Heejun Han landed in “American Idol’s” Top Ten by accident. The 22-year-old from Flushing auditioned for the show as a means to propagate his organization – a group called Milal that assists special needs children. He sought to spread the word, hopefully help the kids he adored. He never thought music, something previously regarded as merely a hobby, would become his life.
He now sings weekly for an audience of millions.
Originally from Korea, Han moved to Queens with his family when he was 12. As a kid, he performed songs in front of his parents and practiced singing in the bathroom, but never received any professional vocal training.
Han’s musical influences include a lineup of legendary balladeers — Michael Bolton, Billy Joel and Michael McDonald. For his first “American Idol” audition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Han sang Michael Bolton’s version of “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” – a performance so moving, it brought Jennifer Lopez to tears.
As he advances to the semi-finals, Han is beginning to feel the pressure. The show keeps its contenders on a rigid schedule. Training sessions consume a majority of their time, strengthening participants’ voices and practicing their song for the following week with mentors and coaches. Han says the contestants do not interact with the show’s three judges — Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson — outside of the few minutes following their performances, when the officials offer their critiques.
Han says the biggest challenge of competing on “American Idol” is holding your ground and remembering yourself in the spotlight.
“It’s hard to know yourself and not act like a star,” said Han. “The circumstances can make you bigheaded. You need to just focus on who you are.”
Regardless of how he wound up a semi-finalist on “American Idol,” Han is ecstatic.
“When I tried out, it was to help my organization at home,” said Han. “Now, I’m in a position where I can help a lot of people. The fact that I get to do stuff for other people, it’s amazing.”
“American Idol” airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on Fox 5.