A bit of encouragement from Mariah Carey helped CSUMB student Stevie Rae Stephens land a ticket
to Hollywood.

Stephens, a 21-year-old senior from Livermore, auditioned for the prime-time hit program “American Idol” last summer in Long Beach, one of eight sites across the country where singers tried to earn a coveted “golden ticket” to the next round of competition.

“Mariah ended up giving me a thumbs up offstage before my audition and that took some of the nerves away,” Stephens said.

She was one of about 300 singers – half men, half women – who advanced to Hollywood. Those auditions were held in December, during finals week at CSUMB.

She survived a round of solo competition, which cut the field in half. The 75 remaining female singers were placed in groups of three or four, and given a short period of time to prepare an assigned song.

“That was the hardest thing I’ve had to do, but it was the best part of the experience,” she said. “You get your group’s song – ours was ‘Go Your Own Way’ by Fleetwood Mac – at 10 p.m. and you have to work on the harmony, lyrics and choreography by 6 a.m. If you get an hour of sleep, you’re lucky.”

She didn’t survive the cut to 20, but has no regrets about the experience. “They put a camera in your face and ask, ‘How much do you want it?,’ ” she said. “I felt one-dimensional; I’m not that. I’m more than just a singer.

“I don’t think I was ready to give up my capstone presentation and commencement,” which the show’s taping schedule would have required. She’ll graduate in May with a degree in music recording technology and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in electronic music.

Will she continue to perform?


– Joan Weiner