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Shining star: Kayla Mickelsen stays busy in Kane County as next 'American Idol' appearances loom

GENEVA – Maybe you saw Kayla Mickelsen on stage during the 2013 Geneva’s Got Talent competition during Swedish Days.

Over the years, you might have watched her perform with the Geneva High School jazz choir or varsity choir. She also was on stage in three school musicals.

Perhaps you saw her national TV debut earlier this month, earning her golden ticket to Hollywood on “American Idol.” Mickelsen, an 18-year-old senior at the high school, can be expected to get significant TV time over the next two weeks, as Hollywood week footage airs on the Fox TV show. This week, there will be a one-hour episode on Wednesday and a two-hour episode on Thursday. Both will start at 7 p.m.

Mickelsen cannot reveal how she fared during Hollywood week, but she can say that the experience was “very intense.” A group of 24 will make it out of Hollywood to the next round.

“You don’t get a lot of sleep at all,” she said, adding that viewers “could probably expect to see a few tears, out of lack of sleep or whatever.”

Whatever the result, Mickelsen is excited about her musical future and enthused about her life in Geneva. She created headlines by describing herself as an “ice cream scooper,” referring to her work at Graham’s Chocolates. She also works at Nobel House in Geneva, where she said the plan is for her to start performing live music. She hopes to attend Belmont University in Nashville, where she intends to study commercial voice and learn about writing songs.

She said she appreciates the support of the community and her family. Her father, Kraig, accompanied her to San Francisco for her “American Idol” audition. Previously, she auditioned twice for “The Voice,” but she said she never was able to advance far enough to be seen by the celebrity judges. And while she said she never really saw herself as a competitor on “Idol” – she said she doesn’t see herself as a pop star – she did dream of it.

“I always sang,” she said. “I would always make my friends do fake ‘American Idol’ in the basement with the karaoke machine.”

Andrew Bordoni is Mickelsen’s guitar teacher, and he said she is a quick learner. She started taking lessons two years ago, and Bordoni said she has “really grown a lot as a guitarist.” She credits her piano background for helping her learn guitar. She also teaches private piano lessons.

Bordoni said he knew she had auditioned for “American Idol,” but he had no idea how she fared.

“As soon as she showed up on the screen, and I saw her with the guitar, I literally jumped out of my seat,” Bordoni said.

He said he was impressed with what he saw.

“She was doing her performance, and she owned it like she had been doing it for 20 years,” said Bordoni, who called her “really, really talented” and creative.

Grace Chorneyko and Mickelsen say they are best friends. Chorneyko said they met while working at Graham’s. Chorneyko, from Batavia, now goes to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. When her best friend headed to Hollywood, Chorneyko was there to watch her.

“She’s never been shy with singing,” Chorneyko said. “She loves to perform. She has a music room in her house, and she likes to sing and practice.”

Chorneyko recalls a day at Graham’s, when Mickelsen got out her guitar and starting singing for her while they were doing homework. Chorneyko said she was a bit teary-eyed watching her friend on “American Idol.”

Erin Novotny met Mickelsen when they were both in middle school. She said they were in choirs together, and – at one point – out of the blue, Mickelsen sent her a Facebook message, asking her to do a duet at a party. Since then, their friendship has grown. Novotny said they also work together at Graham’s. She was at a viewing party Mickelsen hosted for her first “American Idol” appearance. Novotny said she is excited for her friend.

“She was not afraid to express herself,” Novotny said. “She has her own fashion sense. … She’s very confident. It’s a good thing. She’s always been that way.”

Novotny said she is happy that Mickelsen is seizing her opportunity and making local appearances. Mickelsen was invited to join “The Voice” finalist Jeffery Austin on stage at his recent show at The Arcada in St. Charles, but a travel snag prevented that. Nonetheless, she can look forward to playing at Nobel House, and she said she has performed the national anthem at her brother’s football games.

“People in the Tri-Cities have found out who she is,” Novotny said. “It’s such a big deal.”

Know more
“American Idol” Hollywood week footage is set to air four times in the next two weeks on Fox.
• A one-hour episode at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
• A two-hour episode at 7 p.m. Thursday.
• A one-hour episode at 7 p.m. Feb. 3.
• A two-hour episode at 7 p.m. Feb. 4.

On the Web

Visit to view a video of Kayla Mickelsen.

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