American Idol contestant Sam Woolf is returning home without the title, but for Woolf, his vocal coach Del Couch, his grandparents and the rest of the community, Idol was only the beginning.
The Del Couch Music Education Foundation, located at the Manatee School For the Arts and where Woolf gained much of his experience, teaches kids to learn and work on music production, from recording to writing to industry law and technology. This has attracted some big names, such as Feld Entertainment, looking for potential talent. “They’re interested in getting our engineers when they graduate from here, because they will have the knowledge that they need without going to Full Sail or some big university,” Couch said. The Foundation also provides opportunities for aspiring students by setting them up with different scholarships, which is how Woolf entered the televised singing contest.
“Sam found his path to Idol through a summer music scholarship program” at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Couch said. “Berklee recognized him as an extreme talent and arranged for Idol.” Although it is “something that Idol doesn’t want people to know,” Couch revealed that Woolf auditioned privately. Revealing more of the behind the scenes atmosphere, Woolf’s grandmother Jackie Woolf explained, “Everybody was so nice to him. [Fellow contestant] Caleb [Johnson] was just wonderful, he really took Sam under his wing,” and Idol candidates Alex Preston and Dexter Roberts were also very supportive of the young performer.
Woolf’s experience and practice at the Foundation were instrumental in pushing his wow factor beyond the stage and into the studio. “They call him ‘Two-Take,’” Woolf’s grandfather, Roy Woolf, said of his recording sessions. The studio technicians told them that they “have never had anyone from Idol do a song in two takes. That he learned from Del: how to be comfortable in the studio, I think that’s the first part, and that there is nothing to be afraid of; you just exude your talent.”
The effect that Woolf and his accomplishments have had on his peers and the community is profound. Otherwise apathetic students have been inspired to push forward with their own projects and interest in the Foundation has increased. “Sam has brought a big awareness to what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to go about it,” Couch said. While the singer might be returning home without an Idol victory, he is anything but unsuccessful, and the outpouring of encouragement proves that. With pride in his voice, Couch noted, “People talk about it, everyone: the way he brought the community together.”