Sunnyvale’s Dalton Rapattoni has eyes on ‘American Idol’ prize

Pictured: Contestant Dalton Rapattoni auditions in front of the judges at AMERICAN IDOL.
Pictured: Contestant Dalton Rapattoni auditions in front of the judges at AMERICAN IDOL. Fox

Dalton Rapattoni says it already feels like he has “won the lottery.”

The rock- and musical theater-loving 19-year-old from Sunnyvale, east of Dallas, is one of 24 semifinalists competing in the final season of American Idol.

“I actually didn’t think I’d make it this far,” he says. “I thought I would maybe make it to the first round in Hollywood Week and then gracefully fade away into obscurity.”

If Rapattoni really believed that, then he sold himself short. He has wowed the judges every time with his voice, his stage presence and his bold song selection.

Who in his right mind auditions for American Idol with an acoustic version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera? Who follows that with Hopelessly Devoted to You, the Olivia Newton-John ballad? “Dalton does it,” judge Keith Urban said with admiration.

It will be interesting to see what Rapattoni still has up his sleeve.

He will be among the semifinalists onstage at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Then, in Thursday’s two-hour installment, he’ll perform a duet with a former American Idol favorite.

We chatted with Rapattoni last week about his journey so far.

What compelled you to sign up for American Idol?

I always watched it as a kid. It’s the only vocal competition show that I had ever watched and liked. Also, it’s the last season. It would be cool to have that title. I want to be last American Idol.

I didn’t mean to rhyme just now, but it happened.

Rapattoni is a former member of the boy band IM5.

What kind of long-term impact do you hope this show might have for you?

The amazing thing about American Idol is there’s winning the show and then there’s winning AFTER the show. Obviously the best-case scenario is to win, but there are a lot of people who have done really well for themselves without winning.

Chris Daughtry was fourth place in his season and he’s one of the most successful people to come out of the show. Same with Adam Lambert. He didn’t win, but everyone knows his name.

Obviously I do want to win. But as long as you make a lasting impression, I think you definitely can have a sustainable career after the show.

Where did you find the confidence to go with songs like Phantom and Hopelessly Devoted to You?

It wasn’t confidence as much as just wanting to show what kind of artist I am and want to be. It’s hard to show who you are on a competition show when you can only do covers, because you’re not singing the art that you’ve created. You have to take someone else’s art and make it your own.

It’s hard to show who you are on a competition show when you can only do covers, because you’re not singing the art that you’ve created

Dalton Rapattoni

I did the Andrew Lloyd Webber song because I love the lyrics and I love the melody. My parents introduced me to Hopelessly Devoted. When we were deciding on a song for the show, I saw that title on the list and said, “What’s that song?” That’s when my parents showed me Grease and I loved it.

Even though you aren’t allowed to reveal who your duet partner will be, can you talk about working with that artist in a general way?

Getting paired with a former American Idol winner is very exciting. You want to savor that moment that you’re on stage with them, but it’s also scary because the judges are seeing how you stack up against them. Are you as good as these former Idols? If you’re not, maybe you shouldn’t be an Idol.

I’ve had an amazing time because, not to give away any names, my Idol is one of my favorite past contestants. No, I’m going to say my Idol is THE all-time favorite of mine.

Rapattoni was accepted to Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visul Arts.

What turned you on to music and performing?

I have bipolar disorder and, when I was a kid, I was taking medicine that gave me seizures. I had to pull out of school because of those seizures, because I missed too many days.

While I was being home-schooled, a good buddy called and said, “Hey, I know you have a lot of downtime. You should check out this thing called the School of Rock.” It’s a music program where kids play in a band and make friends. So I joined the program and I started moving up in the program.

It pretty quickly occurred to me that maybe this is what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life. Because I’m not bad at it and I love doing it. That’s the recipe for a career, right?

I’ve been running with that ever since I was 13 years old.

American Idol

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
  • KDFW/Channel 4