A Y-K Delta college student auditioned for American Idol from Nome
Martin Paul didn’t make the cut, but he said that he has no regrets. The 20-year-old college student shared his audition tape on Facebook. He said that his social media followers urged him to try out when the American Idol auditions were announced.
“I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for my friends and family. Especially my social media following [who was] tagging me in, like, all the posts,” said Paul, who grew up between Kotzebue, Kipnuk, and Kalskag. “There were so many people on my social media, Facebook, Tiktok, and Instagram just tagging me in those posts that I, like, almost couldn't ignore it.”
Paul said that he also owes a lot of his motivation to some of the Elders in his life.
“It was just mainly my grandma that would push me to just, like, ‘come on, get out of your comfort zone and just sing, sing loud.’” Paul said that his grandmother would challenge him. “[She’d] be like, “I can’t even hear you,” he said, laughing.
His other inspiration is Julia Dorris, who teaches culture at the high school in Kalskag.
“She really allowed me to have this safe and comfortable space,” Paul said.
Dorris remembers Martin Paul as an eager student who was easy to teach and willing to learn. “I don’t know how many people outside of Alaska know about our Yuraqing, and our drumming, and our singing, and the stories it tells,” she said. “I am so proud that Martin embraces his culture.”
Dorris believes that she may be the only person right now in Kalskag who knows how to drum, and how to do the dancing she teaches.
KNOM, a radio station in Nome, collaborated with a producer from American Idol to seek out talent in the Far North. In August, would-be contestants submitted audition tapes online. Four finalists from Alaska were selected and traveled to Nome to try out in early September.
Paul got word from producers a week after his second audition: he didn’t make the cut. “I am still very very grateful that I have the opportunity to be able to share our culture and possibly encourage the next generation to sing our Yup’ik songs and be able to pass that down to the next generations so that we don’t lose it,” he said. “I feel like this generation right now, we almost lost it, but we’re slowly getting it back. And the fact that I get to be a part of this generation that’s bringing it back just gives me chills.”
Paul is a first year student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he is studying Yugtun, the Yup’ik language. He was recently named as an emcee for one of two nights of Quayana celebrations during next month's Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention in Anchorage.