After 5 years of American Idol focusing vocalists as pop stars, America’s Hot Musician made its debut on July 18th. The show focuses on the instrumentalists. Instrumentalists compete for a one year recording contract. The format of America’s Hot Musician is like a hybrid of American Idol and Rock Star (insert band here) where the instrumentalists perform first before 3 judges ala Simon, Paula and Randy in the first round and then 10 finalists move on to live together in a house where they show their skills live, in a recording studio, and in a music video. Ultimately, like Rock Star, the instrumentalist contestants will “move into the house to tweak their skills and perform before a live audience but most importantly, to compete for audience votes!”
For America’s Hot Musician, the Simon Cowell of the show is played by Gregory Charles Royal (Duke Ellington Orchestra) and Randy and Paula are played by Marissa Regni (Violinist National Symphony Orchestra) and Talena Atfield (former Kittie Bassist). The hosts are a bit stiff and look a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera, and aren’t trying to copy the infamous trio from the other show.
In the first round, the contestants must perform a one-minute musical piece in front of the judges just like in Idol. But in America’s Hot Musician, the 3 judges don’t offer the biting criticisms that we are used to hearing, they offer useful critique and advice to help advance the instrumentalists careers. In the first episode, we watch 4 musicians compete; a flautist, a guitarist/keyboardist, a fiddler and an electric bassist all of whom have real talent at their instruments at their ages. But only one advances to the next round.
In the second round the competitors must record a short song selected by the producers, in a recording studio and then film a short music video for the song. It will be interesting to watch round 2, the recording studio can be a very intimidating place, even for many talented and experienced performers. It’s not like performing on stage.
After the second round the competition moves into its semi-finals. The semi-finalists move “into a supervised living facility where they will undergo more intense musical and stylistic preparation for the final round.” And for the final round the finalists will be brought to Washington, DC in September for live performances, “with the winner performing his/her own concert.” What’s the grand prize? The winner will be signed to a one year recording contract “with American Youth Symphony or one of its affiliate, partner or designee recording companies.”
While the show isn’t that exciting to watch, it is exciting to finally see the instrumentalist in the spotlight. America’s Hot Musician is not only about talent and musical ability, it’s about likability and charisma, and audience votes. Gregory Charles Royal says to one of the contestants, “we are trying to get people who aren’t necessarily prone to listening to instrumental music interested in instrumental music. And the only way that’s going to happen is if the instrumentalist brings them in.” The background players are brought out into the spotlight to be the next Joe Satriani, Kenny G or Sophie Van Muter. You can watch the first episode on YouTube here.