Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Arts/Entertainment

February 20, 2014

'Idol' homecoming

McQuillen leaves reality show disappointed, but poised for future

When three of Hollywood’s top recording stars talk to you about your voice strengths and weaknesses, you are very grateful for the meeting and take lots of notes.

At least that’s what Andover’s Casey McQuillen did last week.

While the 21-year-old singer-songwriter may have seen her “American Idol” hopes fade after being cut from this season’s reality show competition on Feb. 12, she is feeling buoyed by the opportunity and exposure she gained as a contestant — however short-lived.

McQuillen said she learned a lot from the feedback she received from the “Idol” judges — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and especially Harry Connick Jr. — after she failed to proceed to the next round in the competition.

Before she left the stage, McQuillen said she had a chance to talk to the judges, with Connick providing the best takeaway.

“He told me to attack my music career with vigor ... to put out CDs and to keep singing with my Berklee connections,” said McQuillen, a 2011 Phillips Academy graduate who grew up in town and is now pursuing her education at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“He is so nice, was so supportive and although my singing may not be enough to be the next (”American Idol” megastar) Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, he talked to me about Berklee and getting a music education.”

McQuillen, who made it to the Hollywood round of the competition and was among the final 75 still standing before being sent home, was not alone in getting eliminated from the show last week. She said female singers were hit hardest by the show’s ax.

“You couldn’t tell on what aired, but 15 girls and just three guys were cut. ... The show needs guys,” she said.

While disappointed, McQuillen stayed positive. “It’s been a crazy ride! I told the judges that #AmericanIdol was just a stop for me, not the whole journey, and they agreed,” she immediately posted on Facebook. “The judges were incredibly supportive and complimentary and I left Hollywood feeling better about my career than ever before.”

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