It's not unusual for a high-school choir director to be a little bit nervous about how one of her students performs. But these days, Taylorsville High teacher Leah Tarrant is nervous about how one of her former pupils sounds while performing for 25 million people.
Tarrant said she's anxious every time Megan Joy, who has made it to "American Idol's" top nine, performs on the hit TV show. And more anxious still while waiting to hear what the judges think.
"I always am just a little bit crazy about what they're going to say," Tarrant said. "I watch to see what Simon (Cowell) says, because I usually agree with him. I think it helps Megan because he's not going to sugarcoat things."
More than the judges' verdict, Tarrant said she worries about Megan Joy's performances week after week.
"I get nervous for her since I taught her," Tarrant said. "I want her to do so well every week … and pray she will knock it out of the park. On this big of a stage, it's one slip-up and you're out, so I just pray for her."
When Megan Joy was a senior at Taylorsville High, she selected the name for the school's all-girl singing group. Reaching into Greek mythology, she pulled out "The Graces," who entertained the gods.
Even then, she made an impression. Tarrant said Megan Joy contributed more than just a name to the group.
"It was hard to sell at first," Tarrant said. "But that group just really soared, and she was a big part of that."
She said that Megan Joy was always a consistent and prepared performer who didn't require a lot of guidance, but managed to add to the performances.
"As a performer, she was really good. You wanted to watch her," Tarrant said. "You were drawn to her when she was performing."
Her ability to attract and engage audiences now serves her well on "American Idol." Tarrant said Megan Joy's distinctive singing voice, style and personality have been a real draw for many supporters.
"She's very unique, and I think that's what people are wanting right now," Tarrant said. "There are so many people on there that are the same and she can bring something different."
Last year, when another Utahn, David Archuleta, found "American Idol" fame, Tarrant watched as one of her friends and colleagues drummed up the enthusiasm for the Murray teen. Now she is trying to do the same for her former student, a 23-year-old who now lives in Sandy. (She's dropped her ex-husband's last name, Corkrey, and is now going by her first and middle names.)
"It's been really fun," she said. "We've been trying to hype it up around the school, and I have tons of kids because I teach big classes."
In those classes, Tarant and her students critique Megan Joy's performances — always hoping for the best.
Regardless of what happens, though, Tarrant is proud — and a little in awe — of her former student and what she's done in this competition. And, more than anything, she is excited about what it will mean for Megan Joy's future.
"It was kind of surreal knowing that it was widely known TV," she said. "To know that she was going to be in the box, to know that someone you teach had success like that. I know she's had her issues and I know she loves to sing. And for her to find an out like this is a real blessing and a great opportunity for her little family."
Megan Joy will perform as part of the top nine on "American Idol" tonight at 7 on Ch. 13; the results of this week's fan voting will be announced Wednesday at 8 p.m.
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