CUSD student expected to appear on ‘American Idol’ on Valentine’s Day

By Capo Insider Staff

A Dana Hills High School freshman will be appearing on the 19th season of “American Idol,” which begins Sunday.

Contractual obligations don’t allow Ava August, 15, to comment too much in advance of her appearance — such as how far she got in the show or what she sang — but she elaborated with CUSD Insider about her musical background and influences.

Ava’s journey on the show began this summer. “American Idol” scouts reached out to her after seeing her social media accounts. She eventually did three progressive Zoom auditions.

“It got bigger and bigger to finally performing for executive producers on the show,” Ava said of her final round.

In October, Ava went before this season’s panel of judges: Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. Ryan Seacrest is this season’s host.

“It was an insane experience,” she said.

Ava’s life has been one of music or, as she describes it, “I have been singing since I could talk.”

Her parents exposed her to many different genres. She regularly sang the national anthem at youth sports events. She started learning piano at age 9.

“Music has been a passion for me, especially singing,” Ava said. “It has been my entire life. It’s my greatest passion and love.”

A trip to Hawaii in fourth grade got her started on the ukulele. An impressive performance before a store owner — she can still remember how salty her hair was because she had come from the beach — led to her earning a free ukulele.

Soon after getting the instrument, she wrote her first song: “Mermaid Child,” for vocal and ukulele. It’s an acoustic pop tune.

“Mermaid Child” led to more and more songwriting, and eventually she expanded to playing the acoustic guitar.

Nowadays, Ava writes for all three of her instruments. Before the pandemic, she was also a regular performer around town, like in Laguna Beach, at farmers markets, and the Irvine Spectrum.

She would do long sets, switching between her instruments.

“Sometimes this huge audience would come, and then everyone is clapping and singing the songs,” Ava said.

A performance highlight for Ava was in March 2020, just before the pandemic stay-at-home orders. She performed the national anthem at an L.A. Kings game.

“That was probably the pinnacle of my career so far,” she said — even more than her appearance in 2019 on “The Voice” when, at age 13, she sang “House of the Rising Sun.”

August cites her musical influences as the Beatles, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Shawn Mendes, Julia Michaels and Adele.

Ava and her family are trying to figure out how to do some “American Idol” viewing parties. They’re contemplating a drive-thru viewing to maintain social distancing.

“We have to be extra creative but still celebrate,” said her mom, Amy Zaharek, who is a second-grade teacher at John S. Malcom Elementary.

Ava said her songwriting these days is about getting her feelings out and expressing herself. There have been songs about her worries, hopes and dreams — and then some of that typical teen angst, she said with a laugh.

She also produces music and has a home studio.

Ava thanked Ray Medina, her Advanced Placement (AP) music theory teacher at Dana Hills, for helping her in her journey.

To see Ava’s social media accounts, please visit the following:

Instagram: @avaaugust


Facebook: @avaaugust


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