How This CMU Student Went From Entertaining On TikTok To ‘American Idol’

Tripp Taylor’s time on the ABC show has ended, but he says it’s just the beginning of his singing career.
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Tripp Taylor built a TikTok following 400,000 strong over the past several years, becoming known for his piano-accompanied renditions of songs by artists such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. 

His following was so big, in fact, that producers of ABC’s “American Idol” last year invited him to audition for the show, instead of him seeking out the opportunity on his own. 

“I had a Zoom call with some of the producers because we’d been talking back and forth about auditioning and then some of my friends at CMU convinced me that I should just do it because why not?” Taylor says. “Why not just take a chance and see what happens? So I just auditioned and it went from there.”

Taylor, 19, a Carnegie Mellon University freshman, went on to advance through the first round of auditions in Nashville, Tennessee, where he performed Ray Charles’s “I Believe to My Soul” in front of Idol judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. He made it as far as the top 55, but he announced Monday on Instagram that he didn’t make it to the fourth round. 

“I didn’t like growing up thinking ‘Oh, I want to audition for ‘American Idol,’’ I just sing because I love to sing,” Taylor says. “My style of singing just came from me having fun playing the piano and messing around and just enjoying what I’m doing and enjoying the sounds of what I’m doing and seeing what happens.”

Taylor, originally from Florence, South Carolina, says music has been part of his entire life and that he first started singing when he was just 2 or 3 years old.

Back home, his father sings in the local church’s God praise band and, as a child, Taylor would perform in musicals with his two older sisters. Simply, Taylor says “I always go back to music, it makes me the happiest.”

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 “I use it to calm down, I use it to hype me up, I use it for everything,” Taylor says. “ So I just figured why not just try to make music my life, whether it’s musical theater or music on stage.”

In coming to Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama, Taylor says he hopes to appear in movies and television, really “just show [his] artistry in every way [he] can.” But the prestigious department wasn’t Taylor’s only draw to Pittsburgh. 

“My dad’s from Pittsburgh, so I’ve had family reunions here before and I’m a big, big Steelers fan,” Taylor says. “So I just figured like why not change up the scene a little bit, change up the pitch.”

Taylor says on his days off he likes to hike, skateboard and hang out with his friends in Schenley Park. This coming summer, he says he plans on singing in bars and the local symphony back in Florence.

Though he didn’t bring home the gold, Taylor’s loss on “American Idol” hardly deters him from his ultimate goal. 

“Releasing music, and being a professional artist is always going to be there as a possibility,” Taylor says. “I’ll give it some time, maybe do a little something here and there for the next couple of years, but I’m not going to go full out until I graduate.”

Categories: The 412