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Reed Grimm gives his mom, Colleen Raye, an affectionate hug. Grimm was seen on "American Idol" last week calling his mom for emotional support. The Ellsworth High School graduate made it into the top 42 contestants last week. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl

Reed Grimm continues his 'Idol' quest

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From Trending on Twitter to interviews for television, the last few months have been a flurry of activity for Reed Grimm who grew up in Ellsworth. He is one of the top 42 contestants on the popular show "American Idol." This week those contestants will perform solos and the field will be narrowed to 24. "American Idol" airs at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 and 23. The shows highlight solo competition and the top 24 contestants will be chosen.

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Grimm worked for three years as a "Sandwich Artist" at the Ellsworth Subway.

"That was my first job and really because I have been blessed with opportunities that have not only allowed me to enjoy myself but to travel, meet new people and play in a new band, it was my only regular job," said Grimm, who also worked as a nanny while pursuing his career in music. "And now I am at the cusp of taking it to a whole new level."

His kind personality did not go unnoticed at Subway or while he was volunteering and singing at the Ellsworth Care Center. As a senior he earned the St. Francis Scholarship for what he was doing outside of the church, a fact to this day, Grimm finds amazing, because he was just being himself.

While his introduction to drums came before he was in elementary school, it wasn't until he had his own set at age 12 that his passion set in.

"I knew I wanted to play the drums once I got behind a set," said Grimm, who came home every day to practice. That effort paid off when the UW-La Crosse music department set its sights on having him as a student. His talent was spotted while he was competing in the high school La Crosse Jazz Fest, where he won the award for outstanding soloist. He competed with Ellsworth High School's big band and jazz combo.

While at studying percussion and philosophy at UW-La Crosse Grimm joined a band, Three Beers to Dubuque.

"It was the first time I was a front man for a band," said Grimm, who up to this point was behind his drum set. "The front man leads the whole night, guides the transitions between songs. I learned a lot playing with that band."

Unfortunately for Reed, the front man in his life, his dad Steve Grimm, lost his battle with cancer before Reed would take on the role his dad played for years -- the front man for the Steve Grimm and Colleen Raye Show, which included the children each in turn as they were born.

"Dad died in 2005," said a sober Grimm. "Growing up, he was fun and taught me a lot. I realized that when I first started being a solo performer, a front person for the band, just when I was coming into my own and when I could have learned so much more from him, he was gone."

"He was the person who controlled the vibration of the room," said Grimm. "He was the best performer, entertainer. He could create this amazing space, capture the whole room. Sometimes when I watch videos of him I find myself in awe of him."

Grimm earned a trip to Hollywood after his Pittsburg audition. The first time in five attempts, he actually performed for the three judges, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.

"I wanted to do something different, something they would not expect," said Grimm of his choice of the theme song of "Family Matters" television show. It gave Grimm the freedom to show his vocal stylizations including scatting.

"Scatting is really using the voice to mimic instruments," said Grimm. "When I went out there (to perform the first time in front of the judges), there is this whole stigma about celebrities. These are people who have accomplished a lot and are champions in their own right but they are humans. I'm just going to approach them as humans. I was very relaxed and comfortable. I just did my thing and they liked it."

Since that first funky performance, Grimm has appeared before the judges numerous times, including last week, where he received an amazing amount of air time on both nights of the competition.

"It's been great. There is so much talent and so much different talent out here," said Grimm, regarding the experience of going to Hollywood. "Being surrounded by all this, it has been like a big music camp. I want to grow and learn as much as I can. We are all learning, sharing and getting to know each other. I know these are friends that are going to be friends for life."

Character is an important part of Grimm's life. Next week we will share his thoughts on that and more regarding his personal philosophy of life.

In the meantime, public voting begins before the next edition of the paper. It starts on Feb. 28 with the first live show. Voting is critical for the contestant to stay in the running for the "American Idol" dream. So here are some tips on how to vote for Grimm, providing this week he makes it to the top 24.

How to vote

These tips are provided by an "American Idol" fan who has sorted through the process. There are three ways to vote online at the "American Idol" website, www.americanidol.com. There you can vote a maximum of 50 times. You may call or text your vote as well. Phone call votes are free of charge. If texting, your own phone plan applies.

These are the basics of it: On performance nights after Reed finishes his performance, Ryan Seacrest will give out two numbers -- one for calling by a landline phone and one for text voting. If you're using a landline phone, just call in the number that Seacrest gives out. You can vote as many times as you possibly can within the span of two hours. Also, you don't have to dial the whole number again with each vote you cast. The redial button is your best friend.

Another tip: When you call the number to cast a vote, there will be a message that says something like "Thank you for voting for contestant #1. Watch 'American Idol' on Thursday for results". Right when you hear this message come on, don't listen to the whole thing because it's a waste of time and not necessary. You can just hang up as soon as you hear it and then press redial to vote again. It's the most efficient way to get in the most number of votes possible.

Next week we will bring you more about what makes our regional contestant more than a musician.

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