Diego De Jesus

Zach D’Onofrio chronicled his experience being a sophomore at Florida Southern College and auditioning on American Idol for the second time. Humbling from Wesley Chapel, Fla., D’Onofrio has been singing since his sophomore year of high school. 

Growing up, D’Onofrio’s parents owned a theatre called the Dreamhouse Theatre, where he began as a singer. He remarked on his first time singing, working there behind the scenes. 

“I would do the lights/sound for the show, and would see how much fun the contestants were having, and just thought I wanted to try it one day,” D’Onofrio said. “This wasn’t until sophomore year of high school that I made that decision, which makes it only around 4 years that I’ve been singing/pursuing this path.”

From the moment D’Onofrio first sang in their theatre, his parents knew they had something special on their hands and became the driving force on his embarking journey. He had been singing since he was little, but this was his first time performing on stage. 

Before his first public performance in the Dreamhouse Theatre, D’Onofrio would sing privately to himself or with other people growing up. Out of curiosity, he decided to share his voice. 

“It was mainly curiosity that pushed me to go public with my voice, since I just wanted to see what people thought about it, and after the first time singing, it only improved from there,” D’Onofrio said. “Overall, I would just sing to myself/ with other people growing up, so this show made me go solo with my voice and it was nerve-wracking, but worth it in the end (since I wouldn’t be at this school today without pushing myself to do that).” 

American Idol was a change of pace for him, as he performed alone in front of experienced judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan for the first time in 2017. D’Onofrio remembers that first experience and the excitement of looking forward. 

“Starting it [American Idol] out in 2017 with little experience/having that be my first audition, to now walking in front of the judges again, with tons of experience and knowledge, it has been a very rewarding ride that I never want to stop,” D’Onofrio said. 

This past Sunday, he performed in front of the same judges as in 2017. Perry personally remembered dancing with D’Onofrio while he sang Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” while Bryan and Richie swung together. 

D’Onofrio made his return playing the piano singing “Golden Slumbers” by The Beatles. Then he continued and brought Catie Turner, his girlfriend and American Idol semi-finalist in 2018, into a duet “Falling” by Harry Styles. 

The judges voted yes and D’Onofrio got his golden ticket to advance onto Hollywood. D’Onofrio reflected on that performance that day. 

“I felt amazing about the performance, and was happy to have Catie Turner there as well. The judges just want me to get out of my shell, and for Hollywood Week that’s my goal,” D’Onofrio said. “To show them I have what it takes to win the show.”

Since his last performance, D’Onofrio is still continuing his education majoring in Music Management. Florida Southern College has a small campus and student body making D’Onofrio more recognizable by fellow students. 

“People definitely recognize me more, and I was nervous coming into a new school making new friends, but it ended up being far easier than I anticipated,” D’Onofrio said. “I think the fact that I was on American Idol twice now, is just my staple, in that I will always be known as the sock guy/the guy who sang Frank Sinatra, etc. And to be honest it is a very great ice-breaker. It’s definitely gotten me out of my shell.” 

As a student, D’Onofrio is majoring in Music Management and is a recent transfer from the University of South Florida. He described his curriculars as a major in the music field. 

“I’m taking over 10 classes (music majors always get so many), from Principles of Management to Music Theory, I have a huge variety,” D’Onofrio said. “Dr. Falcon, my Management teacher was an attendee for the American Idol watch party we had at Branscomb [Auditorium], and she has been one of the greatest professors I have had.”

Dr. Silviana Falcon, an assistant professor in the Business Administration department, is a big supporter of D’Onofrio. 

“I am extremely proud of him. I know it has to have taken many hours of hard work and commitment as well as great talent to get to that point,” Dr. Falcon said. “I was also very happy to meet his parents and be a part of such a great moment in his life.” 

D’Onofrio concluded on a recollective note telling of his journey from humble beginnings to center stage. 

“This American Idol journey truly changed my life,” D’Onofrio said. “Starting it out in 2017 with little experience/ having that be my first audition, to now walking in front of the judges again, with tons of experience and knowledge, it has been a very rewarding ride that I never want to stop. They’re celebrities and it’s extremely intimidating, but they really are people at the end of the day. Just like us.”


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