BY Rachel Swalin

There’s no denying that American Idol has grown to become the country’s biggest reality television guilty pleasure, and much of that popularity comes from watching the initial round of auditions.

The infamous audition process on the show is one that everyone has come to know and love. They make us want to turn on the show from the very beginning, if only to catch a glimpse of the crazy hopefuls, who can’t hold a tune, or savor the few contestants, who actually possess true, unadulterated musical talent.

Last Friday, Pittsburgh got a taste of the American Idol action for the first time in the show’s history, and I was there to experience it all, live. After years of watching the auditions from home, I still wasn’t prepared for the pandemonium that the show brought to Pittsburgh for its fourth round of auditions for season 11.

Television doesn’t even do the auditions process justice. It was so surreal to see thousands of hopefuls ready and waiting at 5 a.m. for their chance to audition in front of the show’s producers. Hoards of people were wrapped around the front entrance of Heinz Field all the way back along the eastern side of the stadium.

Even more remarkable was the variety of people who showed up to audition for the show. While many of the hopefuls came from cities and towns from Pennsylvania, I met even more from around the upper East Coast, including Michigan, Maryland, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

While the prospect of waiting hours to audition can be daunting, everyone was in high spirits. Potential contestants found ways to pass the time, from sneaking in a quick nap to forming impromptu jam sessions (I even got my very own serenade!).

As expected, there were a number of characters with lively personalities ready to share their personal stories and dreams. Also not surprising is that each and every one of them had a reason for why they should be the next American Idol.

Unfortunately, not all of the people who graced Heinz Field Friday will make it through to sing in front of the celebrity judges. The producers were there to narrow down the pool. The chosen few will then go through another round of auditions before they even get to see the likes of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, or Steven Tyler.

It’s still possible, though, that we could see a new American Idol come from the Pittsburgh auditions.

One thing is for sure, Pittsburgers have even more of a reason to catch American Idol next season to see our lovely city transformed into the talent competition’s newest hunting ground.

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