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Bradenton singer Sam Woolf voted finalist on 'American Idol'

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Sam Woolf from Fox by Michael Becker small

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Finalist: Sam Woolf, 17. Bradenton, Fla. Credit: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 FOX.

Out of 75,000 contestants,  Sam Woolf made the cut. The Bradenton singer-songwriter is officially an "American Idol" finalist, advancing to the Top 13.  Based on a nationwide vote, five males and five females were selected to advance with the judges choosing the other three. Woolf, at about 20 minutes into tonight's hour-long episode, was the last of the voter-selected finalists to be announced. It's great to see the world get behind our local hero but even if he had not been a top vote-getter, it's likely the judges would have pushed him into the finals.

Woolf performed David Gray's folk-rock ballad"Babylon" and earned glowing reviews Wednesday. Keith Urban said Woolf's voice was "money" and Harry Connick Jr. also praised the 17-year-old student at Braden River High School's "really good performance" but noted the teenager could use a confidence boost. Jennifer Lopez lauded Woolf as well, especially his "sweet quality" and "perfect pitch."  Host Ryan Seacrest then asked Woolf what he learned about the meaning of the emotive "Babylon" song.

"Just, you know, let go of your heart," Woolf said, "let go of your head and feel it."

Woolf previously wowed the judges on TV last week with a performance of his original song "I Try."

The 17-year-old senior at Braden River High School auditioned in Boston last summer. Woolf has lived with his grandparents, Elroy (or Papa Roy) and Jackie Woolf for the last few years. He said in his opening "Idol" segment that “I lived with my mom for most of my life and when I was 13 she left, so I ended up moving with dad.”

His father, however, suffered from issues related to depression, so Sam moved in with his grandparents in Bradenton four or five years ago.  It was his mom, though, who tipped him off to the “Idol” audition while he was taking a five-week summer course at the Berklee College of Music.

Woolf, in an interview with the Herald-Tribune, recalled his parents telling him he's been singing since he could talk. But his first public performance was in a sixth-grade talent competition in his native Michigan, where he sang The Beatles classic "Hey Jude.”

“Ever since then, I’ve been playing more gigs and trying to get my name out,” Woolf said.

Woolf was featured in a segment on "American idol" before advancing in the competition on Feb. 5 following a stirring a performance of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.”

“I want this more than anything,” he said before accompanying himself on the guitar. “I love performing for people and it would be really cool to have it as a career."



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WADE TATANGELO
Wade Tatangelo is the editor of TicketSarasota.com/Plus and a contributor at TicketSarasota.com.. He has been an entertainment editor, reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: February 27, 2014
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