New Paltz teen Laila Mach auditions on American Idol this Sunday

Laila Mach (ABC/John Fleenor)

The hometown excitement is building with the news that Laila Mach, a New Paltz High School sophomore and budding singer/musician, is about to burst onto the big stage with an audition being aired on American Idol on Sunday night, March 7.

The award-winning ABC Network live singing competition centers around people auditioning from all over the US and then being selected by star-studded judges and eventually votes by the public to determine who will be the next “Idol.” The show has helped discover and launch such stellar careers as Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. This year, Season 19, the panel of judges and mentors includes Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and host Ryan Seacrest.

“I just go the best news!” announced Mach a week ago to her growing fanbase. “My audition is going to be featured on March 7. Make sure to tune in this Sunday to see all of the amazing talent!”

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A singer, songwriter and musician, Mach went through endless rounds of audition via Zoom, and eventually was flown to the American Idol studios in San Diego to audition in person. On New Year’s Eve, a promotion for the show featured Mach and some of the other contestants chosen to move forward. Mach’s family’s reaction to her receiving the ticket to Hollywood was seen by millions of viewers as her two younger sisters, her mother SaraBeth Valentino-Mach and her father James Mach screamed in joy of the announcement (www.facebook.com/americanidol/videos/2746448189000851).

Laila Mach said that she has been singing since she was two years old and while she always watched American Idol growing up with her family, she never imagined herself being one of the contestants. “I loved the show but never imagined auditioning when I got older,” said Mach. “It was always my dream to be a singer though so when my dad suggested that I audition, I figured, why not? No matter what happens, I’m so grateful that my dad convinced me to take this chance. This experience is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, especially at 15 years old!”

Valentino-Mach said that it was hard to put into a few words what an experience it has been to see her daughter reach this point. “She’s been my saving grace and singing grace since she could speak.” said her mom. “Her dad and I have been saying since Day One that she was going to be something special one day. She was always singing at family parties, weddings, dinners…any opportunity possible. She was just born with the music inside of her.”

Mach’s mom added that people always comment that her daughter “had an old soul. So, Laila being on Idol seems like a dream, and yet exactly where she’s meant to be. We are so incredibly proud of her and excited to see where this takes her.”

Mach, who is just 15 years old, recently launched her first album, Stuck on You (https://music.apple.com/us/album/stuck-on-you/1546561572?fbclid=IwAR0wOl3EbP75rx57vBNzazL8pe2Jtcn6973avg-t80KDARnZ_1R989BHyVc). She is part of the New Paltz High School choir, directed by Nicole Foti. “While she is a student of mine, Laila has the type of talent that someone is just born with,” said Foti. “Her musical instincts and passion are qualities that can’t be taught.” More than being a student of Foti’s, the choir director also noted, “She is actually my cousin! She has been a special part of my life since before she was born, and it has been absolutely a joy to watch her develop into the musician she is today.”

Asked to describe Mach’s singing (which can be found at @lailamachofficial), Foti characterizes it as “soulful pop. Her tone is rich and velvety and conveys so much emotion when she sings.” This in combination with the fact that Mach writes her own music, including the original song she is performing in the Idol audition, and that she “skillfully accompanies herself on both piano and guitar, makes her unique and someone who could go far on a show like Idol,” added Foti.

Middle School teacher Mark Pizzarello said that he can still “remember Laila stealing the show at the Middle School talent show. She was and is an amazing performer.” He and his family will be watching, and he added, “I’m so proud of her.”

New Paltz native and local businesswoman Theresa Fall said that her family has never watched American Idol before, but they’re deep into it now. “Frances [Fall’s daughter] is friends with Laila, so we wanted to support her. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the show mainly because it’s something I get to do with my kids on a weekly basis – something to look forward to.” She said that they are “super-stoked to see Laila perform on the seventh.”

“Laila is our neighbor,” said Jen Puleo, who also has one NPHS student and one NPHS graduate. “We haven’t watched American Idol in years, but we’re so excited to watch it this year and see how she progresses. I think she’ll go far, whether it’s on American Idol or elsewhere.”

With the news that she will actually be featured on the show, Paltzonians are loading up their popcorn-makers, silencing their phones, dimming the lights and getting ready to have something positive and exciting to celebrate. Friends and family beeped their horns to show their support on the first night of the show, but with Mach’s audition being broadcast this Sunday on ABC, her family is working to throw a surprise parade past the house for those who want to send her some good-luck hometown mojo. Mach’s mother told Hudson Valley One that the family is working closely with the New Paltz Fire Department to find the best route, but that it will go by their home, off Enterprise Drive near Kayleigh. They’re asking folks to line up at 5:45 p.m. and drive by at 6 p.m. if they want to be part of the surprise.

“We have been singing together for a very long time, and I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to watch her journey on American Idol,” said Foti. The rest of New Paltz and the surrounding area could not agree more! Stay tuned for more Laila Mach on Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m.