Melinda Doolittle: Beyond American Idol
BEFORE AMERICAN IDOL
When American Idol star Melinda Doolittle was a child she was encouraged to chase her dreams and try anything she wanted to. Her mother allowed her to give anything a shot once. After trying her hand at multiple activities, Doolittle decided she wanted to sing. She was given a spot in the Choir, right in the middle of the group. The director loved her charisma, however she was tone deaf.
The director pleaded with Doolittle not to let a peep of noise come out of her mouth but to mouth the words and smile. For a time Doolittle was content to oblige, but her desire to have a voice that would make people stop and listen when she sang drove her to perform in the talent show at her youth group in 7th grade.
When Doolittle told her mom that she wanted to sing at the talent show, her mom searched for the right words that were honest yet not going to crush her daughter’s dreams. “The first thing my mom said was, ‘Baby, you’re going to have to pray—HARD,'” says Doolittle, “and that is what I did.” For a month, she prayed harder than she had ever prayed before and she practiced and practiced. “The night of the talent show, I got to the youth group,” says Doolittle, “My youth pastor had heard me sing before and he knew the potential for disaster but he still believed in me. When I walked onto the stage I heard the music start, I closed my eyes and opened my mouth and a different voice came out.”
Miraculously she sang with perfect pitch that night and brought down the house. She then realized that her life could be much bigger than she realized. From that point on not only could Doolittle sing but she could hear harmonies.
In The Green Room
Go behind the scenes with Melinda Doolittle
DO IT AFRAID
To achieve her dream of moving people with music, Doolittle began setting and systematically reaching her goals, such as obtaining a music degree from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, and singing background vocals for many of artists like Michael McDonald and CeCe Winans.
Life has offered Doolittle many opportunities to face her fears. Her senior year at Belmont, her voice teacher, Sandra Dudley, encouraged her to audition for the Commercial Music Showcase. “This was a big deal at Belmont,” says Doolittle. The Music Showcase is a full scale event with professional lighting, sound and numerous music industry representatives attend each year. Only four artists are chosen to appear in the main event.
“I didn’t want to audition for the showcase, because despite my experience singing background vocals, singing lead terrified me,” says Doolittle. However content she was about being in the background, Dudley wouldn’t allow her to stay in the background. So Doolittle gathered a band and auditioned. She was chosen as one of the four artists, and after show rehearsals and some fine tuning, she closed the showcase and faced her fears. “I did it afraid,” says Doolittle, “but I did it!”
Then following an amazing turn of events, she burst onto the music scene with her flawless vocal performances on American Idol – becoming the clear favorite of the show’s most difficult judge, Simon Cowell. “Being on American Idol was fun, but it was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done,” says Doolittle.
Through her book, she shares that ‘you will face fear, but it is what you do in that fear.’ Fear can be paralyzing but always remember to dream big and don’t speak death into your dreams.
Since her time on Idol and her transition into the spotlight, Melinda has wowed audiences everywhere with her ‘big voice’ and ‘soulful’ performances, from the White House to the Musicians Hall of Fame, from the Kennedy Center to Carnegie Hall. “I love what I do,” says Melinda, “I want to keep getting better and better.”
“I had such an incredible time working on this book and putting onto paper the experiences that shaped who I am today.” Melinda adds, “I haven’t just sat back and let life throw at me whatever it will. Instead—and this has been key—I’ve always worked to find my way to life’s next level.”
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