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'American Idol' Hopeful Devin Velez Advances to Top 20

By Benjamin Woodard | February 22, 2013 3:45pm

EDGEWATER — An Edgewater high school student was one of five male contestants to survive a sudden-death round on "American Idol" Thursday night.

Devin Velez, a senior at Rickover Naval Academy, got high praise from the judges for his performance of Beyonce's "Listen," singing part of the song in Spanish.

"You walk out there and you can sing. You've got a voice, you made a connection with me from your voice," judge Keith Urban on said the Fox primetime show. "You didn't have to do anything else but sing the song be in the song and show me Devin."

"Yo man, listen: Dude, I love you," added long-time judge Randy Jackson. "I thought it was amazing."

Judge Nicki Minaj said Velez made a smart choice to sing some of the song in Spanish.

"You have a nice spirit — a warmth about you — that shines through your eyes," she said.

Velez, of Portage Park, is in his fourth year at the Edgewater academy, and his peers and teachers anxiously watched the show from home, said Commandant Mike Tooker, an administrator at the school that shares a building with Senn High School.

"Either you’re moving on or you're moving out," said Tooker. "When they got to Devin, they were down to the last two. It was a real nail-biter."

Velez was one of 46 singers to advance to the show's Hollywood round from auditions held in Chicago.

Tooker said the cafeteria was abuzz Friday morning with talk about Velez.

"He’s a very popular student," Tooker said. "Everybody, as far as I know, is watching" the show.

The retired Navy commander said 18-year-old Velez, who headlined with the school's jazz band, was allowed to finish schoolwork ahead of time before leaving for California last week for the competition.

"He is basically out in Hollywood land until he’s done with however far he goes," Tooker said. “It's not every day you get that kind of exposure at an inner-city high school.”