Two Philadelphia Musicians Get Their Shot at Stardom on American Idol

Fans Rejoice as They Get Ready for Season 16 of  American Idol on Sunday, March 11 on ABC

Dennis Lorenzo and Catie Turner wake up every morning and pinch themselves as they are getting more than their fifteen minutes of fame.

The two Philadelphia-area musicians found their “golden ticket” by mustering up their nerve to audition in front of the all-star judges for American Idol, and being selected for the premiere episode.

Now starting its 16th season, the music competition television series, will make its two-hour debut on ABC on Sunday, March 11, at 8 p.m. [ET].

Eager fans of the series are relieved that it returned after ending its first run on Fox on April 7, 2016. Despite leaving the airwaves, the show, based on the British series Pop Idol, quickly became one of the most successful shows in the history of American television.

American Idol, the iconic series that revolutionized the television landscape by pioneering the music competition genre, will return to the airwaves at its new home on ABC-TV

American Idol employs a panel of judges who critique the performances of the contestants. The current judges are music industry forces and superstars: Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. Emmy-Award-winning host and producer Ryan Seacrest will return as host of the beloved series.

The concept of the series involves discovering recording stars from unsigned singing talents, with the winner determined by the viewers through telephones, Internet, and SMS text voting.

The success of American Idol has been described as “unparalleled in broadcasting history.”  It became a recognized springboard for launching the career of many artists as bona fide stars.

According to Billboard magazine, in its first 10 years, American Idol spawned 345 Billboard chart-topper and a platoon of pop idols, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks, while remaining a TV ratings juggernaut.

While watching the recent television promos for the revival season both Lorenzo and Turner are finding it difficult to reconcile just how much their lives are about to change. While they are unable to reveal how well they did on the show, their enthusiasm for their American Idol experience is more than contagious.

At age 26, Dennis Lorenzo, from Philadelphia, started playing music at age 15. His inspiration came from his father, who died when he was five years old.

The following are exclusive interviews with American Idol contestants Dennis Lorenzo and Catie Turner about their journey to auditioning in front of music royalty and their hopes and dreams for their future music careers.


Losing a parent at such a young age must have had a major impact on your life. Please tell me about that.

DENNIS LORENZO: When it happened, I didn’t understand what was going on, what happened and why certain things happen to you. He was killed by a good friend who was like a brother.

I cannot image what that must have been like.

DL: It was rough growing up in the hood. But I picked up a guitar that my grandparents gave me, and my mom encouraged it. I started strumming in my teens and I haven’t looked back since.

Please tell me more about your difficult journey.

DL: At age 19, after high school, I moved to Atlanta, and I was sleeping on people’s couches and floors. I was homeless. I lived in cars, tents and even storage units. Then I went to Los Angeles, and got a job producing music. It was a really rough time. At one point I lost my voice for two months. It has been a wild ride!

I bet — but things changed for you.

DL: Yes. I met my wife, had my daughter and persevered.

So, I have to ask, what kept you going during the tough times?

DL: My family has always been supportive of me. My mom made sure I wouldn’t give up. I would call her and say ‘I want to come back home.’ But she told me to keep pushing and following my heart and my passion.

Now that you are days away from appearing on American Idol, how does that feel?

DL: It’s a dream that I know some people never attain. So, I am so humble, grateful and thankful to be in this position.

Was there someone, or something that inspired you during your journey?

DL: I am a huge reader, I read a lot of books – including those by Stephen Covey and Elon Musk, so just hearing other people’s success stories kept me grounded.

Is there a message you learned that you want to share with others?

DL: Yes. I know not everyone is homeless when they reach their dreams and success, but a lot of people give up along the way. Sometimes you feel hopeless; it’s like a revolving door and people don’t realize there is a place you can go on the other side.

How important has your family been with your climb to American Idol and how are they feeling now?

DL: Most of my family is in Philadelphia and they have always been in my corner.

How did you feel during your American Idol audition, which took place in November, 2017?

DL: Oh man; it was riveting. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m in Hollywood. Producers getting me ready to sing for Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Ritchie. This is a thing that is actually happening. I kept pinching myself. When I got in front in front of them it struck me that this could change my life.

What did you sing?

DL: The song Unaware by Alan Stone.

Why did you pick it?

DL: To be honest, it kind of aligns with the way I feel about the world.

How so?

DL:  I want to be a voice for people who know they have nothing and want more. As a bit of side hustle, I was a vocal coach to help other people out. I started sharing what I knew because I know how tough it is and I wanted to give back. I don’t think this is something you can do without giving back.

You feel strongly that everyone should have their shot.

DL: Absolutely. Some people’s families are extremely rich and they can’t do what they dream of because they don’t have that needed support. There are many reasons why a lot of us can’t reach our dreams. It’s about having the faith – I am a huge fan of Elon Musk and I want to go to space one day. This journey is helping me do that.

I know there is a lot you can’t reveal, but the judges asking you questions after the song tell me what you can share.

DL: After singing my song, I actually teared up, which doesn’t happen to me too often. All of these emotions got the best of me. I am looking at the three judges in the face, and these are the same artists I idolized as a child. Looking at them, you can only image what I was feeling.  These are big-time people here. It’s a big deal. I would say that whole thing was quite an experience.

How else can you describe it?

DL: The whole experience overall was riveting – like electricity. When I got my comments from the judges it was almost like an out-of-body experience.

What’s next for you?

DL: The future is follow the exposure from American Idol. What we do know for sure is that I will be on TV on March 11. Hopefully, some people in the business will see me and enjoy what they see. I hope this leads to someone in the business believing in me and that one day I can be a top 40 artist.

How would you describe your style? What are your musical influences?

DL: I walk around with my acoustic guitar.  I grew up listening to a lot of different  kinds of music – rock and soul music, including Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and many others.  At age 17 or 18, I mashed those two worlds together for a grungy soulful folk, with some pop and acoustic guitar.

When you see the promo add do you re-live the moments?

DL: My wife made me watch the promo I was in the first time and I was like ‘wow, I am on TV.’ But it didn’t really sink in. Then it was on YouTube and the number of people calling was crazy. Every time I see myself on TV it evokes that initial feelings and I get excited all over again. People say I have to play it cool, but I disagree. It is super awesome every time I see it.

Has it been difficult not being able to tell you family and friends the outcome of your American Idol audition?

DL: I know that I have to play by the rules. I believe you have to be your biggest fan and you have to cheer yourself on, because I promise you, if you don’t do that, no one else will. It’s not advice just for a musician, it’s for everyone — doctors, lawyers, business people., and everyone else.

You have a young daughter. Does she enjoy your music?

DL: My daughter, Aliyah, is15 months old and she loves music. I started off drumming when I was really young and I would drum on my legs a lot. She takes after me by banging on everything. So, we drum together for 20 minutes at a time, She loves to scream and try to sing notes.

What life lessons do you want to pass on to your young daughter when she is older?

DL: I have strong faith and belief. One thing I want to pass on to my daughter is never stop dreaming. When people say you are dreaming too much, if you feel that drive and burning to accomplish something, then it’s about doing everything you can to put it into action. Put your best foot forward. You have to decide what kind of person you want to be, and make sure that when you make choices, you are decisive about it. I believe that people in positions of power, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, don’t sit on things too long. If you wait too long, you may lose the opportunity. The decision is the key, and then make sure you have a strong base in a loving family. Having the support from my wife, Tilly, is major for me. I also have friends who came out to L.A. with me who are my brothers.

For an example of Dennis’ music click here: 


Eighteen-year-old Catie Turner, of Philadelphia’s suburb of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, started performing in small productions in high school and graduated to talent shows just a few years ago. Her first time in front of a crowd she got her guitar and “just busted out” an old-time Jonas Brothers’ song.

Your American Idol experience happened when you were 17 years old.  Tell me about your journey.

CT:  I have always been in love with American idol, and my mom and I watched it ever since I was really little. It was our favorite show. I was so upset when they cancelled it. When she found out that the show was coming back on for its 16th Season, my mom booked me a flight for an open call audition in Orlando and hoped for the best. I am literally still pinching myself.

Do you still spend time in Langhorne, PA?

CT: I grew up in Langhorne, but now I live in an apartment building across from the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Tell me what it was like singing for the judges.

CT: I really can’t put it in words. It is really something you can’t explain or conjure up. It feels like your biggest and best dream. The judges look at you with so much attention and you can tell they are really looking for the next star, and it was amazing trying to be a part of all of that.

How did you feel about auditioning for Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie?

CT: When I was younger Katy had all of the significant songs for me. I would listen to her songs on repeat, so singing in front of one of my childhood heroes was a lot of pressure on me, as well as a lot of fun. My mom loves Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan is amazing, as well.

What are you hoping for your future?

CT: I want to be a performer and I know that American Idol is helping with that. Everything clicked while I was auditioning. One day, I want to be in one of those seats where the judges are sitting. I want to be scouting new talent. It kind of made me realize that’s what I really want to do.

What advice do you have for children, teens adults – performing, theater, film and music?

CT: It sounds cliché, but always get back on your feet when you fall. I was at the open call in 2015 of American idol and I was devastated when I didn’t make it. I got the opportunity to try again and then I got the opportunity to perform in front of the celebrity judges. If I never just tried again where would I be? Rejection just makes the success so much sweeter. When You do have success it’s incredible.

What kind of music do you perform?

CT: I play all types of music. I like a jazzy style and alternative music.

What did you perform for the celebrity judges?

CT: I played Hit Me Baby One More Time from Britney Spears and an original song called the 21st Century Machine.

What kind of music do you listen to?

CT: Everting. Rap, country, alternative and folk. You name it and I listen to it.

What is happening in your life now?

CT: I am waiting for the premiere of American Idol, and just chilling with my family and friends and counting down the days.

Has it been difficult not to be able to share the outcome of your audition?

CT: Yes, because I want to scream to the world this happened or this didn’t happen. but I have gotten good at saying – tune in.

When you are not working do you have any hobbies?

CT: I write music. Play my guitar and I watch a lot of Netflix. My favorite guilty pleasure to stream is Black Mirror, it’s such a great Netflix show. I also enjoy Game of Thrones.

Do you have favorite recent movies?

CT: I loved Wonder Woman so much because she was the first female super hero who was a good super hero. When I was a little girl I would have loved having a woman on my screen like her, because it would have empowered me so much.  I also want to see Black Panther.

What was your reaction from friends and family that you were picked to audition?

CT: Honestly, the reaction was a great deal of shock that I got this opportunity, because it doesn’t happen often in my family. I am the first.

So, what got you here?

CT: Beside the music, I think my personality kind of got me to where I am. I truly have a love of life and was so happy to be here doing this. I have a natural love for singing and what I am doing, and I hope it carried through to my music.

American Idol Season 16 premieres on ABC on Sunday, March 11, at 8-10 p.m. (ET). For further information go to:

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