Bradenton's Sam Woolf is much closer to being the next "American Idol."
The 17-year-old Braden River High School senior advanced another round Wednesday on the venerable TV talent show. Out of thousands who auditioned this year, Woolf is one of the final 30 contestants, and one of the final 15 males.
This time, Woolf impressed the judges with an original song called "I Try."
He had the choice to do a cover song from an approved list, in which case he would have had professional accompaniment, or to sing an original song with only his voice and guitar.
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Many contestants who performed original songs didn't fare well.
"I knew it was a risk, but I'm just going to go for it,"
Woolf said in a recorded interview on the show.
Judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban have said they've been impressed with Woolf personally and musically since his first audition, when he performed Ed Sheeran's "Lego House."
When the judges meet with contestants to give the news about whether they're going on to the next round, they usually try to be coy and not reveal their decisions until the last moment.
Lopez, however, could barely contained her enthusiasm for Woolf.
"This was the most intense week ever," she said. "We've had so many great people."
She told Woolf judges were looking for someone who is "the whole package."
Sam Woolf, she said, is it.
After Woolf left the judges' room and returned to hugs from his family and friends, a misty-eyed Lopez said: "That make me happy for him. It makes me really happy for him."
Wednesday was Woolf's last recorded performance of the "American Idol" season.
Next week, he'll perform live, and his fate will be decided by the judges and votes from viewers.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist can be reached 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.