The setting: Phoenix. The scene: American Idol, season eight, the momentous singing competition that makes or breaks the dreams of young, hopeful talent. Tonight’s two-hour premiere was well worth watching to the very end, when 23-year old Scott McIntyre auditioned for the judges. McIntyre has been blind from birth. Sporting a ‘Mind the Gap’ t-shirt (a nod to London’s famous ‘tube’ system) that he thought Simon Cowell would appreciate, McIntyre won the judges over with his rendition of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes. Because of my hearing impairment, I rely on my boyfriend to tell me whether each contestant has a good voice. “Is he good? Can she sing?,” I ask during each performance. I had my fingers crossed for McIntyre. “He’s pretty good,” my boyfriend replied, somewhat tentatively. When the song finished, I sat up straight in my seat. I had seen contestants with disabilities compete on Idol and other programs before, without success. But I knew the judges saw pure talent in McIntyre, who is also a pianist and songwriter. The final outcome: Four ‘Yes’-es from the judges, and Paula Abdul told him she especially liked his “softer tones.” I started to tear up, thankful that the judges saw McIntyre’s talent (in addition to, or instead of, his disability), his sheer determination, and the guts it took for him to audition without his ‘security blanket,’ — his piano. The media has called McIntyre’s voice “soulful” and “like Coldplay.” I personally can’t decipher musical styles nor pitch, but I am delighted for him. Idol’s producers may have made Americans wait two hours for this beautiful performance, but it was not in vain. Good luck to you, Scott. May others with disabilities (and talent) aspire to go forth as bravely as you have.
12/14 UPDATE: I want to comment on the blogsphere’s ridicule of Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who tried to give McIntyre a high-five after the audition. McIntyre, who has said he has tunnel-like vision that allows him to only see “one [piano] key at a time,” missed Seacreast’s gesture. Now Idol watchers are making fun of Seacreast, which is wrong. The only way to learn how to communicate appropriately with a blind person is to either ask, or try. I bet most of these Idol fans have never tried — they should take a field trip to Lighthouse International and learn the etiquette. I applaud Ryan for treating McIntyre like everyone else, and for grabbing his hand and continuing through with the motion after realizing his ‘mistake.’