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MSA student in ‘Idol’ Top 36

Kelsey Jackson and Mallory Nash were among a large group ofteens who gathered at Jackson’s house Wednesday to see if theirfriend Jasmine Murray would move one step closer to being the next”American Idol” when the show’s top 36 semi-finalists wererevealed.

While many of the teens had met Murray in passing, Jackson, ajunior at Brookhaven High School, and Nash, a junior at theMississippi School of the Arts, count her among their best friendsand felt the impact of Murray’s selection a little deeper than theothers.

“We got to be friends at the beginning of the school year,” Nashsaid. “She’s one of the most amazing, nice, sweet, compassionate,caring people I know. She’s not snobby, and she’s down to earth,and it’s definitely a lot more exciting to watch ‘American Idol’with her on it than if she wasn’t.”

Jackson’s family volunteered to be Murray’s host family when shecame to MSA from Starkville. Jackson and Murray had gotten to befriends during the Mississippi Outstanding Teen Pageant, whichMurray won and Jackson came in first runner-up.

“We were good friends, but we really bonded when she won and Igot first runner-up,” Jackson said. “It’s really great getting tosee her show her talent, because she really is a talentedperson.”

Jackson’s mother, Jennifer, said Murray is everything positivethe teens said she is, and that she deserves to have somethingreally positive happen to her.

“She deserves it, she’s one of those that just deserves it,”Jennifer Jackson said. “Out of those thousands and thousands thatauditioned, I think it may be her time. She is just a joy to bearound.”

Meanwhile, officials at MSA are under the same informationlockdown that Murray’s friends and relatives are under. ‘Idol’officials have imposed strict rules on contestants as to what theyare allowed to say and who they are allowed to talk to.

MSA Principal Jana Perry said so far the school’s community isjust proud and excited about Murray’s success.

“I can tell you that I’m very proud of the way she’s carryingherself and upholding Mississippi standards,” Perry said. “She hasused the training that she’s used here and before she got to MSA tomake it as far as she has, and we would love to see her go on.”

In addition, Perry said, Murray has been quite a leader for herpeers.

“She’s an incredible young lady, she’s been a leader on campusand continues to be one in the vocal music department,” Perrysaid.

And Kelsey Jackson said Murray is an inspiration as well. Asinger herself, Jackson said seeing her friend on ‘American Idol’gives her a little hope for herself.

“The last time I talked to her she said she was having a lot offun and it’s a great experience,” she said. “And seeing her upthere kind of makes me want to try too.”

Over the next three weeks, the 36 contestants will be dividedinto three groups of 12 to sing on Tuesday nights, according to ashow press release. The following Wednesday nights, the top maleand female vote-getters, as well as the next-highest voterecipients, from the previous nights will be announced.

Murray was not in the first group of 12 singers announced onWednesday night’s show. “American Idol” airs locally on Fox 40.

After viewers vote for their top nine in the coming weeks,’Idol’ judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Kara DioGuardio and SimonCowell will select three “wildcard” finalists to make up the show’sTop 12 contestants. The field will then be pared each week untilone is named the next “American Idol.”

Jennifer Jackson pointed out that as the contest continues,Murray will need all the fan support she can get. There is aJasmine Murray Fan Club online athttp://jasminemurrayfanclub.ning.com, she said.

“She is just as sweet as she sounds on TV,” Jackson said. “She’sjust a wonderful person with a lot of talent. If she makes it tothe finals we all need to be calling in and voting for her.”