Friday, February 22, 2008

'American Idol': Syesha's success brings sweet memories

She's moving on.

Sarasota’s Syesha Mercado won enough of the 28 million votes that poured in to "American Idol" this week to continue in the popular television competition — at least until next week.
Four singers — two women and two men — were cut from the competition during Thursday’s results show. Twenty contestants remain.

One of Mercado’s friends from Booker High School, Bruce Merkle, who appeared in the Asolo Repertory Theatre production of "A Tale of Two Cities" last fall, said he voted for her more than 100 times after she performed Wednesday night. The show allows the public to vote as many times as they like.

"It's very exciting, but it’s not surprising," the 20-year-old said of Mercado’s luck on "American Idol."

Before host Ryan Seacrest broke the news of who was going home, the 24 contestants sang and danced a short medley of songs with the men dressed in black suits and the women in 1960s garb. Mercado was decked out in a black dress and white go-go boots.

Roots at Daughtrey
For those who have watched the promising singer grow into a young woman, following her journey on the show has been a nostalgic experience.

Mercado's former elementary school dance instructor, Kathryn Truitt of Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary in Bradenton, remembers the positive attitude Mercado radiated when she attended the school from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade during the 1990s.

Now 21, Mercado still possesses her positive spirit as evidence of her earlier appearances on "American Idol." In her initial audition, she relied on positive thinking to help get her through the first performance in front of the judges.

Though Truitt recalls Mercado being a talented dancer, it was the would-be star's voice that was her most captivating gift, Truitt said. When she first heard Mercado sing, she was in the hallway belting out a song a capella. She was just a second-grader.

"I thought, 'How did that voice come out of that little child,’ " Truitt said. "She had a powerhouse voice."

Truitt, a registrar at Daughtrey, said several former students of the school have gone on to spectacular things, but she always knew there was something special about Mercado.

"My first impression was 'Wow,’ " she said. " ‘God has given you a talent and you are going to go someplace.’ You just knew it. She was never, 'I can sing, I can dance,' but, 'This is who I am.' She never thought she was better than anyone else. I think truly it's a talent that God gave her, though I like to believe I was a small part of that."

In elementary school, Mercado was one of a few third-graders to make the Daughtrey Pride Dance Team — it was open to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders — and competed in the AA Junior Olympic meets.

"We always came back with gold," Truitt said.

Mercado later served as co-captain of the dance team with her best friend Natasha, Truitt said. The former student made a great leader, she said.

"She never put any of them down," Truitt said. "She always had something positive to say."
Music has always been a huge part of Mercado's life. Her major goals are having a successful music career and winning Grammy and Oscar awards, according to her "American Idol" profile page at

If she's lucky, the show could be her ticket to making those dreams a reality as the winner of the competition is guaranteed a recording contract. Locals are hopeful that Mercado wins it.
"If she doesn't, she's still going to go far," Truitt said. "But something's wrong with their ears if she doesn't." — January Holmes

What's next?
Syesha Mercado's next appearance is 8 p.m. Wednesday on FOX.

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