“She looked like she had a ray of light behind her."
That’s the way San Diego State kinesiology senior Marvin Calderon describes the first time he saw “American Idol” judge Mariah Carey during his audition for the reality singing competition last November.
For Calderon, who began singing and playing piano when he was 10, the journey from aspiring singer to “American Idol” contestant has been a longtime coming.
He sings for his church choir and acts and dances for a San Diego-based Filipino performing arts company that performs at the Lyceum Theatre downtown.
“Constantly being able to sing and dance on a lot of super cool stages in San Diego has pushed me to be a performer,” Calderon said. “To move from there to the ‘American Idol’ stage is amazing.”
Perserverance and will
But Calderon’s passion for music isn’t the sole reason he has made it to this season’s Hollywood Week. Perseverance and the will to continue gave him the opportunity to audition for the fifth time on “American Idol.”
“There were times where I wanted to quit,” Calderon said. “But I knew I wanted to be a part of it. ‘American Idol’ is the biggest opportunity for a regular person to be seen as a singer because it’s considered to be the golden standard of this type of show.”
Calderon said even though rejection was hard, he learned from each time he didn’t make it to the next round. He explained there is a long road to travel before being given the chance to audition for the celebrity panel of judges with the beginning rounds moving at a rapid pace. Potential contestants fill a stadium and have, “literally seconds to sing,” before a decision is made Calderon said.
But there’s one experience he will never forget.
Fifth time's the charm
“The previous year when the auditions were held in San Diego, I tried out and I know I did good. At the first stage of the competition, they never really talk to you. Normally they just say, ‘step forward’ and it’s a no,” Calderon said. “But this time, they said, ‘It’s a no, but we want you to come back next year.’ They told me there was something there and that I just needed to find myself as an artist.”
That was the year Calderon focused on becoming more diligent with rehearsals and practicing. He used his performing arts company to gain valuable stage experience and when he came back the following year, the disappointment of previous rejection disappeared into a unanimous “yes” from the panel of celebrity judges.
“Right when I finished, Nicki Minaj winked at me,” Calderon said. “I figured that was a good thing.”
Upon hearing the final “yes,” the crowd of approximately 20 family members and friends who came with Calderon rushed to the stage and embraced him.
“I was lucky to have them there with me throughout the experience,” Calderon said. “When I ask them for advice they just say, ‘Be you.’ They’re very inspiring to me.”
After contestants receive their golden ticket, it’s off to Hollywood Week, where they are tested to the best of their abilities. This was the chance Calderon had been waiting for, and the busy nature of the week would not deter him.
“Hollywood Week is the ultimate test. The schedules are crazy because it’s one audition after the next,” Calderon said. “But you enjoy every moment of it because you’re surrounded by people who are just as passionate as you. That’s what motivated me to keep going. It was a blessing to be a part of that.”
The shared passion contestants bring to the table made Calderon’s experience that much better and even though it’s a competition, contestants always bring the best out of each other.
To find out how Calderon’s “American Idol” journey continues, tune in at 8 p.m. this Wednesday and Thursday on Fox for “Hollywood Week.”
This story originally appeared in The Daily Aztec.