Beckham runner-up

Lee graduate still an ‘American Idol’ in eyes of Cleveland, university community

By LARRY C. BOWERS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 5/14/15

Clark Beckham’s climb to the top of the “American Idol” ladder fell one rung short

Wednesday night as the popular show’s 14th season came to an end.

The final vote totals, from Tuesday …

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Beckham runner-up

Lee graduate still an ‘American Idol’ in eyes of Cleveland, university community

Posted

Clark Beckham’s climb to the top of the “American Idol” ladder fell one rung short

Wednesday night as the popular show’s 14th season came to an end.

The final vote totals, from Tuesday night’s performances, dropped the Lee University graduate into second place.

The 2015 “Idol” winner is Connecticut’s Nick Fradiani. Fradiani eliminated Beckham in what was called a very slim margin.

Tuesday night’s entertainment, which determined the final vote, is being referred to as perhaps the greatest ever in “American Idol” competition. Beckham and Fradiani were judged near-perfect on each of their three songs.

Beckham was gracious as the moment of truth approached Wednesday.

“I can’t think of anyone I would rather be up here with,” he said.

Fradiani then echoed the comments.

Beckham also showed he was ready for the decision, whatever it was to be.

“I think we’ve done our best, and I trust in the Lord,” Beckham said. “I’ll go wherever he wants me to.”

Fradiani described what the final night meant to the finalists.

“We both really want it,” he said.

Beckham spoke up to describe his strategy during the competition. He had been criticized throughout for not adapting to advice from the judges, and “American Idol” mentor Scott Borchetta.

“I played and sang the way I wanted to, and I gave it my best,” he said.

Wednesday night was not an evening of competition, but an evening of musical entertainment. Most of the recent eliminations returned to be matched up with noted entertainers, many of them joining their idols in the industry.

Jax Cole, who was eliminated at the start of Tuesday night’s competition, performed with one of her idols, Steve Tyler. Cole also apologized for her abrupt departure Tuesday night, after her elimination was announced.

In Wednesday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, it was incorrectly stated Jax had advanced to the final. In reality, she was eliminated. Beckham played a duet with Michael McDonald Wednesday night, while Fradiani joined Andy Grammer on stage.

Judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. were not privy to the name of the winner, until the last-minute announcement. Urban felt Fradiani would win by a very close vote, while Lopez picked Beckham.

Each of the two finalists selected a mentor who has meant the most to them in the progression of their music.

Beckham selected Pastor Jim Phillips, Lee University Choir director, while Fradiani picked a member of his band.

Both mentors were recognized, and were then presented with a new Ford Focus by the Ford Motor Company. Ford then presented the two finalists with new vehicles as well.

Fradiani earns an extensive recording contract, and will be heading to Nashville with Idol mentor Borchetta to get his career under way.

With his success in this year’s competition, opportunities will be numerous for Beckham. Past seasons of “American Idol” have had runners-up and others move on to successful careers in music and acting.

The final five competitors will be launching the 2015 American Idol Tour. It opens in Clearwater, Fla., and will make stops in 36 cities in 21 states this summer. The tour will be coming to Nashville, the latest home for Beckham.

The five tour members are Fradiani, Beckham, Cole, Rayvon Owen and Joey Cook.

Other competitors, previously eliminated, came back to the stage Wednesday.

Tyanna Jones performed with the Jacksons, Joey Cook joined Sister Sledge and later hooked up with Ethel Smith and Echosmith. Rayvon Owen played a duet with Jamie Foxx.

Other entertainers included Ricky Martin, Adonna and Janelle Monae, New Kids on the Block, and Riptide.

Former Idols had words for the finalists. Kelly Clarkson, winner in the very first season, said, “I know about the suspense, but have a good time with it.” Chris Daughtry, the winner in season five, said, “Relax, breathe it in.”

The three judges also got in the act. Lopez performed with Prince Royce and Pit Bull. She later was accompanied by Urban and Connick.

There were some references during the evening to next year’s 15th and final series of the nationwide talent search. Fox Network announced earlier in the week that it will discontinue the event after 2016.

Auditions have already begun for next year’s competition.

Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn is elated with Beckham’s success on “Idol.”

"Clark Beckham's success is a big boost for Lee's name recognition all across the country — not just because he got all the way to the runner-up spot, but more importantly because of the way he handled himself with such poise and character.

“It was clear that he knows who he is, musically and in the larger issues of life,” Conn continued. “I think he's a great example of what Lee University students are overall — great talent combined with great character.”

Conn has already communicated with Beckham.

"I got a personal email from Clark this morning,” Conn said. “He was on his way to an early morning post-finale press interview, and he just emailed me to say ‘thanks’ for all the support from Lee. He said he is eager to get back to campus to see all of us. It's obvious that Lee is important to Clark, and the feeling is mutual."

Beckham’s success and exposure will benefit Lee University in the big picture, the president believes.

"Yes, of course, we will find ways to utilize Clark's new fame to spread the word about Lee University,” Conn continued. “When you get a young man so wholesome, who is so obviously very high on his alma mater, singing in front of 11 million people on television week after week, that has to be a boost for our image around the country. We will find ways to make sure prospective students and their families make that connection."

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said this morning he was disappointed with Wednesday night’s outcome.

“We were pulling hard for Clark,” he said. “His performance shows the impact Lee University, and its students, have on Cleveland.”

Rowland also pointed out that Beckham is not the first (Lee student) who has had success on “American Idol.” He also noted the recognition of Lee’s music program and Wednesday’s involvement of Phillips.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis is just as enthused over the local connection.

“We would like to congratulate Clark Beckham for representing not only Lee University, but also the city of Cleveland and Bradley County, with class and character value,” Davis said.

He added, “I’m sure we will see him on the national stage for years to come.”

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