Augustana graduates try their luck on ‘American Idol’


For Maddie Todd, it all started when her mother sang to her as a child. Music was in her veins since her birth and her love affair with it developed into a lifelong relationship that would lead her to Fargo, N.D., last month where she auditioned for American Idol, and passed.

Todd, multifaceted musician who plays piano, trumpet and guitar has been singing for the better part of her life. 

“My mom is a fantastic singer –classically trained,” Todd said. “She would always sing to me and soon enough, I started singing along with her.”

Her decision to audition for “American Idol” was not spontaneous. Todd had pondered auditioning for years, but finishing college was her priority. Once she graduated from Augustana in 2017, however, she seized the opportunity.

“I have had people telling me that I need to audition for over 10 years, but college was always something that I wanted to finish,” Todd said. “A few months after I graduated, my aunt messaged me about Idol auditions in Fargo. All the puzzle pieces finally fit. I am out of school, I am taking a break in between undergrad and graduate school and I am in a place where I can take risks.”

Her rendition of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” and Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” in Fargo got her a golden ticket for the second round of auditions with the executive producers of the show.

“[After the audition], they took my picture, recorded a video of me singing and interviewed me,” Todd said. “This was sent to the producers to decide if they wanted to meet me in person. The day after I got back from the audition, I received an email from American Idol saying that I was invited to privately audition in front of the executive producers in Los Angeles.”

Todd auditioned for the show’s producers on Monday. After a successful audition, she is set to sing in front of celebrity judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and a yet-to-be-decided judge. 

Emotions run high in situations like this, but Todd is making an effort to keep herself grounded. 

“People talk to me as if I have gotten on the show or as if I am going to win, but I hardly have any expectations at all,” Todd said. “There are thousands of people trying out for this show, people who have better voices than me or are more marketable for the show. I am keeping all of that in mind as I go. My main goal is to have as much fun and learn as much as I can. I am confident in my abilities; it is just a matter if “American Idol” thinks I fit the show.”

As Todd auditioned in Fargo, another Augustana graduate was having a taste of the “American Idol” frenzy. Aaron Vidal ’14, was singing Prince’s famous “Purple Rain” at a local wine bar in Rapid City when two producers walked in, heard him sing and asked if he had any intention to audition for “American Idol”. 

“I was not originally planning on auditioning for American Idol,” Vidal said. “A lot of people around me, friends, family members and co-workers, were encouraging me to attend auditions, but I was not sure if it was a right fit. I never really thought of myself as a ‘Top 40-type’ of musician.” 

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After his unusual audition process, he sang Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” for the executive producers via Skype before being stopped and told to wait for a response.

However, his “American Idol” journey was cut short when he did not move on to the next round of auditions for the celebrity judges on camera.

“While I do not think this is an experience I want to replicate anytime soon, I certainly do not regret it,” Vidal said. “It would have been cool to take my talent to television, but now I think I will focus on what I have been doing: continuing to work on my own songs and putting my EP out into the world.”

Maddie Todd’s ongoing journey on “American Idol” is documented on her Facebook page, and Aaron Vidal’s EP “Atelophobia” is available for streaming on SoundCloud.


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