Danville's Rachel Rolleri is off to Hollywood. She performed "Stay," a Jennifer Nettles song, in front of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr., "American Idol's" panel of celebrity judges, and was awarded the show's coveted "golden ticket."

A senior at Monte Vista High School, Rachel is 17. I spoke with her mom, Karen Rolleri, about her daughter's "Idol" experience and what led up to her San Francisco audition, which was televised Jan. 16.

After emailing and leaving a phone message for Karen, I was somewhat surprised to first hear from Molly O'Gara of BWR Public Relations, representing "American Idol," who sort of "screened" me before setting up a talk with Karen.

Karen and other family members accompanied Rachel to her audition and had some camera time themselves as they congratulated an exuberant Rachel when she came out waving her golden ticket. In addition to the televised audition, "American Idol" sent out a camera and crew to Danville and filmed Rachel in her home along with shots of some of her favorite haunts.

Rachel showed interest in playing the guitar as a child and took lessons at Danville Music when she was in eighth grade. She was in the choir at Los Cerros Middle School and is in the Concert Choir at Monte Vista, as well as in the prestigious smaller Chamber Singers group. Karen credits Ginger Munck, of Los Cerros, and Bruce Koliha, "Mr. K," of Monte Vista, with Rachel's voice training, in addition to her innate talent and some vocal coaching. In 2012, she won the Valley Teen Idol contest sponsored by the San Ramon Valley Rotary Club. Prizes included a recording session and $1,000, Karen said. Rachel had written "McKay's Song" when she was 15, about a boy she liked then, and she recorded it and another song during her session.


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"Rachel wasn't sure 'American Idol' was the way she wanted to go, because she has her own sound," Karen said, "but her vocal coach recommended she try out at AT&T Park. So she did."

From the first audition at AT&T Park, among thousands of people, Rachel was selected to sing in front of a panel of executive producers. Once through that round, she was through to the performance in front of the celebrity judges. Karen said she and Paul were huge fans of Keith Urban and had taken the kids to a concert years ago, when Rachel was 8 or 9. After her audition, Urban told her, "You've got a great voice, it's very mature. And you play guitar really well, too." He then turned to his fellow judges and said, "I like the thickness in her tone." Connick commented she had "understated confidence," and Lopez said her voice had "a little cry in it."

Karen said she and her husband, Paul, moved to Danville 16 years ago. They are both Bay Area natives. Paul is chief of police in Alameda and Karen is president and owner of Organizeology, an organizing and closet design business. They also have a son, Kyle, who's 19. When I asked Karen if it was difficult for her as a parent to watch her child perform in front of a huge TV audience, she said, "I've never really worried about Rachel. She has great courage and confidence and always gets through it."

Next step in the "Idol" process is to get through the Hollywood round, which starts next week. Like the title of her tryout song, I hope that Rachel's singing and songwriting talent will stand her in good stead and enable her to stay in the competition.

"Danville has been a great town, so supportive of Rachel. 'Idol' is such an opportunity. No matter where it goes from here, it's been wonderful," Karen said.

Help for Horses Needed: Leigh Chronister, of Blackhawk, notified me that helping hands are needed to save eight horses left homeless when their owner was arrested. She hopes to reach out to the many horse-loving people in the San Ramon Valley for assistance.

She said Melissa C. Austin, proprietor of Horses Healing Hearts, is trying desperately to get care for the abandoned horses but needs help from volunteers with trailers to transport the hungry and injured horses from the Placerville area to the Brown Ranch outside Blackhawk, where she can care for them. She also needs help with feeding the rescued horses; any spare hay and grain or cash donations would be appreciated. Austin can be reached at 415-260-2232. For details, visit http://horseshealingheartsinc.org.

Contact Georgia Lambert at around- danville@yahoo.com.