WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. -- For one aspiring singer at Westover, 15 minutes of fame stretched out over weeks as a contestant on American Idol.
The television show broadcast to millions gave Tech. Sgt. Blaire Sieber an opportunity to stand in front of the world and live out her dream.
"It's really hard to describe the experience," she said in a telephone interview. "You feel like you're on top of the world."
The American Idol contestant from Medford, Mass., received marks of approval from global icon Jennifer Lopez, rock legend Steven Tyler and Grammy Award-winning producer Randy Jackson.
This 11th season heard vocalist hopefuls from several states, including Missouri, Oregon, California, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Colorado and Texas. Sieber said she traveled to Georgia for her audition.
"I wasn't sure that I was going to make it, so I turned it into a vacation just in case," she said of her audition in the antebellum city of Savannah.
The audition process, however, was not a vacation. American Idol contestants endure at least three sets of cuts. The number of people auditioning can exceed 10,000 people in each city, but only a few hundred make it past the first preliminary auditions. Those who are chosen then sing in front of producers. After another cut, contestants audition in front of the judges, which is the only audition phase shown on the show. Those selected by these judges are then sent to Hollywood.
Sieber said her experience consisted of many long days.
"It's the first round that takes the longest. I got there at 5 or 6 in the morning," she said. "I don't think I auditioned until 4 in the afternoon, and some people might not have auditioned until 2 the next morning."
The odds of being selected are slim. Between 10 and 60 people in each city have a chance to make it to Hollywood.
"We all put American idol on a pedestal because it has been going on for so long," Sieber said. "You feel like you're on this rollercoaster that is perpetually moving."
Sieber made it to the top 42 performers out of more than 100,000 contestants who had auditioned and hundreds who had advanced. However, more impressive than making it as far as she did is the fact that it wasn't her first time making it onto the show.
"This is my third time auditioning, and second time on the show," said Sieber, a certified nursing assistant who is studying to become a nurse. "I didn't make it to Hollywood the first time."
Last year, she received the coveted golden ticket to Hollywood but was unable to advance past that first round in Tinsel Town.
This year, Sieber was one of only 330 American Idol hopefuls sent to Hollywood week from a pool of more than 100,000 other aspiring entertainers. She advanced through three "Hollywood Week" rounds and one performance round in Vegas, which got her into the top 42. Shortly thereafter, she bowed out gracefully.
Sieber said she would do it again if given the opportunity.
"You have to keep high hopes and say 'it is going to work out in the end,'ââ" she said.
After all, she said it's a surreal experience to receive pointers from international superstars, referring to Steven Tyler and his remark about her "growl."
"He told me to 'get comfortable with that growl in your voice and become friends with it,'ââ" she recalled.
Actor/singer Jennifer Lopez told the aspiring singer to open up more.
"She told me that she wanted more from me," Sieber said. "The way I interpreted it was that she wanted more emotion in my singing."
Sieber said it was a challenge to compete in front of such musical luminaries.
"Before my first critique from J-Lo, I tried not to focus on whether the judges were dancing in their seats or not," Sieber said. "They are still people you idolize, but you have to focus on your performance."
Sieber is a C-5 loadmaster with eight years' experience. When she puts on the uniform to serve in the Air Force Reserve at Westover, she said it's all military business.
"I'm really lucky because I'm aircrew, and they've given me opportunities to reschedule my unit training assemblies, volunteer for missions and manage my Reserve schedule with a week here, a couple weeks there," she said. "That has really helped me get the hang of balancing the Reserve with my school and work schedules."
The 337th Airlift Squadron loadmaster said striking a balance between service to her country, her medical career, educational and singing aspirations was tough, but not impossible.
(Senior Airman Kelly Galloway, 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, contributed to the article.)