SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) – Michigan getting quite the representation on Thursday night’s “American Idol.” As if one “Idol” contestant in the top eleven isn’t enough, Metro Detroit has double the bragging rights. Still in contention to be the next “American Idol” are 16-year-old Maliah Watson from Southfield and 17-year-old Jena Asciutto of Farmington — they will find out Thursday if they’ll be part of the elite Top 10 on American Idol.

WWJ Newsradio 950 visited with Maliah Watson’s one-time choir teacher who says the teenager has the “right stuff” to win it all.

“Just gives me chills that a year ago Maliah was preparing to perform in Singsation, the concert we’re doing this weekend. And now, a year later, last night we’re watching her on national television,” says Rick Sperling, the founder of Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.

Watson is noted for her glasses, braces, tuba-playing and soulful voice.

“She is a soul singer. She calls herself a throwback. She likes to sing old R&B/Soul classics, and that’s different,” says Sperling.

Watson has told Sperling her time with Mosaic and its high expectations helped prepare her for the demands of “American Idol.”

“Very eccentric, very different, very talented and that’s really what Mosaic is, it’s a safe place for kids who are unique,” says Sperling, who adds they’re all very proud of Watson’s performance so far.

“We feel that we helped really cultivate Maliah’s talent, but also said to her — you be who you are, as unique and eccentric and crazy, in a good way, as you are. And I think that’s what she’s showing on American Idol,” says Sperling.

And he says it was a pleasant surprise when she recently came back home.

“In the middle of the competition she came back and visited a rehearsal, and she just was part of the rehearsal. She got in the choir risers and she sang along with the choir,” says Sperling.

Mosaic member McKenzie Davis, of Troy, says Watson has been a role model for her.

“People feed off her energy, she’s always super excited and upbeat. And she’s just a great person to have around,” says Davis.

Amazingly, also hoping to crack American Idol’s Top 10 is 17-year-old Jena Asciutto of North Farmington High School — whose classmates are rallying behind her with each passing week.

“We’ve done some neat stuff here in the building, we have posters put up for her, our choir is selling T-shirts with her voting information on them. So our whole community is really excited and behind her. And she’s just such a neat young lady that everybody has really kind of been endeared to her,” says North Farmington principal Joseph Greene.

And he admits with Asciutto’s success, “American Idol” has become must-see TV in his home as well.

“It’s just nice and a cool experience for so many people in this community to know this young lady, to have seen her perform around here and just be able to see someone like that chase their dream. And she’s just such a good, decent human being that it makes it all the more exciting to see her pursuing this dream and to support her in it,” says Greene.

Greene also says Twitter accounts of fellow administrators, teachers and students in the district are “blowing up” over Asciutto’s continued success. And if she survives another week, the school is planning a community watch party next week.

The other contestant on the show with Michigan ties is Sam Woolf, formally of West Bloomfield.


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