Too young to try out for American Idol? Grab your sleeping bag.
To tide the tweens over until they reach the magic audition age of 16, FremantleMedia and Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment have joined forces to launch Idol Camp, a performing arts-minded summer getaway for pop star wannabes between the ages of 12 and 15.
A lucky 700 kids will be able to try out this "fun-filled and non-competitive training ground for America's future stars" this year, according to the masterminds behind the American Idol juggernaut.
Idol Camp will cost aspiring Kelly Clarksons and Clay Aikens $2,900 for a 10-day session, four of which will take place this summer at a private school in Massachusetts. Some attendees will be eligible for scholarships, however, so that a broader mix of backgrounds will be able to come together.
And, you don't have to audition in front of Simon Cowell to get in.
But while campers will be treated to seminars with celebrity guests, former Idol contestants and other industry professionals, completing a session of Idol Camp does not guarantee a golden ticket to Hollywood or a spot on the inside track during tryouts.
So what can the hopefuls who go to Idol Camp expect to gain from all that instruction in singing, dancing, acting, song writing and audition techniques, as well as the usual camp classics, such as swimming and field sports?
"As in American Idol, the goal for our kids is to soar beyond their expectations," Fremantle executive VP Keith Hindle said. (Or at least soar beyond a first-round embarrassment next time Idol comes to their hometown.)
"However; because Idol Camp is not a competition, every kid goes home a winner," Hindle added.
Performing-arts camp is not a novel idea, of course (see: Camp, the movie), but Idol's expansion into the classic summer pastime does mark a new era in branding and marketing, now that kids might be shuttling off to Massachusetts in order to replicate what they see on Fox twice a week.
"This has been in the works for some time," a spokeswoman told Reuters Thursday, adding that other locations are a possibility if Idol Camp 2007 is a success. "The brand has just exploded."
"Utilizing the power of the American Idol phenomenon, we can provide a truly one-of-a-kind experience," said Mark Brittain, head of Idol's commercial division for 19 Entertainment.
Said phenomenon averaged 30 million viewers last week as the judges whittled the competition down to 12 guys and 12 girls.
Season three champ Fantasia Barrino performed on Thursday's results show, where she also announced that she would be heading to Broadway Apr. 10 to take over the lead role of Celie in the Tony-winning The Color Purple.
Meanwhile, the voting tenacity of the fans finally came into play this week. Paul Kim, Amy Krebs, Rudy Cardenas and Nicole Tranquillo—all unfortunately too old for Idol Camp—became the first four contestants to be dismissed by those armchair judges at home.