Meet Turlock’s newest ‘American Idol’ contestant. How she got on the show, and what’s next

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People around the world may not know where Turlock, California is, but “American Idol” viewers now have heard the city’s name at least twice as another Central Valley native has heard “yes” from enough judges to make it on the show.

Pitman High graduate Sarah Snyder, 27, impressed pop star Katy Perry, singer-songwriter Lionel Richie and country singer Luke Bryan enough to get the “golden ticket” to Hollywood and also make it through to the showstopper performance round. The showstopper’s first part aired Easter Sunday, and part two is Monday.

“I didn’t ever feel like I had it in the bag and was very aware every time I stepped on that stage that it could be my last,” Snyder said.

Here’s Snyder’s journey on the show so far, including her background in the Central Valley, her audition process and what’s next.

Journey to Hollywood

Snyder was connected with an “American Idol” casting director through a friend and former “Idol” contestant Ryan Hammond in October.

Auditions in Las Vegas and New Orleans had passed by the time Snyder started the process in November, and she said she likely auditioned during the last week the show was considering anyone for the season.

Snyder said her dad, who taught himself how to play bass guitar at 50 years old, was a huge inspiration for her going on the show. Snyder lost her dad in July 2021.

“I just remember thinking initially, I didn’t know if I wanted to do it,” Snyder said. “I kind of had a moment where I was like, you know, my dad was able to do it and he was older than maybe he thought that he should be to start something like this.”

After a Zoom audition with the casting director and then the show’s executive director, Snyder was sent to Nashville to perform in front of the three celebrity judges.

She said going into the audition was the most nervous she’s ever been, so she tried to offset those feelings with excitement.

“One of Lionel Richie’s comments was actually, ‘I don’t think you ever need to drink coffee again,’” Snyder said. “It’s funny because I had had no coffee that day.”

After almost a week of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. days waiting to perform in front of the judges, her voice was shot by the time she got to her audition day, Snyder said.

She said she would go into the bathroom to get off camera and practice her song, but she felt like she wasn’t able to access the upper register of her voice. But it was too late to turn around, she said.

“There were certain notes at the top of it that I was just like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth,’” Snyder said. “I could very well get up there for them right now and it could be a train wreck.”

In front of judges Richie, Perry and Bryan, Snyder sang her original song “Wildflower,” which appropriately is about encouragement.

Snyder said when she felt intimidated before her audition, she reminded herself of the song’s lyrics, which told her what she needed to hear in that moment.

“Hearing Lionel Richie say, ‘From the moment you opened your mouth, that first note you had, I could just hear that there was something special,’ was such a surreal moment,” Snyder said. “I also think that I screamed, and looking back, I’m like, that was probably so embarrassing.”

What’s next for Sarah Snyder?

After securing her golden ticket to Hollywood, Snyder had to make it through two rigorous challenges.

Part one of Hollywood week was a performance challenge, where Snyder had to choose one area she wanted to work on and improve, such as songwriting, confidence or stage presence.

Snyder chose to work on stage presence, and she was mentored in a one-on-one session by season six “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks.

After getting another vote of approval from the three judges in the first challenge, Snyder moved onto the second portion of Hollywood week, where she and a partner had to perform a duet.

“After that first challenge, my emotions were so heightened, probably from a combination of stress over the results and also pure exhaustion,” Snyder said. “Those performance days are often 16-hour days, and it really is a crash course in how fast-paced the entertainment industry can be.”

Snyder partnered with contestant Avery Logan to sing “As It Was,” by Harry Styles. Snyder said she got the news that she would be advancing to the showstopper round, but her partner was eliminated.

“It was a really bittersweet moment,” Snyder said. “I was grateful to have gotten through, but I was also disappointed for my friend and processing hearing some criticism from the judges for the first time.”

The showstopper performances, which began airing Sunday night, are the first time in the competition where contestants sing with a full band. From there, 24 contestants will be chosen to move on to live performances.

Turlock resident Sarah Snyder auditioned for American Idol in front of three celebrity judges. Snyder’s next stop is the showstopper performance airing Sunday and Monday.
Turlock resident Sarah Snyder auditioned for American Idol in front of three celebrity judges. Snyder’s next stop is the showstopper performance airing Sunday and Monday.

Growing up in the Central Valley

Born at Memorial Hospital in Modesto, Snyder was raised in Turlock by parents who taught in the Ceres Unified School District for more than 30 years.

Snyder started performing with Denair Gaslight Theater when she was around 7 years old. Her parents, along with other local families, started Turlock Youth Performing Arts a few years later, where she performed until she was a senior in high school and later joined the board of directors.

Over the past decade, Snyder has focused on leading worship at Soul Harvest Worship Center in Modesto.

She has taught voice lessons and continues to write music.

“There isn’t possibly a word that can encompass what this whole experience (has been),” Snyder said. “I got such a new sense of appreciation even for my upbringing and for growing up in the Central Valley. We really have such a thriving arts culture in the city of Turlock and in Modesto.”