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MSA student chosen for wildcard slot, in Top 13

Mississippi School of the Arts student Jasmine Murray roaredback into the competition on Thursday night’s “American Idol,”belting out a solid performance in the wild card round that tookher from near elimination to the show’s Top 13 contestants.

Several students among a small group watching hopefully from theschool’s Student Life Center were moved to tears when 17-year-oldMurray held out a near-perfect note while singing ChristinaAguilera’s “Reflections,” then exploded into celebration when thesinger’s former toughest critic hinted at her return tocompetition.

“It was a huge improvement, and I think you just put yourselfback in the running,” said “American Idol’s” iron-fisted SimonCowell, who had spoken harshly of Murray’s performance of SaraBareilles’ “Love Song.”

An even wilder celebration was brought on at the show’s endaround 7:55 p.m., when judge Randy Jackson formally approvedMurray’s return with trickery, saying he was sorry, but it lookedlike Murray would be “spending a lot more time with us.”

Olivia Broome, 17, of Columbia, said her schoolmate’sperformance of “Reflections” was the best performance she had seenfrom Murray.

“She’s a beautiful girl and has a beautiful spirit and voice,”Broome said. “She just has that entire package. Singing ChristinaAguilera was a wise choice for her – it played a large part of herbeing in the Top (13).”

MSA students who know Murray were waiting on an Aguileraperformance, knowing how often Murray has declared the pop singerher favorite. Oxford’s Maddie Miller, 17, said Murray’s assurancein singing a song from her musical mentor showed through.

“She was really confident and more determined tonight,” shesaid. “She really went for it. When you get kind of put down, youtry to really rise above. She sat down and really centered herselfand took advantage of what she had.”

Ellie Sills, 16, of Vicksburg, said Murray’s performanceshowcased her voice, and similar songs should be chosen during her”American Idol” future.

“She should just do what she did tonight – pick a great song,throw her heart out on the line and keep making us proud,” Sillssaid.

During her short time in the national spotlight, the nativeColumbus teenager has made proud far more than just her classmates.MSA Principal Jana Perry said the school has enjoyed morerecognition since Murray appeared on “American Idol” than ever inits six-year existence.

“We couldn’t ask for more coverage for our campus in the lastthree to four weeks,” she said. “Which, with all the legislativethings that have gone on this year, I think it came at a wonderfultime.”

Perry referenced a January attempt in the Mississippi House ofRepresentatives to close MSA’s Brookhaven campus and relocate theschool to the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, whereit would operate alongside the similar, residential MississippiSchool for Mathematics and Science.

The legislation proposed by Democratic committee chairmen Rep.Johnny Stringer and Rep. Cecil Brown was the farthest extension ofa small circle of legislators’ will to either move or close MSAoutright. The bill was defeated after an hour-long debate on theHouse floor by a vote of 73-43.

Now, in less than two months, MSA has survived the legislativechopping block and appears to be on the verge of a growth spurt.Perry said she could not estimate the number of late applicationsfor the 2009/2010 school year that have been heating up themailboxes, fax machines and telephones at MSA.

“I would love to, but they keep rolling in,” she said. “We’regetting applications daily. Our numbers are being bumped up alittle bit this year, and there’s a lot of outside interest – ‘Howcan we help MSA?’ A lot of organizations have called wanting us toperform at their functions, which is wonderful. We need thatrelationship with our communities around Mississippi.”