Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media — comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Contact John at

NKU Freshman Alyssa Wray Makes 'American Idol' Top 12

Eric McCandless
Alyssa Wray, 19, grew up in Perryville, Ky., in central Kentucky.

After her "stellar performance" Sunday night, Northern Kentucky University freshman Alyssa Wray learned Monday night she's a Top 12 finalist in ABC's American Idol competition.

Wray, a 19-year-old music theater major, has continuously impressed judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie with her vocal ability, earning her spots in the Top 24 and then the Top 16.

"Be open to what the world wants to give you, which is pretty much anything you've ever dreamed of," Perry on Sunday told Wray, a 6-2 former Boyle County High School basketball  player.","_id":"0000017a-3b58-d913-abfe-bf5c0e7d0001","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">">","_id":"0000017a-3b58-d913-abfe-bf5c0e7d0001","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">

Fan voting ended at 6 a.m. Monday. The Top 12 finalists – who will sing on live competition shows through the end of May – were revealed during Monday's show which featured original Idol judge Paula Abdul filling in for Bryan, who tested positive for COVID-19. Host Ryan Seacrest also announced Monday that one of the 10 finalists from last year's coronavirus altered season "will be allowed to enter the competition" this year. 

Wray wowed judges Sunday with her rendition of Roberta Flack's 1973 "Killing Me Softly With His Song."

"It was just a stellar performance. Stellar!" Richie said.

Credit Eric McCandless / ABC

Abdul told Wray Monday she was "magnetic on stage," and looked "like a seasoned pro," after singing Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love Of All."

On Sunday's show, Perry told Wray that she was "actually an artist for the first time in my eyes today." After her Sunday performance (left), Bryan repeated the phrase he uttered the previous week, after her duet with Katharine McPhee," saying Wray has "star sparkle."

The Easter Sunday duet prompted Richie to exclaim that Wray's star potential was "like trying to keep a lid on a volcano."

Wray posted on Twitter (@itsalyssawray) that she thought her duet with McPhee was an "electric moment." 

Wray has put tiny Perryville (population 751) on the map. Seacrest calls her "the pride of Perryville," a crossroads town 10 miles west of Danville, 40 miles west of Berea and 48 miles southwest of Lexington.

Before American Idol, Wray was perhaps best known for playing basketball for Boyle County High School. She also sang in the church choir, and performed in Frozen (as Elsa), Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors and other musical, according to an interview with Wray by Danville sportswriter Larry Vaught on his YourSportsEdge website.

Credit Christopher Willard / ABC

"I still miss basketball so much," she told Vaught. She described herself as "a bubbly, good ole Kentucky girl."

This is her second shot at Idol. She auditioned as a high school sophomore and didn't get past the first round or meet the celebrity judges, she told Vaught.

When she auditioned by Zoom for this season, producers invited her to sing in person (at right) before the celebrity judges in Ojai, Calif.

Wray told Vaught it was "hard to focus" on anything but her American Idol audtion until it aired March 7.

"I try to just take one step at a time. I reserve time to get my school projects done," she told him. "After my school day is over, I can focus totally on American Idol and go about promoting it. But I have to limit myself or I will fixate all my time on American Idol."

Now she can concentrate fully on Idol as she enters the live TV competition. Rip the lid off the volcano!

Credit Eric McCandless / ABC

"Thankfully, I had so many people who helped always keep me grounded. I am thankful for my coaches, teachers, Mom and Nanny who grounded me for basketball, singing, (and) God. No matter how anxious I get about things, I can always think about my roots and my strong support system," she told Vaught.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.