You may have seen sophomore Grace Cooper in the classroom, performing at Coffeehouse or in the COG, but you’ve never seen her on the “American Idol” stage ... yet.
Cooper was exposed to music at a young age. She was raised by two parents who were musicians, who sang as well as played instruments. She began playing guitar around age 8, took up piano at 10 and began songwriting at 13. Music has been a part of her life for as long she can remember.
This past summer, Cooper even worked on creating an album. Before that, she participated in a program out of Eugene, called “Make-a-Band,” a musical program where individuals are paired with other performers to create a band.
“It’s basically like ‘The Voice’ but you audition in front of seven producers,” Cooper said.
Out of this came, Wayward Soul, which Cooper was a part of from age 15 to 18.
Cooper’s band took home the biggest prize, which was a recording package, but the best thing she said she gained out of the experience was her new bandmates, who are her close friends to this day.
Aaron Rehn is a bandmate of Cooper’s from Redmond, Oregon. He did guitar, vocals and was a co-songwriter with Cooper and other band members.
“As far as her musical skills go, she is a badass piano player acoustic guitar player and her songwriting is amazing,” Rehn said.
Rehn and Cooper performed together and he worked with her closely when they wrote songs and combined their vocals.
“Obviously her voice is great,” Rehn said. “Unique enough so she doesn’t sound like every other girl singer, she’s developed a really cool style.”
When Rehn heard the “American Idol” news, he had no worries about Grace and her ability to make it far in the audition process.
“There’s no doubt she has the talent, it’ll be exciting to see what comes of it,” Rehn said.
Cooper had plenty of experience in the realm of performing in front of judges, which set her up for success when it came to auditioning for “American Idol.”
“It was absolutely a whim, I found out about it from a friend here actually,” Cooper said.
Originally, she was skeptical about going because it wasn’t her “scene”, but she figured if it didn’t work out, it was only one Saturday she would be missing out on.
“I told my mom about it and she was like, ‘Why would you not do it?’” Cooper said. “So I signed up for it and I went down there and lined up outside the door at 6:30 a.m. in the morning with like a thousand other people.”
After waiting in line, Cooper was corralled into a big room with hundreds of people and joined a group of four people who stood before the judges at a time. One person would step forward to perform a short song or two and then go back into the line of four after it was over.
“I made it past the first stage, which was just impressing the first judge or whatever that panel was,” Cooper said. “Then they sent me into another room with a producer and I sang my songs over for them and then they said, ‘OK that sounds great.’”
After that, she was led into a third room, where she signed waivers and was given a green ticket. They filmed her songs to send to the higher-ups of American Idol and then had her talk about her background with a producer.
“After like 20 minutes she goes, ‘OK, well we’re going to send over your videos and then we’ll get back to you within a week and see if they want you to do callbacks,’” Cooper said.
Cooper heard back in two days, and they wanted her to fly to Los Angeles. As a full-time student, that was a rather daunting request. They offered to Skype her as an alternative to callbacks in LA, and they had her prepare new songs and perform them in front of three producers via video call. Since then, Cooper is just waiting for their call back to continue to the final round of auditions.
“So now we’re just waiting to see if they want me to go to Hollywood,” Cooper said.
Since Cooper auditioned a little over a week ago, it’s been a whirlwind experience for her. She’s excited about the experience but also feels like it’s going very quickly. She has been in constant communication with show executives.
“Oh my gosh, if I could put it in two words I’d say [it’s] exciting but also kind of hectic because obviously I wasn’t prepared for all of this,” Cooper said.
Cooper has a very optimistic view of the experience, and figures that if she doesn’t make it to the next round, it wouldn’t be the end of her music career by any means.
“At the end of the day what’s supposed to happen will happen. Cooper said. “It’s just more of a crazy experience.”
Cooper is waiting to hear back from the producers about her next step, and if she makes it through this round she will advance to the final televised portion with the celebrity judges.