Former Chorus of Westerly singer makes 'Idol' top 13

Erika Van Pelt of South Kingstown, R.I., performs in front of the judges on 'American Idol' Wednesday night. Tonight, she was chosen to fill a 'wild card' spot in the finals by judge Randy Jackson.
Erika Van Pelt of South Kingstown, R.I., performs in front of the judges on "American Idol" Wednesday night. Tonight, she was chosen to fill a 'wild card' spot in the finals by judge Randy Jackson.

Erika Van Pelt — a former member of the Chorus of Westerly — became one of "American Idol's" 13 finalists Thursday night.

Van Pelt grew up in Providence and now lives in South Kingstown, R.I. She sang with the chorus in the late 1990s.

On Thursday's "Idol" results show, she didn't make the top 10, based on the 33 million votes cast by the public. But she was selected by the "Idol" judges to sing for a wild card spot. Her rendition of "Edge of Glory" earned her a place in the final 13, with judge Randy Jackson choosing her as his wild-card pick.

Earlier in the show, Van Pelt earned high praise from Jimmy Iovine, the record executive who's a mentor on "Idol."

He said, "I like this girl. She has music in her blood. It's very, very natural to her. She has great restraint, something this show needs more of, not less. (The show's) judges are asking her to push it — I don't agree. She should stay where she is, she should stay in pocket, and she could go all the way."

On Wednesday night, Van Pelt sang "What About Love." Jackson felt she had a strong "Adele vibe." He said of the 26-year-old who works as a disc jockey, "If this girl deejays half as good as she sings, she's dangerous."

Jennifer Lopez called her "one of our power voices," but also told her to push herself a little more.

On her website, Van Pelt credits her parents with being significant musical influences — her father as an acoustic guitarist and her mother as a Broadway fan. She sang with her sister in their church's children's choir and, at age 7, was given a solo with the adult choir.

She joined South Kingstown High School's vocal jazz ensemble and chorus, and she delved into musical theater.

The website also describes Van Pelt as "a proud member of the Chorus of Westerly." She went on to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and then created her own DJ company. As an independent contractor with Kaleidoscope Kabaret, she has performed at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

k.dorsey@theday.com

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