A young woman who got her start in music in Bethel earned the right last week to go to “Hollywood Week” on the TV show “American Idol.”

Chandler Leighton, 19, is the daughter of Melissa Arnson, a 1976 graduate of Gould Academy.

In 2003, Arnson returned to Bethel from Los Angeles to work at Gould, and brought her two daughters and son with her. Leighton was in second grade.

“She was in all the school plays at Crescent Park, and all the dance productions with Sue Farrar,” Arnson said.

Leighton attended Crescent Park School from second through fifth grades, before returning to Los Angeles with her family.

In middle school, she participated in school musicals and choir, and in high school, Leighton was active in the choir.

A self-taught guitarist, she’s a freshman at San Francisco State University, majoring in audio production engineering.

She describes herself on her Facebook page as “your local coffee shop singer.”

In an email Friday, Arnson described her daughter’s path over the years that led to “American Idol.”

“She spent five summers at Wyonegonic Camp getting the leads in the summer musicals. She has always loved singing and used YouTube to teach herself the guitar.

“She wanted to be a voice major in college, but I think she realized she didn’t want to sing coffeehouses until she’s 40, so she changed to a career where she could actually get a job when she graduates and still love being in the business of music.

“Chandler has her own YouTube channel and has continued to record and post music through high school. She has recorded with friends in their studio and does beautiful ‘covers’ of songs she loves.

“’Idol’ reached out to her from seeing her singing on her Instagram account, and invited her to audition by means of ‘bypassing’ the mass auditions. She was invited to the San Fran auditions, which was the last stop of a nationwide city audition tour that included New York, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Nashville.

“She earned her spot to go to Hollywood Week by earning the ‘golden ticket’ this week. They actually got a golden ticket if the judges liked them and voted them through,” Arnson wrote.

The first show of Hollywood Week, which features the contestants in recorded video performances, was scheduled to air Feb. 4, Arnson said.

“After Chandler’s audition, she was so excited by the outpouring of support and love,” Arnson said. “She was even getting ‘tweets’ from prior year ‘Idol’ winners and contestants.”

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