Her next big stage: Algonquin woman auditions for 'American Idol'
Algonquin native Caroline Baran is about to hit the biggest stage of her life.
The 21-year-old Huntley High School alum, known as Kaeyra by her music fans, will appear on Sunday's audition episode of "American Idol."
"I was very nervous," she said of the audition. "It was just crazy because I've watched the show for so many years and being in that room felt surreal."
For her audition before the judges, Kaeyra sang "Cold" by Chris Stapleton.
"Luke Bryan gave me a standing ovation, which was really special," said Kaeyra, who also plays the piano during her audition. "(The judges) were super sweet and encouraging. It was just really cool to see people that I've looked up to actually supporting and believing in me."
A child of Polish immigrants, Kaeyra said she's always been around music. Her mother, Joanna Szepelawy, had a music school in Bartlett.
"I grew up there," she said, adding she was always with her mother at the music school. "My childhood was just filled with music."
At age 12, she was the lead singer and bass guitarist of a rock band. In recent years, she has performed at Mastro's Restaurant in Chicago and at many Chicago festivals, including Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago. She also has performed the national anthem for the Chicago Bulls and The Chicago White Sox.
"Chicago gave me a really great platform and a lot of opportunities which I'm so grateful for," she said.
After spending the last few years working on her sound, Kaeyra said she believed she was ready for that next step and auditioned for "American Idol."
"I felt like I was just ready to take that next step and be uncomfortable and take a risk," she said.
She is looking forward to being back in Chicago to watch her audition Sunday. She had previously planned to do a private event in Chicago and will get to watch the show with family, who are also longtime fans of "American Idol."
"I know it's a dream for them as well," she said of her family. "We've all watched the show. So it feels really right to be watching (Sunday) with them."
Tune in to "American Idol" on ABC at 7 p.m. Sunday to see what judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie decide.