Local teen moves on to next round on ‘American Idol’

Zach D’Onofrio has received a Golden Ticket, and his next national appearance on American Idol will be during Hollywood Week.

The 17-year-old Wiregrass Ranch High School student impressed judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie with “The Way You Look Tonight,” a Frank Sinatra song.

When he appeared before the celebrity judges in New York, the first thing he did was give each of them a pair of socks from his collection.

Katy Perry immediately put the socks on her hands.

Zach D’Onofrio said he didn’t feel too rattled while singing for celebrity judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Luke Bryan. His performance earned him a Golden Ticket, taking him to the next round of the competition in Hollywood. (Courtesy of ABC)

Then, when Zach began singing, Perry came down from her chair and began dancing with him. Meanwhile, Richie and Bryan danced, too.

The Wesley Chapel teen said the judges appeared to be surprised when he started to sing.

“Can I hear you speak again?” Bryan asked. “Is this really your speaking voice, you swear?”

Zach responded: “I swear, this is my natural voice.”

Then Richie added: “You are unique.”

Then they asked him to sing for them again.

Richie then gave Zach a Golden Ticket, signaling that he’d made it to the next round.

Despite performing before celebrity judges, Zach wasn’t rattled.

“I wasn’t really too nervous,” he said, in an interview. “I tried to stay confident and believe I could do well in front of them,” he said, adding that it helped to have his mom in New York with him.

Zach’s American Idol experience began when he auditioned at Tampa Bay Idol at Florida Hospital Center Ice, an event hosted by ABC Action News and Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend.

There, he received a Front of the Line Pass for the next audition in Orlando.

His mom, Darci, and his dad, Bryan, took the day off from work to go to Orlando, and his sister, Taylor, took the day off from classes at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, to be there, too.

“We got there at 7 a.m., or so,” Bryan said. “There were roughly 5,000 people auditioning that day. The majority of them had to wait in this huge line. But, we only had to wait probably about an hour, and Zach got to sing in front of some of the judges.”

Still, Bryan said, “it was a LONG day.

“That was in August. It was all outside at Disney Springs,” Bryan said.

“In the sun,” Darci added.

“It was brutal,” Bryan said.

Zach finished his first audition, and then was held back for a second one later in the day before he found out he had made the cut to sing before the celebrity judges.

At that point, he had a choice to sing in various cities, Darci said.

Zach D’Onofrio has a collection of 40 pairs to 50 pairs of colorful socks. He gave each of the judges a pair, and Katy Perry promptly put them on her hands, like gloves.

Zach announced: “We’ve got to go to New York, Mom. I’m a Frank Sinatra guy. I’m a crooner.”

Darci and Bryan had to decide which of them would accompany Zach because they had a show scheduled at their Dreamhouse Theatre, which they operate in Lutz.

“I pulled the Mom card —  ‘Hey, I birthed him,’” Darci said. Plus, she added, “I’ve never been to New York.’”

Zach hadn’t been there, either, so the two of them made the most of it.

They arrived on a Sunday and stayed for three days, in a hotel within walking distance of Times Square. They visited The Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial.

The day they went to the 9/11 Memorial was the morning after the shootings in Las Vegas, Darci said.

“It was very, very touching to be there that day,” she said.

Zach’s audition day was on a Tuesday. The day began at 6 a.m., with Zach auditioning around 1 p.m.

“By the time we were done with filming, we weren’t out of there until 10 o’clock that night. It was pretty intense,” Darci said.

Bryan and Darci knew that Zach could sing, but didn’t realize how well he could sing until Zach came across a Frank Sinatra album, while shopping for vinyl with Bryan.

“When he heard Frank Sinatra, he was like: ‘I think I kind of sing like him’,” Bryan said.

Zach, who has performed in various Dreamhouse Theatre productions, said initially he ran the lights and the sound for shows.

“I would always see the actors on the stage perform, and I always wanted to go on the stage and perform myself, but I was always too nervous to do it because I wasn’t sure what other people would say about my voice,” he said.

After singing Sinatra-style for his parents, he decided to sing for cast members of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the theater.

“They really liked my voice, and they thought I should keep pursuing this and keep putting myself out there,” Zach said.

Although he’s interested in becoming a doctor, Zach is now considering the possibility of a singing career.

Like most things in life, time will tell.

Published March 14, 2018

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