grounding. Her parents gave her a wonderful grounding as far as not getting a big head about things. She can really relate to where she comes from and she hasn’t forgotten her roots.”

Today Rodriguez is preparing for a trip to Hollywood where she hopes to become the next American Idol.

Interestingly, this is Simon Cowell’s final year on the show. All of Chelsea will be hoping that Ashley Rodriguez will be crowned on the same night that Cowell, one of the most watched television personalities in history, takes his final bow on the show.

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