Bradenton teen appears on 'American Idol'

Braden River High's Sam Woolf performs on season premiere of TV talent show

mclear@bradenton.comJanuary 15, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Sam Woolf will finish high school in a few months. What he does after graduation will depend mostly on Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.

Woolf, a 17-year-old senior at Braden River High School, makes his debut on the season premiere of "American Idol" on Wednesday night.

He's planning a career in music, but his next steps will largely be determined by how much the celebrity judges like his work on the show. Connick is new to the judging panel this season, Lopez is returning after a season off. They replace Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.

"I'm going to see what happens with 'Idol,' " he said in a phone interview from his Bradenton home. "I'll either keep going or I'll go to Berklee College of Music. I just got in, just found out a few days ago."

He was actually studying in a summer program at Berklee, the prestigious music school in Boston, when he heard "American Idol" was holding auditions in the Boston area. He sang for judges -- as did thousands of other aspiring stars -- and impressed them enough to make it onto the first round of the show.

Woolf has already taped Wednesday's two-hour season premiere but "Idol" officials kept the results a secret. A show official listens in when Woolf talks to the local media to make sure he doesn't accidentally say something he shouldn't.

He can say on the show, which he recorded in September, he accompanied himself on guitar and performed a version of Ed Sheeran's "Lego House." He said Connick, at least, seemed to like his performance.

An "American Idol" crew came to Lakewood Ranch in September, to tape footage of Woolf playing a short impromptu concert at MacAllisters Grill & Tavern. Before that, Woolf, who performs his own songs and covers, had been playing regularly on the MacAllisters patio for about six weeks.

At that September appearance, Woolf performed "The A Team," another Sheeran song, and the Beatles' "Hey Jude." He also recorded interviews with "Idol" officials in front of a nearby fountain. Those songs and interviews may also air during Wednesday's episode.

The season 13 premiere of "American Idol" airs at 8-10 p.m. Wednesday on Fox.

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