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‘Don’t mess it up’: American Idol hopefuls battle nerves to audition in downtown KC

American Idol holds auditions Sunday in Kansas City

American Idol hopefuls filled Barney Allis Plaza early Sunday in hopes of garnering a spot to appear on the television show next season. Singers of all genres practiced their pitch while waiting in line for their 90-second audition.
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American Idol hopefuls filled Barney Allis Plaza early Sunday in hopes of garnering a spot to appear on the television show next season. Singers of all genres practiced their pitch while waiting in line for their 90-second audition.

Malek Looney’s knees shook as he stood in line with other “American Idol” hopefuls on a brisk Sunday morning in downtown Kansas City.

“I’m just shaking, not because I’m nervous to sing, but more because it’s like that feeling you get when you’re so close to something that you wanted for so long,” said the 19-year-old Kansas City, North, resident.

”You’re like anxious about it, but you’re also thinking like, ‘Calm down. Don’t mess it up. You got it. Just do this.’”

Looney was among several hundred in their teens and 20s who flocked to Barney Allis Plaza Sunday to show judges they had the talent to compete on the next season of “American Idol.”

Hopefuls started gathering as early as 5 a.m. to be among the first in line for the auditions that began at 9 a.m. At one point, the line of singers stretched from 12th and Wyandotte streets all the way to the parking entrance on Central Street.

The show, which first aired in 2002, is scheduled to begin its next season on ABC later this year with celebrity judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, according to the network. Ryan Seacrest will return as host.

Temperatures in the low 50s had singers huddled up in blankets or bundled up in jackets. Some singers clutched their own guitars.

“My nerves are like antsy,” Looney said. “But I’m also very content … knowing that I finally have the courage to do something like this.”

While waiting in line, Looney soon found himself playing with a group of other musicians, including 21-year-old twins Dustin and Casey Aschinger from St. Louis.

“We love singing,” said Dustin Aschinger.

Which immediately drew a response from his brother.

“Oh, come on, you sound so boring,” Casey said. “We’re going to rock this joint out.”

Waiting in line to perform can make you a bit nervous, but you get more energized as more people join, Dustin said.

“Once you start singing with everyone, it’s like you really don’t care anymore about the competition,” Casey said.

The twins tried out last year, but learned American Idol doesn’t allow duets. They are trying out separately this year.

“We will see how that works out,” Dustin said.

This wasn’t the first time that Jay Sol, 27, of Kansas City, auditioned for American Idol either. Her first audition was in 2008.

“I always took their notes and came back the next year harder and harder,” she said. “It does take quite a while to come into your own.”

Sarah-Rae Austin, 27, of Kansas City, and Joylynn Smith, 17, of Preston, Mo, were among the first in line, arriving about 5 a.m. The two strangers bonded as they waited in line for their audition.

“We’ve just been talking about how to calm our nerves and get past the anxiety,” Austin said. “We’ve been practicing breathing techniques to calm the nerves and relax the minds.”

“It’s helping,” said Smith.

Unfortunately for the two newfound friends, their auditions didn’t go as well as they had hoped.

“We didn’t get the call back,” Austin said.

They didn’t have enough stage presence, they were told.

“I feel really good about it,” Austin said. “I’m glad I came out here. This was my last chance to do it and I’ve been hearing my whole life you need to audition for American Idol. I can say I finally did it.”

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