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An 'Idol' moment

August 30, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Tri-State area residents and aspiring singers Tiffany Hawbaker and Nick Williams never met until they took a crack at fame at last week's "American Idol" audition in Washington, D.C.

Although neither made the cut for this season of the Fox television show that launched the careers of pop stars Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken, don't count out the possibility that either will be performing in front of the often caustic talent judge Simon Cowell in years to come.

Hawbaker, 24, a Hagerstown resident, and Williams, 23, of Martinsburg, W.Va., were among thousands who on Aug. 18 tried to sing their way onto the popular show. The nation's capital was the third stop in an eight-city audition tour between early August and October, according to the program's official Web site.

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"I thought, 'I can't pass it up if it's that close,'" said Hawbaker, the reigning Miss Western Maryland.

Hawbaker also is a graduate student studying mental health counseling at Shippensburg (Pa.) University.

Hawbaker and Williams arrived in Washington, D.C., separately Monday evening. They got their brief auditions within minutes of each other Wednesday afternoon. Although each sang for about 30 seconds to a minute during their auditions, they spent more than 30 hours huddled in the crowd with other Idol hopefuls inside the Washington Convention Center.

Both said the hours of waiting made performing on the spot difficult because neither had been through an audition process similar to that of "American Idol."

"I felt like I was getting sick from sleeping in a damp, cement room for two days," Hawbaker said.

When she finally did get her chance in a four-person grouping, Hawbaker sang a portion of "Amazing Grace." After being asked by a judge to sing a second, upbeat song, she performed "I Will Survive."

"I knew I was in trouble because I heard a guy that was so good, and he didn't get through (to the second round)," Hawbaker said. "He (the judge) thought about it for a few seconds and said, 'I'm not going to send anyone through.'"

Williams, a member of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va., heard the same thing after his renditions of songs by Luther Vandross and The Temptations.

"There was all that waiting around, and then it's over in a few seconds - 'bye, see you later,'" he said.

Those who did get through performed in a second round of auditions in front of Cowell and fellow judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

Williams said he thought he would have had a better chance had he auditioned for those three instead of for the producers judging in the first round.

"That was a little bit of a letdown. I thought I could make it if I got in front of them because I think I have a good personality and can carry a tune," Williams said. "These producers were so stone-faced."

Despite the hours of waiting and the failed attempt at fame this year, both said they enjoyed the experience because of all the people they met, including each other.

"I'm a people person, and I got to meet a whole bunch of people," Williams said. "There were people from Long Island, N.Y., New Jersey, Texas, everywhere. There was even a couple there on their honeymoon. It was cute, so I got a picture with them."

Williams said he was excited because he got to bounce ideas off so many talented singers during the down time. At one point, Williams' impromptu duet with a stranger snowballed into a 70-person vocal jam session, he said.

"That was a lot of fun just to be able to get together and sing with a bunch of people," he said.

Hawbaker and Williams said they probably will try again next year if the auditions are done in the area. Hawbaker said she has been thinking about what she can do next year because, even with the lengthy wait in line, it's the easiest way to get famous.

"Maybe I should have done, 'She Bangs,'" Hawbaker said while laughing and parodying the signature dance of the now famous Idol reject William Hung.

"At least I can still say I'm an 'American Idol' reject," she added.

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