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Alumna Melinda Doolittle Shares ‘Insider’s View’ of ‘American Idol’ Experience

Supporters establish Melinda Doolittle Endowed Scholarship

Harry Chapman interviews Melinda Doolittle April 4 during "The Insider's View."

Belmont alumna Melinda Doolittle, a commercial voice major who graduated in 1999, returned to campus Wednesday to be interviewed by Director of Development and Major Gifts Harry Chapman as part of the ongoing series, “The Insider’s View.” Following her Belmont years, Doolittle launched her professional career as a backup singer and then experienced an incredibly successful run on the sixth season of TV juggernaut “American Idol,” where she ultimately placed in the top three.

“I loved singing background and being the support system for artists,” Doolittle said of her time working with a long list of talent that included BeBe and CeCe Winans, Michael McDonald, Kirk Franklin, Alabama and Jonny Lang. “I got to sing with so many different artists, and it really stretched me.”

Those opportunities and her Belmont education helped prepare her for her stint on “American Idol” where she developed as an artist in her own right. “I was finding my own voice on stage every single week… ‘American Idol’ is like boot camp for singers, and it teaches you how to accept criticism. You have to get tough skin to work in this business. ‘American Idol’ put that fire in me that I didn’t know that I had, fire to be the front person, fire to be an artist.”

Since her time on ‘Idol,’ Doolittle has released her debut CD, Coming Back to You (2009), to rave reviews as well as her first book, Beyond Me (2010), in addition to performing at events everywhere from the White House to the Musicians Hall of Fame to the Kennedy Center to Carnegie Hall.  Her love of music and performing is eclipsed only by her love of giving back, as she dedicates much of her time to working with numerous charities, including the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House and Malaria No More.

In addition, Doolittle just announced that her supporters, Melinda’s Backups, have been raising money for several years to establish a scholarship fund at her alma mater to continue the singer’s legacy of giving back. Commercial music majors in the College of Visual and Performing Arts will be eligible for the Melinda Doolittle Endowed Scholarship.

Doolittle noted, “My main goal is to make sure my career is a marathon and not a sprint. I want to foster longevity and build my career to have a platform to make a difference.”

The singer concluded her session in the Massey Performing Arts Center with a few words of wisdom for the students in attendance: “You never know when the door to opportunity is going to open for you. The catch is whether or not you’re prepared for it when it does… My motto is dream big, pray hard and be prepared, and I challenge everyone to do that.”