Mar 5, 2014
12:32 PM
Arts & Entertainment

American Idol Castoffs From Connecticut 'Vote' on the Experience: Yes, Yes, Big No

American Idol Castoffs From Connecticut 'Vote' on the Experience: Yes, Yes, Big No

Amaryllis Rodriguez auditioning for American Idol.

The three "American Idol" hopefuls from Connecticut who got golden tickets to Hollywood but made it no further have "cast their votes" on their experiences on the popular show, in the spirit of big-name judges Jennifer LopezKeith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. The results are in – two yesses and a no. 

East Hartford’s Amaryllis Rodriguez, Madison’s Erin Christine Prestileo and Sandy Hook’s Hayley Pettinato were all propelled onward at their auditions in Boston, but the road was cut short when they were sent home before making it to the live show in Idol's 13th season.

Rodriquez, who aspires to be the show’s first Latina Idol, has auditioned eight times and plans to try again next year.

The same goes for Prestileo, who goes by a stage name, Erin Christine, and calls her musical style “soulful pop.” She has auditioned twice, making it into the Top 40 last year, and will try a third time.

Pettinato (right) won’t be returning. The classically trained vocalist is turning her sights toward college and will “pursue a recording contract the old-fashioned way, through hard work and networking – not via reality TV.” Without commenting extensively, she hinted that the show let her down, not the other way around.

Since splashing into the spotlight and disappearing just as quickly – like so many other hopefuls – the three continue to take vocal lessons and pursue their singing dreams. Rodriquez and Prestileo hope the experience will further define their musical styles and calm their nerves for their next attempt. 

Rodriguez was literally the first vocalist to perform for the celebrity judges in Boston. Without knowing who she would be singing for, she walked in the room and saw Lopez, her idol, and her nerves took over.

“I choked on my first song,” the 24-year-old recalled, but she recovered on her second number – a Spanish song to show her potential as a crossover artist – and received yesses across the board.

The stress returned in Hollywood when she performed at what is now the Dolby Theatre and was formally the Kodak Theatre. “That was the biggest stage I’ve ever played,” she says.

Prestileo, 28, performed "Oh Darling," by the Beatles during her Boston audition.

In Hollywod, she was slightly surprised by the number of critiques Lopez had for her during her audition. “She didn’t understand who I was as an artist in the audition,” says Prestileo.

Taking the Grammy-nominated artist’s advice, Prestileo tightened up her look and style for the next audition, selecting “You and I” by Lady Gaga to showcase the range and soul in her voice.

“I don’t know what happened because I know that I sang it really well and then I got cut,” she says. She worries that her fate may have been sealed with her introduction before the audition.

“They tell you to be funny and show them your personality,” she recalls. “I said I had auditioned last year and thought I was cut too early. Keith Urban made this weird face and Harry Connick Jr. said, ‘I don’t think it’s smart of you guys to dig at the judges who hold your fate.’ But I didn’t mean it like that.”

Whether or not her honesty was an issue, Prestileo says making it that far proves she can go further next year, and she won’t make the same mistakes again.

It may have only been her second audition for the show but Prestileo (left) has been around the music industry, if only peripherally, for a number of years. She spent two years at the Berklee College of Music and then moved to Florida, where she worked with a producer and traveled as part of a cover band.

An encounter with a songwriter from Diddy’s television show “Making the Band,” which did, in fact, make such bands as Danity Kane and Day 26, moved her back to New York. After a few years of shows, that relationship, “fizzled” as she puts it and she decided to audition for "Idol."

“I felt like I had tried a lot of other routes,” Prestileo says. She will travel this particular route again in the summer when auditions begin for next year’s competition.

“I have a year to prepare,” says Prestileo. “I’m going to keep figuring out who I am as an artist so there’s no question when I get in that room in front of the judges. They will know who I am.”

See Prestileo in the music video for her original song "Say." 

This was the first time Rodriquez made it to the celebrity judges, and she thinks she has what it takes to be the show’s first Latina Idol. “They make it pretty far,” she says of other Latina contestants, “but I want to be the first Latin winner.”

The East Hartford native (right) started as a dancer, eventually branching into singing like her idol, Lopez. Perhaps not surprisingly, her favorite movie is "Selena." Rodriguez began taking classes at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She auditioned for "Idol" for the first time when she was just 16. (The youngest you can be is 15.)

See Rodriguez cover Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball." 

During the process, she befriended current Top 12 contestant Emily Piriz of Orlando, Fla., and the recently- eliminated Kristen O'Connor of Sebastian, Fla.

“It’s exciting to know that someone you met and are familiar with has the same dream as you,” says Rodriguez. “It sucks to be on the other side of it, but now that I will go back next year, they can give me advice.”

Pettinato won’t be going back next year, and had very little to say about her "Idol" experience this time around – only that neither of her performances made it onto the broadcast.

The 17-year-old has been taking lessons since she was in the first grade. Today she sings “everything from foreign language arias to rock.” (See Pettinato perform a mashup of Sara Bareilles's "Brave" and Katy Perry's "Roar.") She writes her own music and says she will continue that when she starts college in the fall. At this point she hasn’t decided where she will go, but says she has a few voice/ talent scholarships on the table.

Each vocalist took away something different from their brushes with stardom, but they all continue in their pursuit of singing success. 

As for the contestants who are moving forward on "Idol," you can watch and see what happens tomorrow (March 6) at 9 p.m. on FOX. Next week, the show moves to Fridays (March 14) at 8 p.m.

American Idol Castoffs From Connecticut 'Vote' on the Experience: Yes, Yes, Big No

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