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Madison VanDenburg: Local Girl, American Idol

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Star power, right here in our hometown! Madison VanDenburg is the whole package, emanating amazing talent, pizzazz, charisma and style. This young country-pop songwriter and singer made it to the final three on American Idol this past season and her career is poised to take off. American Idol judges likened her to Kelly Clarkson, another Idol queen, who won in 2002.

She wowed international audiences with her performance on the Idol stage, and to say that her 17-year-old voice gives you chills is an understatement! This Albany County native and Shaker High School student is on an incredible journey, and her future is as bright as her infectious smile.

Early Vocalist
“I started singing as a little girl, and I always listened to Celine Dion and Whitney Houston,” she noted. “Celine’s song, ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ was actually the first song I sang in public!” She and her older sister, Taylor, sang as a duo around the area when they were younger, and when Taylor lost interest, Madison began her solo career. She explained that her parents aren’t musical, but that another sister, Chloe, is interested in singing. Madison also plays the guitar, piano and flute. “My parents have been so supportive. My dad, Skip, works in construction, and my mom, Denine, works with the elderly,” she noted. “It has been so busy since American Idol, I am going to do my senior year of high school online so I can spend more time writing songs, and we are planning a tour next spring. I definitely plan to go to college down the line, probably online as well.”

She strongly credits her vocal coach, Leslie O’Donnell, with helping her find her voice. She has been her coach for five years, and Madison believes she has transformed her singing technique, and this has led her to focus on pop country mix. Madison is close family friends with Moriah Formica, who shares the same vocal coach. Moriah was a Top 20 contestant on The Voice in 2017 and auditioned for American Idol in 2018. “Moriah and I have sung together and have appeared at the same events locally, and I’m very grateful for what she has taught me. Without her, I would not be where I am,” she smiled.

Stepping Out and Up
Madison worked hard for ten years honing her craft and playing at small gigs around the Capital Region, which kept her very busy. She auditioned for American Idol at the open call audition held in Buffalo, New York, last fall, with the song by Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats,” and the Dan + Shay song, “Speechless.” 

“The Buffalo audition was such a cold and long day, and ‘Before He Cheats’ was the song that got me the opportunity to sing in front of the celebrities,” she related. “The celebrity audition was so nerve-racking but so much fun! I loved being with other contestants who love music as much as I do!” 

Madison absolutely enjoyed every moment of her Idol experience, commenting, “Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie were super! I watched Katy rise to fame, and Luke as they both got famous around the time I was growing up. And Lionel is a legend! What I learned from them was so amazing; there were so many cool things. They were personable, loved to talk and were super supportive and I was so grateful for that. Laine, the winner, Alejandro, first runner-up, and Wade, who finished in the top five, are all awesome guys and we became very close friends with all of the top 14. Everyone was very supportive. And I am very happy with all of them living their dreams. We really did become a family.”     

Growing Her Craft
Being on the American Idol stage gave Madison more poise and confidence. She was surrounded by coaches and stylists and that helped relieve the pressure of being on national television. She reflected that this experience has changed her life, in that it gave her a huge opportunity. She has been able to play at different venues around the country, go to Hawaii and California and other states, all because of the show. She has seen all her hard work over the past ten years of her life pay off. 

“I made long-lasting friendships with all of the top 14. We are all so close! I really hope that a few years down the road I will have written a song that makes it on the Billboard Top 100 and will have played some stadiums, which would be cool,” she asserted. “I am writing songs, and ‘What I’m Looking For’ was released August 30 on Apple Music, iTunes and Spotify plus the radio. I’m also working on another song.” In addition to her dedication to music, she enjoys hanging out with her family, her dog and her boyfriend and chilling out at home. Music is her thing, above all.

What about the pressures of a busy life, managing her own career and maintaining a public persona? “I handle all the attention and pressure of social media by taking it one day at a time and not looking at comments all the time because I know they can really affect you,” Madison mused. But as her career continues to blossom, she knows she will need to have additional support; she’s looking at signing a management company to help her with all the demands for her talent and time.

Making a Dream a Reality
Madison stresses tenacity when she’s asked what advice she would give other women desiring to follow their dreams. “It’s a lot of work all the time, and it takes forever to get somewhere,” she affirmed. “Hard work doesn’t seem like it will pay off, but it does. I’m grateful I was pushed by my parents to keep going. 

“I think pushing forward is just really important. I realize coming off the show if you have an interest in following this crazy dream, you have to keep pushing. I never thought I would be on American Idol! It takes a lot of hard work; be sure to surround yourself with people who will support you. If you don’t, it’s hard to push back the negativity.”

As Madison has grown a little older, she has definitely narrowed her style to that of a pop country artist. She realizes you must have a direction and a brand in this industry. “It’s nice to have so many older friends in the music business because they’ve been in the industry longer and can help me to avoid making decisions that I wouldn’t know about without their guidance!” she elaborated. “It’s all about surrounding yourself with people who have your back, those who support and help you.” 

So far, locally she has performed in several big venues since the show, including Times Union Center, the Saratoga Racetrack and SPAC, and she will perform at the Double M Haunted Hayrides Harvest Party September 27 in Ballston Spa, New York, and the Warner Theatre Warner Theatre in Torrington, Connecticut, in December with her band. 

With her heart and her tenacity, this beautiful young spirit will be someone to watch and listen to now and for many years to come.

Follow Madison on YouTube and Facebook and download her new song on iTunes.