Updated: Hollister’s Jesaiah Baer ‘grateful’ for chance on American Idol

Jesaiah Baer, a member of local band Smith Alley, performed on American Idol.

San Benito High School junior Jesaiah Baer’s audition for “American Idol,” which aired Jan. 30, made the list of most memorable auditions. It is a distinction that landed Baer’s clip on Fox’s official website for the show and gave her more airtime when her episode showed on a Wednesday evening.

While Baer’s syncopation and jazzy rendition of Kimbra’s “Settle Down” earned her rave reviews from the celebrity judges, it was the fire alarm that went off in the middle of her audition on the Queen Mary in Long Beach and her reluctance to the leave the stage that earned her more exposure. She was memorable enough that the judges invited her to the next round of the competition in Hollywood.

“I’m really trying to take in the fact I was on TV a couple days ago,” Baer said last week. “All I can say is I am really grateful.”

The 16-year-old watched the episode with family and friends as well as a camera crew from the local Fox affiliate.

She can’t reveal anything about the rest of her journey with American Idol quite yet, but she said she is hoping the experience will help her get the name of her band Smith Alley known in a wider circle.

Baer has been singing since she was a preschooler and she said she performed for the first time when she was 5, in an elementary school talent show at Sunnyslope School. She has taken the stage many times since then in San Benito Stage Company productions as well as Gavilan College’s STAR program for teen theater buffs.

She said the day she met her future band mates, she had just finished a children’s play at SBHS. She was still wearing green make-up and had messed up hair from playing a witch. She said she laid down on a hill in the center of campus for a quick afterschool nap when she got a poke on the shoulder.

“This guy asked me if I could sing and I said I would show him my website,” she said.

That was the start of Smith Alley, a high school rock band that has performed at Mars Hill Coffee House and in Battle of the Bands competitions in San Francisco.

Leading up to her audition, Baer said she practiced with singing coaches. She said she considered selecting a Beatles song for her “American Idol” audition, but instead she decided to go with a song by a lesser known female artist, Kimbra.

Aside from the fire alarm, Baer said she doesn’t remember much from the day of her audition.

“Three days prior, I had just got out of the hospital,” she said. “I crashed an ATV … a lot of the experiences on the ship were very blurry.”

She said she had suffered a concussion. She described the day of her audition as feeling like she was in a movie.

Baer said she had to make it through several parts of the audition process before she even had a chance to sing in front of the celebrity judges, who this year include Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson. Dressed in a captain’s hat to coincide with the nautical location of her tryout, Baer had the attention of the judges as soon as she started singing. But the fire alarm went off and they all had to head toward the exit.

When they returned to the stage, Baer was allowed to begin her song over again. Each of the judges gave her positive marks before offering her a ticket to return to Hollywood for the next round of competition.

“My next step is to go as far as I can in American Idol,” she said. “And I’m hoping I will be able to get my band Smith Alley’s name out there.”

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