Budding singer makes ‘Idol’ bid

Sunday, August 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:22 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Like her friends, Meghan Sparkes, 17, dreams of becoming a pop singer. The Rock Bridge High School senior took an extra step in pursuing her vision as she auditioned for “American Idol” this month in St. Louis along with more than 5,000 competitors, making it as far as the second cut.

The freckled blonde said she was disappointed but not devastated over not getting to the third round.

“I’m better than some of the finalists,” she said.

Media reported long lines and contestants who slept on the sidewalk all night, but Sparkes stayed at a hotel before the event. Some of her fellow contestants would break into song every minute or two while waiting for their turns. She chose to practice her songs in the bathroom where fewer people could overhear.

Sparkes, who was told by the “Idol” crew that she looked old for her age, began singing on stage 11 years ago. She won over judges for the first audition with ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” but had less luck in the next round, in which she performed “Lean on Me” for a minute and a half.

She enjoys singing, dancing and acting. She also played the guitar for a church band during after-school hours. Describing herself as “quiet,” Sparkes said she drops her shyness when she performs. Softball and volleyball are two of her favorite sports. She believed the most valuable experience she got out of the audition was the chance to try out in front of producers.

“I never imagined it could actually happen,” she said.

Sparkes believed she would have gotten into the final audition had she said something different in her interview.

“I should have used a different way to get attention, such as mentioning my lead role in the musical ‘Brigadoon’ in my sophomore year,” she said. “Instead I talked about funny things like my eye tricks.”

The judges focused more on individuality than talent, she said.

Sparkes’ parents were die-hard “Idol” fans who enthusiastically encouraged her dream-chasing attempts. They had been waiting for the release of details for the St. Louis audition for months, Chris Sparkes said.

“But we did not find out about the date of the event until we were taking a vacation in Branson,” she said. “We had to rush back north in order to make it.”

After Sparkes was eliminated Aug. 9, her family considered taking her to other tryouts scheduled for the next two months across the country.

“If the auditions were not so far away, or if money was not an issue, we would do it.” Chris Sparkes said. The television show had another tryout Wednesday in Washington and will have five other auditions before early October in Orlando, Fla.; New Orleans; Las Vegas, Nev.; Anchorage, Alaska; and San Francisco.

Chris Sparkes said she believed her daughter had the talent to make a career as a pop singer but admitted to having doubts about the entertainment industry.

“Britney Spears did not have an easy life,” she said. “Who knows how I would feel if she had really made it?”

Meghan Sparkes said she expects little peer pressure after school starts.

“A lot of people disliked me in my sophomore year when I starred in ‘Brigadoon,’” she said. “But I believe I will receive more encouragement than pressure from the experience.”

For her senior year, Sparkes said she sees herself auditioning for the school musical “The Sound of Music.”

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