Written By: Jillian Russell
Ryan Seacrest stands center stage, a microphone in hand. Darkness surrounds him except for the single spotlight shining down from overhead. A bulky set camera focuses on him as he speaks in a hushed, yet exhilarating tone. This is American Idol, he says.
Most TV goers have only ever watched this iconic opening for American Idol from the comfort of their couches, but just recently the girls of the NHHS Pep Squad had the opportunity to experience the show live and in person during a team bonding field trip to Hollywood. Though this show has infiltrated televisions across the nation since 2002 on FOX, it has been revived and moved to ABC for its sixteenth season. The Pep Squad attended a Saturdayafternoon taping at the LA soundstage where they clapped along to each of the contestants’ performances, interacted with some of the judges, and even got to be on camera.
Besides Ryan Seacrest, the girls also got to see popular artists, Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry as they judged the competition. Being close to so many celebrities was very exciting, especially for Haley Atkins, a sophomore on varsity cheer who had the chance to meet Bryan and even get his autograph. “I was super excited to see Katy Perry and Luke Bryan in person,” she shares. “It was such a cool experience to be able to talk to them and even hear their opinions on other singers’ voices,” Atkins continues. Though many girls from the Pep Squad were able to get autographs from the stars in between takes, junior Moe Garcia, a member of the JV cheer team was able to share an extremely heartfelt moment with Perry who is one of his biggest role models. Perry signed his yellow wind breaker and even wrote him a short note that said she was his biggest fan. “Her song ‘Rise’ is really inspiring to me and having her sign my jacket was just one of the greatest moments ever,” Garcia explains. The message of support and kindness that Perry shared with the junior in her autograph has inspired him to keep pushing forward and to stay optimistic. “If I can remember those words, I can keep trying out for cheer and I can keep going and owning it,” Garcia says. Since the taping, Garcia hasn’t washed or worn the jacket, because he now views it as a special keepsake that he can later frame or display in the future.
The girls had a wonderful time engaging in each singer’s individual set, because they got a slice of what the Hollywood industry is really like and left the show with a sense of courage and awe. “After watching the contestants, I learned that confidence is key,” says Atkins. “Just letting yourself go and being brave allows you to perform better than if you hold yourself back.” The event would not have been possible if it weren’t for varsity cheer coach, Chelsea Baker who served as one of the field trip chaperones and stood alongside her team in the studio audience. She thought that seeing American Idol would teach her team about focusing on their individual skills, especially their energy during a performance. “You’re always being watched and every little thing that you do is being critiqued,” Baker explains. “It’s not just about what you sound like or what you look like or how you perform, but the way you do it and the emotion behind it.” Before Baker became an official Pep Squad coach in 2015, she was actually a varsity cheerleader throughout all of her high school career. Now she has had the opportunity to attend a taping of American Idol as both a team member and a coach, but she finds that the more recent experience has been most rewarding. “I enjoy it as a coach more, because I get to see all of my girls that work so hard every single day go to something and just have fun, let loose and be their laughing, loving selves that I know. It’s just really great that in such a stressful time we get to do it together,” Baker shares.
Though the Pep Squad performs with pom poms and batons unlike the contestants on American Idol who hold a microphone, they can still take this experience and the lessons they’ve learned from the production to the mat and the dance floor, implementing that same confidence and energy into their own showcases and competitions in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for the team in the show’s upcoming episodes!