The Capital Region had a good reason to be glued to the TV this past weekend. Cohoes native and Shaker High School junior Madison VanDenburg was one of the final three contestants competing in the finale of Season 17 of American Idol on Sunday, May 19. Though Laine Hardy of Louisiana ended up taking home the Idol crown, VanDenburg left her own mark on the show. In just a few months, the 17-year-old singer went from auditioning for Idol at a bus stop in Buffalo to becoming one of the show’s most popular and highly praised performers. Her naturally soulful and powerful Idol performances have collectively garnered millions of views on YouTube. (Her Idol audition alone has more than 2 million!)
VanDenburg, whose family currently lives in Latham, returned home on May 14 to film a “Hometown Heroes” segment for the Idol finale and give a showstopping performance for local fans. The teen performed in front of a packed auditorium during a pep rally at Shaker High and then, on Tuesday evening, participated in a parade and gave a free concert at The Crossings of Colonie. An Idol film crew was on hand to film it all, as hundreds of fans, even some from out of state, waited for hours in drizzling rain to see VanDenburg perform.
In addition to all this, the talented singer took time out of her busy schedule to talk to saratoga living about her time on the show and being suddenly famous.
You have such an incredible voice. When did you start singing? Did you take lessons?
Thank you so much! I started singing when I was around ten years old. For the first few years, I was just self-taught. Then, when I turned 14 or so, I started taking voice lessons from Modern Day Music School in Clifton Park. Lesley O’Donnell is my vocal coach.
All three judges on Idol really like you. They even compared you to Kelly Clarkson in your initial audition.
It was mind-blowing when the judges told me I could be the next Kelly Clarkson. I didn’t expect them to enjoy my audition so much. It was incredible to hear. It also put a lot of pressure on me, because those are huge shoes to fill.
Who’s been your favorite guest mentor or artist that you’ve worked with this season and why?
My favorite guest mentor was either Adam Lambert or Lauren Daigle, because I learned so much from both of them. They were both so kind and encouraging.
So you’re near the end of the show now. What was it like returning to Colonie this week a big star and performing for all those people?
It was the best day of my life! The concert went amazing, and the crowd was phenomenal. I am so grateful I got to do that.
How do you handle going from being a junior at Shaker High to singing in front of millions of people on national TV? You seem so relaxed when you perform.
I’m super nervous right before I perform, so I’m so glad it comes off as relaxed. I think I just feel at home up on stage, though. I think that emotion plays a big part in not freaking out onstage.
If you win this Sunday, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?
I want to go see my parents, boyfriend and family if I win. And after that, I want to get right on to releasing music.