When “American Idol” holds its two-night premiere next week, Jan. 15 and 16, one Nevada teen and her mom will be watching the show with heightened interest.
Jessie Heintz, 16, a junior at Nevada High School, and her mom, April, are anxious to see to see if they recognize any faces from the show’s Salt Lake City and Omaha auditions. And they just might. The Heintz mother and daughter pair were at those auditions, because Jessie took part.
Though she didn’t get past the primary round in either locale, auditioning for one of the country’s biggest singing shows did prove valuable for the young musician, who has blossomed as a singer during her high school years. Her singing posts of her favorite songs on Facebook have entertained online friends; and recently, Jessie was named the female lead for Nevada High School’s spring musical, “Footloose.”
At the Omaha “American Idol” audition last August, which was held about a month after the Salt Lake City audition, Jessie got great feedback from the producers that listened to her. Jessie attended the second audition because she found out she could use her guitar, and she likes singing with her guitar – an instrument she taught herself to play.
“I was the first at the table (in Omaha) for people with guitars,” she said, noting that she and her mother arrived very early at both auditions, so they wouldn’t have to wait so long. And being an early bird paid off as she had more time to receive feedback. “They wanted me to get more experience with performing, because I had so much anxiety from the whole situation and its craziness,” she said.
It’s not hard to believe that this petite, soft-spoken girl would be a bit drowned out by the huge amount of excitement surrounding “American Idol.” Her very quiet personality, in fact, is part of the reason that many people never knew that Jessie, who started loving to sing around the age of 3 or 4, even had a voice.
They started to realize it, she said, when she started to post her singing on Facebook. And they realized how serious she was about her singing when she decided to audition for “American Idol,” a dream that she was able to realize through the support of her mom and her dad, Mark. In fact, Jessie said, she saw her dad looking at the rules for “American Idol” online one day and that was when she realized that her parents were serious about letting her do the auditions.
The biggest piece of feedback that Jessie feels she received from the auditions (where the initial rounds were judged by show producers, not the celebrities that appear on TV) was that she needs to become more comfortable with performing for others. “They really liked me and my voice and my looks, but they could tell that I was holding back because of my nervousness.”
So Jessie is excited about what lies ahead for her in the second half of her junior year - opportunities to get that “comfortableness” with performing.
Not only will Jessie play the role of “Ariel Moore” in this spring’s production of “Footloose” in Nevada, but she’s also getting more performance experience through speech contest events, one of which is musical theater, and she’s been asked to perform a duet at the school pop concert in February.
Getting the lead in “Footloose” is something that Jessie said “completely shocked” her. “I didn’t think I really had a chance, because it had been a stressful week. But I was able to harness my nervousness,” she said. And she loved one of the songs she sang for the musical tryouts - “Holding Out for a Hero,” a song she will sing in the musical.
As for her own personal singing style, Jessie describes herself as liking “indie-pop with a little jazz.” Her favorite singers include Amy Winehouse and Christina Perri. In fact, Jessie got to meet Perri when the singer came to Des Moines in 2012. “That was a favorite highlight of my life,” she said.
When she looks to the future, Jessie said she will probably pursue a career in graphic design or film following high school. She really isn’t sure. She is sure, however, that there will be music in her future. “I haven’t decided how much I’m going to focus on it, but I’m not going to let it go. If there are more opportunities for me in the future, I’m going to take them and see where they take me.”
One of those opportunities just might be another TV show audition. “I definitely want to audition for something again and see how much progress I’ve made since the first time I tried.”