Centralia High School junior Ellen Buzzard, who goes by “Elle,” took the stage at The Juice Box Friday night for a performance during which she announced she has been selected to audition in front of the judges of hit television show “American Idol” in Las Vegas this fall.
Buzzard said the process of getting this far has already been a long wait, as she initially sent in her first audition tape at the end of June.
“A couple weeks later, I got a call back from them and I got to have a Zoom audition with a couple of the American Idol producers. So I did that and they told me they would let me know if I was selected. I kind of forgot about that and then two weeks later I got another call, and this was for a much bigger Zoom call,” Buzzard said.
She was among 500 other contestants on the call, who were each then pulled into a seperate Zoom call with an anonymous American Idol producer to audition again. Out of those 500 contestants, Buzzard was chosen along with nine others to go on to another Zoom call audition with the show’s executive producers.
“They just said, ‘The next time you audition will be in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan,’” Buzzard recalled.
At just 16 years old, Buzzard has taught herself how to play guitar to go along with her singing and is even writing original songs, which she plans to use during her Las Vegas audition.
Buzzard got her start performing for friends and family at her own home during communal bonfires and first took the stage at one of The Juice Box open mic nights in downtown Centralia.
“I got up there and did ‘Mama’s Broken Heart,’ the song I just played, and it was the first song I ever did on stage. And it’s just like, I don’t know, it was a really good crowd that night and they went crazy,” Buzzard said.
Sarah Althauser, co-owner of The Juice Box, explained what it was like the first time she heard Buzzard perform.
“Everybody was shocked, just like, ‘Oh my god,’ it was crazy to hear her singing like that,” Althauser said.
Buzzard still performs at The Juice Box every chance she gets and has recently been performing more of her original work, including the song “Dimes,” which she performed in her initial audition tape.
“It’s kind of about the rough backstory with my dad, it’s about that and it’s pretty deep and emotional,” Buzzard said.
The Juice Box, located at 216 S Tower Ave., holds open mic nights every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.