Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ATM: Jason Castro!

Aggieland could see Castro on Thursday

Jason Castro has an added incentive to perform well Tuesday on American Idol, while local Castro fans have an extra reason to vote for the Texas A&M junior.

If Castro remains after Tuesday's performance and Wednesday's elimination round, the singer and an American Idol production crew will tape a one-hour concert on the steps of the Jack K. Williams Administration Building at the east campus entry at 7 p.m. Thursday.

And A&M officials are inviting everyone to attend.

Aggieland is planning a tradition-filled greeting for the popular Fox television show (Channel 7 on Suddenlink Cable in Bryan-College Station), according to Jason Cook, A&M vice president for marketing and communications.

"This will be an incredible opportunity to showcase Texas A&M for a national television audience of about 33 million viewers," Cook said.

Activities will include a mini yell practice, while a host of campus organizations have been contacted about participating. On hand will be A&M President Elsa Murano, student body president Mark Gold and, of course, the Aggie yell leaders.

"The event continues to evolve and plans are moving quickly," Cook said Monday. "We have started promotion of the event via social networks such as Facebook and already have thousands of people who said they would attend."

A "Vote Jason Home" podcast is available on Texas A&M on iTunes U by clicking Whether the campus efforts will go for nought depends to a large degree on the support Castro gets from voters.

"For all this to happen, Jason will have to perform well and get his share of the 45 million votes that will be cast," Cook said. "We're hoping Aggies will boost his numbers."

Castro is studying construction science at A&M. His hometown is Rockwall.

"The biggest thing about this is that Jason's love for Texas A&M is really coming out," Cook said. "The people at American Idol have heard so many good things about A&M, they want to come and see for themselves."

The show airs live at 7 p.m. Tuesday and 8 p.m. Wednesday. In addition to Castro, the remaining contestants are David Archuleta, David Cook and Syesha Mercado. The host is Ryan Seacrest with judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.

An Aggie-sized following

When Aggie Jason Castro appeared on screen, the room fell silent.

More than 350 people -- mostly Texas A&M students -- gathered at an organized watch party to view American Idol at the Memorial Student Center Flagroom on campus.

"I'll never doubt that he will be the next idol," said Stephanie Baisey, a 44-year-old College Station resident who said she's a friend Castro's mother, Betsy.

While Castro fans will have to wait until Wednesday's 8 p.m. show to learn if the junior construction science major -- who made it into the top five after two months in the competition -- is going to survive another week, maybe the judges' comments Tuesday evening give a hint as to the outcome.

After Castro sang Forever In Blue Jeans on a night in which Neil Diamond songs were the theme, here's what the trio said:

Randy Jackson: "Thought it was 'all right.'"

Paula Abdul: "Your usual charm wasn't there."

Simon Cowell: "Forgettable. You are [one of the] top five contestants. I want to see in here the performance of a lifetime, second time around."

Then came September Morning:

Jackson: "It was just OK."

Abdul: "You need to step outside of your comfort zone."

Cowell: "You didn't make the arrangement your own ... it was forgettable."

Tell that to the 20,000 dreadheads who logged on to his fan forum Monday evening and most likely tuned in Tuesday evening to Fox.

"He will be the first to tell you he shouldn't be on American Idol because he's no professional," said Baisey, who helped A&M organize the watch party. "He's self-taught."

Castro has said on the show that he began singing and playing the guitar during his freshman year at Texas A&M because he was too far from his drumset in his hometown of Rockwall. Eventually, a family member suggested he try out for the hit reality show. That was last summer; he's been on the show since February.

Clayton Bell, 20, a junior industrial engineering major, was sitting in the front row at the event to watch Castro on TV, a friend he met in the Aggie Men's Club three years ago.

"I hope he wins, and I really thinks he has the ability to win," Bell said. "Even if he doesn't win, a record label is bound to sign him, and they'll really be able to cooperate with his sound and style in a way American Idol might not be able to."

Bell, just like Baisey, was wearing a T-shirt with Castro's picture that read, "Join da revolution. Vote him to be da idol."

Tuesday's event on campus wasn't like watching it at home though: Pulled together by Apple Corp., MSC Town Hall, A&M Dining Services, A&M's marketing and communications department and the Aggie Men's Club, they offered free pizza, live music from Imagine Aggie Artists Competition winner Charlie Gore and giveaways that included iTunes gift cards to people who correctly answered Castro trivia.

"His voice is a gift," said Baisey, who like everyone else in the room called in votes a few times for Castro.

'Idol' finalist showed potential even before Texas A&M
By JAMIE STENGLE, Associated Press

When Jason Castro tried out for American Idol, it raised his number of public singing appearances from a handful to a-handful-plus-one.

The soft-spoken 20-year-old Texan with long dreadlocks is padding his singing resume now. As one of 11 contestants still in the running for the Idol title, Castro is winning fans with his laid-back style and musical talent.

Part of a close-knit musical family, Castro has played drums since he was young. While attending Texas A&M, the construction science major decided to try playing the guitar and singing as well.

His aunt, Jennefer Brawley, said her nephew first sang at a family jam session only a couple of years ago. Her reaction was instant: "Oh, Jason. Man, you can sing, too."

Former bandmate Micah Kinard said he was floored when he heard Castro sing on Idol.

"He got so good so fast, it was ridiculous," Kinard said.

"I think he's doing awesome," said Kinard, 22. "He's got his own style and he's sticking with it, and I think that's what's winning over the judges. He's got down solid the whole mellow, chill, heartfelt aspect."

While still in high school, Castro played drums in the Dallas-area band Keeping Lions, which has since broken up. Kinard, who played bass in the band, said while his friend may have more experience drumming in the background, he seems to be enjoying the spotlight.

"He loves it and he's doing good," said Kinard, who is now lead singer in the Fort Worth-based group Oh, Sleeper.

Idol isn't Castro's first brush with reality-show fame. He has also appeared on the MTV show Cheyenne, which followed fellow North Texan Cheyenne Kimball as she pursued her singing career.

But those who know him say he's remained humble and a bit shy.

"Jason's just easygoing," Brawley said.

Art teacher Lynn Wilkinson said that Castro, who graduated from Rowlett High School in 2005, was a good student who had a talent for drawing. She also noticed that he had "an inward confidence in himself."

And while she knew he played drums in a band, she didn't know how talented he was.

"He didn't brag about himself," she said. "It's just something that he did. He's like, 'Yeah, I'm in a band."'

The son of Colombian immigrants, Castro has a younger brother and sister. He grew up in Rowlett, but his family recently moved to nearby Rockwall. In an Idol interview, Castro talked about occasionally working with his father, who designs and builds swimming pools.

Brawley said that when the musically inclined family gathers, musical instruments soon come out.

Wes Hamilton, a teaching pastor at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, said Castro is a popular singer when he performs at the end of services.

"Jason's just an amazing Christian kid," Brawley said.

At Rowlett High School, excitement is building.

"I think they must know him through other kids," said Tiffany Karns, a psychology and sociology teacher at Rowlett High School. "The students are really excited, and there are signs all over the building."

At a recent watch party, many sported black T-shirts featuring "Vote for Jason Castro" in yellow and a drawing of him, head bent over a guitar.

No matter what happens on the Fox network's Idol, Kinard said Castro has everything it takes to make it big.

"He's going to do something great," Kinard said.

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