Five-Week's Skylar Laine Makes American Idol Top Five

Lesley Mahoney
May 10, 2012
Skylar Laine says Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program prepared her for the <i>American Idol</i> competition.
Photo courtesy of Michael Becker/Fox

As Skylar Laine Harden's mother remembers it, her daughter came into the world singing.

"She would sing at the top of her lungs when she was little and her father and I used to look at each other and joke, 'It's a good thing she sounds good or we'd be in trouble,'" recalls Mary Harden, who was back working at her family's store, Beatty Street Grocery, after a stint in Los Angeles accompanying Skylar as she competed on American Idol.

Skylar Laine (her stage name)—who brought her signature country sound from Brandon, Mississippi to Los Angeles—bid farewell to the Idol stage last week when she was eliminated from the competition. But bolstered by her fifth-place finish, an upcoming summer tour with the top 10 contestants, and plans to start a songwriting and performing career in Nashville, Laine is thrilled for the opportunity and exposure the show afforded her.

"You learn so much about yourself by being on live TV: what looks good, what sounds good. It's really amazing. It's a blessing. I'm really excited for the future," says 18-year-old Laine, noting the best piece of advice she got was to stay true to herself.

Another important milestone on Laine's road to Idol was her participation in Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program in the summer of 2010.

"The Berklee experience was incredible. I'd recommend it to anybody," she says. "I met people from across the world, and played music with them." In addition to earning spots in the Singers and Singer-Songwriter showcases, Laine became acutely aware of her challenges, namely music theory.

The Five-Week experience, she says, helped prepare her for American Idol. "I learned how to be around a band and different instruments. [Since Five-Week], I focused more on theory. It helped me to feel more comfortable."

Laine's mother—who recounts her daughter's early years touring with productions of Annie and Les Miserables, as well as violin, guitar, piano, and dance lessons—says Berklee helped her daughter to grow, both as a musician and a person, and gave her the training and experiences that helped set her on a path toward Idol. "It was a growing ground for her to prepare for American Idol. I think it prepared her for the big stage, and being away from home for six weeks [prepared her for three months in L.A]."

In addition, the caliber and diversity of musicians at Five-Week proved another boon for Laine. "Skylar was a big fish in a small pond [back home]. At Berklee, she wasn't a small fish in a big pond but she was on par with the other kids who were just as talented, but maybe in different ways. It was good for her to be challenged."

To other parents of prospective Five-Week students, Harden had this to say: "It's a great program to get a little bit of experience from in a lot of different ways: you make a lot of connections, you get a little bit of college experience, a lot of training in a short amount of time, exposure to know where you're lagging."