American Idol will be having their Finale year in 2016 after 15 years on the air. In those 15 years, the Sarasota/Bradenton area has been lucky enough to have two talented finalists in the Fox singing competition. Bradenton’s Sam Woolf placed fifth last year in Season 13.
In 2008, which was Season 7 and when Idol was at the height of popularity, there was hometown SRQ girl Syesha Mercado. Syesha was the lone woman in the top 3 with the two Davids, Cook and Archuleta. Being Top 3 brought American Idol to Sarasota for the hometown visit. Syesha came home to the Ringling Museum grounds and thousands of Sarasota fans came to show America her great hometown’s support. She was given a key to the City and it was proclaimed on May 9, 2008 to be Syesha Mercado Day in Sarasota!
Since her departure from Idol, Syesha has been extremely busy working on Broadway and touring with the “Dreamgirls” National Tour, off-Broadway in “Once Upon an Island,” then appearing in the biggest show on Broadway, “Book of Mormon” as ‘Nabalungi’ in both the New York and Chicago productions.
On Saturday night, the anniversary of Syesha Day in Sarasota, at Ed Smith Stadium, she played to a sold-out crowd with the incredible Sarasota Orchestra. Conducted by Andrew Lane, Syesha sang a mix of contemporary and standards including “At Last”, Adele’s “Skyfall” and “One Rock & Roll Too Many” a song she performed on Idol. Her voice was strong and sweet, ringing out through the Orioles spring training camp for “Orchestra in the Park”. A graduate of Booker High School, there were a collection of hometown friends and family in support of Syesha’s return to Sarasota.
Syesha is currently in the recording studio working on a new album and living in New Jersey but Sarasota will always be home for this American Idol.
Photos by Vicky Sullivan, Rock the Lens Photography