APU’s “American Idol” Contestant Melanie Tierce Inspires

by Rachel White

As APU student Melanie Tierce ’17 began to sing, Harry Connick Jr., got up from the judges’ table and pronounced, “I’m done. It’s a ‘Yes!’ from me!” Then Jennifer Lopez said, “I have goosies,” and Keith Urban began to cry. Through it all, like the consummate performer she is, Tierce continued singing. Her heartfelt “American Idol” audition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” earned Tierce a golden ticket and these impressive words from Connick Jr.,“Best audition I’ve heard in three years as a judge.”

“It was surreal being there. Yet, I couldn’t let the pressure of the moment sway my focus,” said Tierce. “I felt inspired to use that incredible opportunity to carry a message of hope to whoever needed to hear it.” She describes the lyrics of “Rise Up” as raw and personal: “You’re broken down and tired of living life on a merry go round. When the silence isn't quiet, and it feels like it's getting hard to breathe, and I know you feel like dying, but I promise we'll take the world to it's feet. I'll rise up. I'll rise like the day. I'll rise unafraid.’”

The song is Tierce’s anthem. “I’ve dealt with seasons of severe anxiety,” she said. “The Lord has walked me through a process of healing and restoration.”

“I am now in a place where I want to share who I am, to be vulnerable. I believe that if God has given me a voice, He has given me a song to sing.”

Singing that song for an audience of millions during the 15,th and final season of “American Idol” would never have happened if it weren’t for her biggest fan. “My sister, Kamie, submitted a video of me to the show. I had no idea. She surprised me with the news that the producers of “American Idol” wanted to see me. So next thing I know, I’m on Skype singing and playing my guitar for them on my 21st birthday.”

An invitation to San Francisco to perform in front of the celebrity judges followed. With the fall semester just getting underway and yearlong commitments to University Choir and Orchestra and the chapel worship team, Tierce hesitated. “I take my responsibilities seriously,” she said. “I didn’t want to let anyone down.” So she sought the advise of her family, friends, and APU mentors, all of whom reminded her that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The worship music major took a leap of faith, fully aware that there were no guarantees. “I knew God was in control, and I had to be okay with the outcome.” With praise from the judges and a golden ticket in hand, Tierce joined fellow APU student and Christian ministry major Jessica Cabral in Hollywood and the two shared their excitement and nerves about the process ahead. “The anticipation was intense,” said Tierce who soon found herself called to the Dolby Theatre stage with nine other performers. “I was in the first group on the first day of Hollywood Week. I sang ‘Invincible’ by Kelly Clarkson and played my guitar.”

“The judges had prepared us earlier in the day,” she said. “We knew that half of us would be going home.” Still, when Tierce received the news that she had been cut, a wave of disappointment and hurt washed over her. “It was jarring to have a door close that suddenly,” she said. “I had to walk through that rejection and come to terms with it.”

Tierce returned to college and immersed herself in her classes, activities, and her music, including a reenergized focus on song writing, grateful for her supportive university community. “APU has been a place of such growth and transformation for me,” she said. “I’m learning what it means to be faithful. God recently gave me this verse, Psalms 37:4: ‘Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.’ I’m not missing out on anything. I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I’m at peace.”

Rachel White is the associate director of public relations in the Office of University Relations at APU. rewhite@apu.edu