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Judges pan Murray performance, but MSA classmates rave

“American Idol” judges Wednesday night did their best to burst17-year-old Jasmine Murray’s bubble, but a crowd of her classmateswatching from the lobby of the Mississippi School of the Arts inBrookhaven gave her performance superior marks.

After Murray opened the two-hour show with a performance of SaraBareilles’ “Love Song” and got the students at MSA screaming, thefour judges assailed her with criticism and turned the same crowdof students into a booing, hissing mob.

Judge Randy Jackson said Murray’s performance had good momentsand bad moments, adding she was “pitchy all the way through.” Hequestioned whether “Love Song” was the right song for Murray.

Next, new judge Kara DioGuardi said Murray’s performance was”all over the place. Judge Paula Abdul agreed, telling Murray she”sang all around it.”

Finally, as is custom on “American Idol,” judge Simon Cowelldelivered the heaviest blow by saying Murray doesn’t have a greatvoice. Jackson finished the depressing determinations by saying heisn’t sure that Murray deserves a spot in the Top 12.

Murray’s MSA classmates disagreed with the judges’assessments.

“I thought they were a little harsh – I didn’t think she waspitchy at all,” said 17-year-old Zach Salter, a native of Bay St.Louis. “She sings alto No. 2 in the choir, and that’s the lowfemale voice range, so I don’t know why they said she started toolow. That’s her voice range.”

Pascagoula’s Kristen Perry, 18, said Murray gave her bestperformance to date Wednesday night and was furiously curious as tothe judges’ negative ratings. She believes Murray will excel in hersinging career, “American Idol” or not.

“Even if she doesn’t excel very far on “American Idol” – which Ithink she will – she will definitely get a record deal,” Perrysaid. “I don’t know what the judges were talking about. I thinkSimon just wakes up in the morning and takes a mean pill.”

Murray’s suite mate at MSA, 18-year-old Stephanie Beverly ofFayette, agreed that Murray sang her best so far on “AmericanIdol,” and she can qualify her judgment.

“I’ve heard her sing in the bathroom before, and I think shesounded even better on TV,” Beverly said. “I really don’t feel thejudges want her to win because she’s so young. I think they wantother people to win because she has so much ahead of her.”

Even MSA Director Dr. Vicki Lambert, usually quite reserved inher observations, was miffed about the judges’ reaction to Murray’sperformance.

“I think sometimes they give conflicting information to thesecontestants,” she said. “They tell them to sing a young song, sothey sing a young song, and then they say they need to sing adifferent song.”

Lambert was confident that Murray could recover from Wednesdaynight’s judgmental bludgeoning by a process she called”V-O-T-E.”

“I believe the state will support her, and she has supportersfrom across the nation,” she said.

Murray and her supporters will learn on tonight’s show, at 7p.m. on Fox 40, whether she will advance in the competition. Thetop male and female vote-getters will move on to the Top 12, aswill the next highest vote-getter – regardless of gender.

If Murray is not among tonight’s chosen three, she could stillget a chance to advance via the show’s wildcard round. Judges willgive selected contestants another chance and then choose three fromthat group.

Lambert pointed out that, no matter what happens on “AmericanIdol,” Murray has already done her part to support MSA, perhapsmore than any other student ever has in the school’s six-yearhistory.

“People are starting to realize that MSA is good forMississippi,” Lambert said, praising the publicity brought to theinstitution by Murray’s appearance on the show. “People want toknow more in general about MSA. They want to see some of our otherdisciplines.”

Lambert said people from all over Mississippi have responded toMurray’s run on the show, some of which have never heard ofMSA.

“What we’re most proud of is what it does for the state ofMississippi,” she said. “It has allowed us to put a positive faceon Mississippi and Mississippi education. We have a proud traditionof artistic excellence, and it’s rarely recognized.”