Madison VanDenburg fans celebrate at Shaker High School after American Idol announced she made the final four. (Jim Franco/Spotlight News)
COLONIE — For nearly two hours the crowd of about 50 at Shaker High School were on the edge of their seats, nervously munching on snacks, goofing around and cheering when one of their performed on the big screen above the auditorium stage.
And they erupted when Madison VanDenburg was selected as one of the top four finalists in this round of American Idol. The celebrity judges “saved” another contestant so there are five performing for next Sunday’s broadcast on ABC.
“I’m out on my balcony thing or whatever this is and I just wanted to say thank you so much for voting for me tonight,” she said on a video posted to Instagram at around midnight. “I mean top four … I can’t even talk, I’m so excited. And I can’t even believe what is happening with my life right now. It’s all a dream and it’s all because of you guys so I wanted to say thank you and I hope to make you guys proud next week.
“I’m really excited about the songs and I think you will really enjoy them. Thank you guys so much.”
VanDenburg, a 17-year-old Shaker High junior, broke out the electric guitar for a powerful rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart” for her first song broadcase Sunday, May 5. And for the “showstopper,” she beautifully sang “I Surrender” by Celine Dion.”
She received praise from the three judges, and enough voting support from around the country — including those at Shaker High on Sunday night and another watch party happening at the Cohoes Music Hall, her hometown — to make it to the final four.
“It is a phenomenal event for the community. We are incredibly proud of Madison. She just gave an incredible performance and for North Colonie to have one of our students perform and excel at this level is, for us, a twice in a life time experience,” said North Colonie Superintendent Joseph Corr. “We are very fortunate to have such gifted students here. Our music program is phenomenal, and for the ninth year we have been recognized as an outstanding music community in the United States and this is proof of that.”
VanDenburg is the second Shaker student to ride an amazing voice to the national stage. Two years ago, Moriah Formica made it to the last playoff round of NBC’s The Voice.
“I really am in awe of that kind of talent,” Corr said. “I can appreciated it, and I can enjoy it but I can’t understand it.”
Deborah Keough, the North Colonie music supervisor, said VanDenburg has been a part of the North Colonie chorus program since “she was tiny,” and always had a stellar voice.
“The best part of it is she is just a fabulous girl. She is so modest and sweet and kind and she has a voice as big as this room. She has a powerful talent in her,” she said while watching the show at the Shaker High auditorium. “What’s incredible is not just that she has the powerful voice, because we have a lot of wonderful singers in the district, but that she owns the stage. And to not be scared and to sing in front of millions of people and to look as good as she does and be as calm as she is in the moment is so impressive for someone so young.”
While Cohoes and Colonie might be waging a small battle over ownership, Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan, who used to teach at Shaker Junior High School and was on hand for the watch party, said “this is so exciting for Colonie.”
“Everyone is so proud of her. It’s got to be incredible for her to go through this thing. I don’t know how they do it,” she said while waiting for the vote tallies to be announced. “What a voice she has, and she can sing anything. She went from Janis Joplin to Celine Dion.”
“Right now she is the pride of Shaker, the pride of Latham, the pride of Cohoes and the pride of Colonie,” said Brian Austin, the director of orchestras at Shaker High. “We are all so happy for her.”
A number of Shaker High School students, including Formica’s brother Gabe, got together to host the watch party, making signs, making and selling t-shirts and bringing in snacks. And they coupled it with a drive for the food pantry, asking all those who attend to bring a non-perishable item.
“This is absolutely amazing. Madison is so great, and we are all so proud of her,” said Shannon Lipscomb, a Shaker High student government ambassador. “We worked hard all week to spread the word and we couldn’t be more proud of her.”
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