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16-year-old Martinsburg High School junior makes it to 'American Idol' Hollywood semifinals

January 21, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — It’s nicknamed “the golden ticket” — that yellow slip of paper that promises aspiring singers a trip to Hollywood and the chance to be the next “American Idol.”

In its 11 seasons, hundreds of thousands of aspiring singers have vied for the chance to hold the coveted piece of paper in their hands, but only a select number can ever say they were the chosen few.

That makes Christian Lopez of Martinsburg one of the lucky ones.

The 16-year-old Martinsburg High School junior has made it to the “American Idol” Hollywood semifinals — and is one step closer to realizing his dreams.

Christian, who is not related to “American Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez, said his parents, Jamie and Lesley Lopez, told him he should take a chance and attend the Pittsburgh auditions held in July.

It took a little more encouraging and pushing for Christian to give in and audition.

“It was foolish to pass up an opportunity like that,” he said.

A self-described shy teen, Christian often was found singing in musicals at The Apollo Civic Theater in Martinsburg. Today, he often is found fronting his band, Joe Taxi, which plays “bluesy, feel-good music.”

Christian auditioned with about 14,000 others at Heinz Field, which is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the first time “American Idol” searched for talent in the Steel City.

Even his parents were a little overwhelmed by the number, but had faith in their kid’s voice.

“We thought Christian had enough talent to make a showing,” Jamie Lopez said.

Judges Randy Jackson, J-Lo and Steven Tyler don’t have to listen to all of the talent. Christian said first that those auditioning are placed in groups, and the groups are disbursed to about 10 tables.

“Then, you step up and sing a song,” he said.

Those chosen from the first groups were asked to come back later for more auditions. The first was for a group of producers. Those who passed that audition then had to sing in front of Nigel Lythgoe, the show’s executive producer.

Those who got the thumbs up from Lythgoe were asked to come back in September, Christian said.

When he returned in the fall, Christian was up against 300 other people during two more days of auditioning.

“It was a lot of waiting. So much waiting,” he said. During downtime, he spent a lot of time drinking water and sleeping since his phone was dead, and chatted with fellow contestants.

Then, it was time to see the judges.

“I was so nervous,” he said. “I just already assumed that I wasn’t going to make it through.”

Christian said he walked through a small makeshift hallway and stood on the huge “American Idol” logo. For him, it was surreal.

“My heart was beating so fast,” he said. “I felt like I walked into another world when I stepped into that little room ... It was just indescribable how nerve-racking it was.”

Once he started singing “Arms of a Woman” by Amos Lee, which he picked because “the range is unbelievable,” he said the nerves quieted.

“I was trying my best to make eye contact,” he said. “I looked at Steven and Randy here and there, but mainly at J-Lo.”

When he was finished, Christian said he noticed the trio was smiling and he was going to Hollywood.

When he walked out the door to his parents, grandparents, brother, sister, best friend and girlfriend, “I just held the ticket above my head like a champion,” he said.

Those who watched the Pittsburgh auditions on Thursday’s “American Idol” on Fox caught a few glimpses of him, but not an interview.

The Hollywood semifinals were held in December, but Christian is contractually bound not to whisper a word of the results. Local fans will have to wait until February, when the Hollywood week is aired.

Regardless of what the results are, Christian, who plays guitar, piano, harmonica, bass, drums and mandolin, knows this is his path.

“I want to be a musician,” he said. “My main goal is to play music every night at a different play. ‘American Idol’ was an opportunity more than a destiny. ... I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

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Keeping up with Christian

To keep up with "American Idol" contestant Christian Lopez, follow him on Twitter at @joetaxiband or find Joe Taxi on Facebook.

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