The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 28th

UNC Student Takes Next Step To Become Country's New Idol

1 of 200 semifinalists for 2nd "American Idol".

With a passion for singing, Carter worried he never would get a chance to pursue his dream of a music career.

And then the televised singing competition "American Idol" came along.

Carter now is one of 200 semifinalists for the show's second season and will be traveling to Hollywood, Calif., this month for the final round of auditions.

In the show, 60 contestants compete for the status of being the "American Idol." Contestants are judged by famous figures in the music world in person and by the public via phone and e-mail. After the number of contestants is narrowed down to 30, the show airs live until a winner, who will receive a record deal, is chosen.

Carter said he is banned by the show from discussing any details about the show or the final audition, but several friends said Carter is excited about the prospect of competing on the show.

Sophomore Jason Hamlin, Carter's roommate in Chapel Hill this summer, said Carter has wanted to be on "American Idol" since the show's creation.

"He would stay up late at night looking up pictures on the Web site and finding out different stuff about the people," Hamlin said.

Upon finding out about the open audition in Atlanta in October for the show, Carter convinced Hamlin and two other friends to join him in auditioning.

"Justin was the one who said we needed to get there early," Hamlin said. "He would have been really upset if he missed the chance to audition."

The boys spent close to 48 hours outside on the street in the rain and cold, waiting for ticket and bracelet distribution to guarantee an auditioning spot.

Because reporters came for interviews spontaneously, Carter and his friends had to look their best at all times. Photographers bombarded them at all hours of the night. By the time Sunday morning came, Carter had lost his voice.

"Everyone in line was so nice to Justin, trying to tell him quick remedies to get it back," Hamlin said.

Though Carter did not get his voice back fully, he went on to perform Aretha Franklin's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" for the judges. When he was not called to audition again, Carter did not let this get him down. Instead, he headed to another open audition in Nashville in November. This time, he knew what to do.

After Carter auditioned in a group of several people, the panel of judges announced who they wanted back, and Carter was not on their list. As Carter walked away, one of the "American Idol" producers stopped him.

Shannon Byrne, a graduate student and a member of Tar Heel Voices with Carter, said the producer was impressed with Carter's talents.

"The producer was hunting him down to let him know that he wanted him back," Byrne said.

Carter auditioned once more for famous judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, and he made the cut. While being filmed, Carter called Byrne immediately after he found out.

"It was a lot of laughing and tears and a very emotional moment," Byrne said.

Carter will fly to Hollywood on Dec. 9 for the weekend in hopes of making the final cut.

"It's going to be an insane weekend, much more rigorous than before," Byrne said.

After going over the "American Idol" material to prep for the final audition, Byrne said, Carter's friends believe he will be put on the spot to choreograph and to sing songs.

At the end of the weekend, only 60 people will remain, but Hamlin said he has faith in Carter. "He has the drive for it," he said. "He'll do what he has to do to make it through."

Sophomore Mark McCurry, a close friend of Carter's since C-TOPS, said Carter is not the type to give up.

"He'll give it his all, and if he doesn't come out on top, then he'll be close to it."

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