He's going from one of the biggest shows on TV back to Bradenton to play for friends, family and, yes, the strangers cheering for the local hero on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Popular "American Idol" contestant and Bradenton resident Sam Woolf will play two free homecoming concerts Saturday. The 17-year-old student at Braden River High School will showcase his talents with an 11 a.m. performance Saturday at the Farmers Market on Old Main Street in Bradenton. He'll also play the same day at Palmetto' s Sutton Park. That free concert begins at 4 p.m. and features additional entertainers from the local Del Couch Music Education Foundation, which organized both shows.
"This showcases the kind of talent we have here," Couch said. "It also means so much to the other kids in the foundation who are performing. Sam is becoming a mentor. He's their 'Idol.'"
The Del Couch Music Education Foundation is a non-profit in Palmetto that has helped many local youths, including Woolf, learn the art of music. Woolf, who became a student of Couch in 2012, has performed live in the Bradenton area with Couch Music Education Foundation board members Rick Derringer and Jeff Cook (of the country music group Alabama) as well as Marty Balin (of Jefferson Airplane fame). In the past year or so, Woolf also recorded a full-length, unreleased album — with backing by Dickey Betts and Great Southern drummer Kenny Crawley — at the foundation's recording facility.
"We're just trying to keep him busy between all the 'American Idol' stuff," Couch said.
A favorite of the show's celebrity judges — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. — Woolf was featured in a special segment before his first Hollywood audition, a performance of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.”
“I want this more than anything,” Woolf said before accompanying himself on guitar. “I love performing for people and it would be really cool to have it as a career.”
Woolf initially auditioned for the show in Boston last summer. Earlier on Wednesday's episode, he made it through the show’s latest twist called “Hollywood or Home,” reads the latest update by Herald-Tribune theater and television critic Jay Handelman.