- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Television viewers across the country tonight will be watching, rooting and voting for their favorites on Fox’s “American Idol,” but the architecture students at Catholic University of America have already picked their winner: classmate Antonella Barba, one of the show’s 12 female finalists.

Nick Meyer, a junior architecture major who met Miss Barba his freshman year, said she was always singing, trading verses back and forth with a friend majoring in music theater.

Another peer, Josh Cahilo, said he would always joke with Miss Barba about auditioning for the Fox talent-search show that has become a ratings bonanza.

“I always told her and her friends: If [‘American Idol’ auditions] ever come around here, you guys have to go to them. I’ll take you,” Mr. Cahilo said.

Two years later, Miss Barba and a high school friend, Amanda Coluccio, decided to audition in New York for fun. But both earned a spot in the Hollywood auditions after successfully passing through the New York auditions.

“I was stunned. It wasn’t that I didn’t think she could do it, but to actually see it happening — it was ridiculous,” Mr. Cahilo said.

Last week, Miss Barba became the 12th and final female contender who made it through the Hollywood auditions while Miss Coluccio went home with 148 other “Idol” hopefuls.

As a CUA honors student, Miss Barba was enrolled at the beginning of the Spring 2007 semester, but she dropped all her classes after she found out how much time she was going to miss as a result of participating in the Hollywood auditions.

Theresa Pangelinan, a roommate, said it’s strange to have an apartment to herself, but she is glad Miss Barba is living out her dream.

“She wasn’t really aiming to become a huge star. I mean she was in school for architecture, but she took a chance, and it happened,” Miss Pangelinan said.

Beginning tonight, Miss Barba’s progress will be decided by the amount of call-in support she gets from her fans, nicknamed “Fantonellas.”

“American Idol” aired an episode last night and will air tonight’s two-hour episode at 8 p.m. and a selection show tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Voting will be open from 10 p.m. to midnight tonight, and the two women with the fewest votes will be sent home on Thursday.

The Fantonellas at CUA are prepared to do their part to make sure Miss Barba stays.

The university will be sponsoring a special event in the food court at the Pryzbyla Student Center, with five 40-inch televisions set up for the Fantonellas during tonight’s show, according to Michael Andrews, CUA’s assistant dean of students.

CUA students were familiar with Miss Barba’s voice before “American Idol.” Her friends would play a Christmas CD she and a friend made for her family during their sophomore year. She also made a one-song demo CD with a gift she received for time at the on-campus studio last spring.

In addition to the CUA event, the Fantonellas have gathered together as a Facebook group on the social-networking Web site and on several different fan sites to support their classmate.

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