PLATTSBURGH - He came, he saw, and though he didn't conquer, he couldn't be happier.
Benjamin Bright has been back for weeks from his stint on American Idol, cloaked in secrecy as to whether or not he would be advancing in Fox's popular televised singing competition. Bright was restricted from discussing his involvement in the show until it was learned last week that the 25-year-old Plattsburgh resident and Rome native was out of the running to be the next American Idol.
However, now that he's able to talk about his experience, he's got nothing but good things to say.
In an interview with Bright last week following the premiere of American Idol's "Hollywood Week," the Cumberland Head Elementary music teacher talked about how he first auditioned for the show last June in Boston, Mass. Bright had performed in "Cumberland Head Idol," part of a character education assembly hosted by the school, which left his students and fellow teachers asking if he had ever thought about trying out for American Idol.
"I really hadn't at that point," said Bright. "I mean, I had watched the show and had even daydreamed about being up on stage and performing, but never thought about going up against thousands and thousands of contestants."
But, he did. Bright was among approximately 9,000 people to audition at Gillette Stadium, standing in the rain for hours for a chance to sing for American Idol producers.
"It was kind of daunting," said Bright. "I knew that it was flying by the seat of my pants, kind of on a whim, but I was just going to perform to the best of my ability and hope for the best. I was just going to go there and give it my all."
After singing four songs, the producers liked his "all," and Bright advanced on to audition in front of the celebrity panel of judges - Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Victoria Beckham.
"I remember being nervous - extremely nervous," said Bright. "I remember I kept thinking, 'I hope they like me. I hope they like me.'"
When he entered the room and received a warm welcome from the judges, however, Bright said his nerves subsided as he sang his rendition of The Beatles "All My Loving."
"Just to have them listen to me for that minute-and-a-half of time and giving me their input on my voice was awesome," said Bright. "And, for them to send me through was just validation for me honing my craft of singing my whole life. It was me taking a sigh of relief and saying, 'Hey, I actually can sing.'"
When he went on to Hollywood last month, everything happened so fast, said Bright. While it only boiled down to a matter of days that he was there, Bright said there was such strong competition from such "extremely talented musicians," he wasn't totally surprised he didn't advance.
"They were sending a lot of good singers home," said Bright. "And, everyone there could sing and everyone there had an interesting story."
Even though Bright didn't make it through to the end of the competition, he doesn't see his Idol experience coming to a close as a disappointment.
"I'm looking at it as it was a wonderful experience," said Bright. "American Idol is not the end-all. I'm still very fortunate in my life to have had the experiences I've had, and to be teaching in a wonderful school with such support from my students."
Bright's students, he said, have been supportive from the get-go. They've been so supportive, in fact, that he's had to reassure them it's all right that he's not the next American Idol.
"I don't think they realize how happy I am and how grateful I am to even be here at the school, to even have gone to college to get a degree to get a job at such a good school," said Bright. "That's an accomplishment in itself. So, for me to say that I'm unhappy not to succeed at Idol, would be selfish, considering how wonderful my life is here in Plattsburgh."
What does the future hold for Bright? Well, for now, Bright said he plans to continue educating students by day and performing regularly by night at Olive Ridley's and Irises Caf and Wine Bar.
"Even though I'm a happy hour performer, I'm glad I can provide that for people," said Bright. "I can go to my classroom and inspire kids and then come out and just provide a great atmosphere for people. That makes me happy."
(Editor's Note: Check out Bright's music on-line at www.youtube.com/brightbenjamin. Fans can also keep track of his performances by following him on Facebook page by searching for "Benjamin Bright - The Fan Page.")