Feature Stories

Dalton Rapattoni's Vocal Coach on the American Idol Contender

American Idol contestants have roughly 120 seconds once a week to prove to America that they deserve to be crowned the next American Idol. The show recently named the top 10 contestants for its farewell season and Dallas’ own Dalton Rapattoni, a teacher at Dallas’ School of Rock, earned a spot in the lineup.

Linda Septien, a vocal coach for the Septien Group, an organization that helped craft Jessica Simpson, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, worked with Rapattoni years ago.

He took private singing lessons from the proven vocal coach. When Simon Fuller, creator of American Idol, called Septien and asked for some recommendations for a boy band, she enlisted Rapattoni. Off to Los Angeles he went and performed in IM5 for a few years.

Now, he’s melting Idol judge Jennifer Lopez and America’s hearts – or something like that – on the final season of the most successful reality singing competition show.

Septien has coached plenty of AI alums, so she knows the secret to success on a show like that. “In a reality show, it’s a little bit different audience. It’s an older audience and it’s also a less musical, sometime-musicians audience," she says. "And so you kind of have to cater to people who know the Top 40 pop songs.”

From the beginning, Rapattoni has had his own unique twist on the competition. His audition song was "Phantom of the Opera," he sang Grease’s "Hopelessly Devoted to You" during a Hollywood round (where judge Harry Connick Jr., baffled, said, "Who does that?" and judge Keith Urban quipped back, "Dalton does it") and even took a cue from his former boy band days with "It’s Gonna Be Me" by *NSYNC. The judges and audience have consistently loved it – hence why he made it to the top 10.

“He’s different. That’s the funny thing, is that they love him because he’s the rock guy,” Septien says. “And he’s kind of putting a whole different twist on American Idol because they’re looking for those artists, obviously, that they can launch. So he’s got this really cool feel of how he wants to present himself. And I just think it’s a little bit different. The fact that he did "Phantom of the Operain rock style blew me away. And he chose that. I didn’t know anything about it. He just said, ‘That’s what I’m doing.’ And I went, ‘Wow, that was so cool.’”

Septien says she’s still in contact with Rapattoni and the only advice she’s given him is to remember to stay in his lane of rock. While it might be easy to cater to the top 40 hits American Idol is used to, it’s important for Rapattoni to stick with what he’s good at, she says.

But can this Dallas kid make it to the end? Septien says American Idol is looking for someone who is ready to launch, and social media followers and the ability to produce viral content also helps.

Rapattoni has more than 116,000 Twitter followers — more than anyone else in the top 10 — and while covering classics from Olivia Newton John and *NSYNC, he's bound to go viral soon enough.

“Yes, I think he has a great chance of winning,” Septien says.
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Paige Skinner has written for the Dallas Observer since 2014.
Contact: Paige Skinner