High Note
Behind the mike with Doylestown’s very own “American Idol” star Justin Guarini
by Erica Bauwens

Justin Guarini burst onto the music scene in 2002 as one of the stars of the first season of “American Idol.” Coming in second alongside another now-familiar name, Kelly Clarkson, Guarini’s renditions of jazzy, soulful tunes, along with his signature curly locks, helped secure him as one of the many famous names to come out of the hit music show.

Guarini has traded in the heat of competition and screaming teen fans for a mellower lifestyle. Now married with a new baby in tow, the Doylestown native has gone on to release his own independent albums, while occasionally appearing on stage, and teaching the art of music to other hopeful performers.

We spoke with Guarini in advance of last month’s appearance at the Haddonfield Theater Arts Center in Haddonfield, N.J., where he taught acting and singing as part of the theater’s Master Class Series to fans and future stars of all ages.

Suburban Life: How has your career developed since “American Idol”?
Justin Guarini: Because of “American Idol,” I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel all over the country and world doing what I love to do best: entertain people. I’ve had success in film, television, radio, music and theater.

SL: You were considered one of the first big stars of reality television. How did the limelight of reality TV impact your career decisions, and how did it shape you into who you are today?
Was I [a big star]? It’s funny because I don’t think of myself that way. Basically the show gave me the ways and means to have the life and career I’ve always wanted. It shaped me through fire, trial and error.

SL: Regarding teaching the master class in Haddonfield, what made you passionate about teaching others?
JG: I love to share the things I’ve learned so others can be better informed. I love to teach, because it’s one of the best ways for me to learn as well.

SL: You’ve had a lot of success in music and television since leaving the show. What else are you working on in your career at the moment?
JG: I’ve been living it up in the theater and enjoying my little family. I’ve been so blessed to have balance in my life with a happy family and a healthy career.

SL: When you are home in or near Doylestown, name one or two places you must visit.
JG: I must go to Ooka for sushi, and anywhere my family is. … I love going to the park with my wife and kids.

SL: You attended University of the Arts and sang in choirs across Philadelphia as a child. How does Philadelphia compare to other cities that you have performed in and lived in?
JG: Philly has music in its bones. Not every major city has a signature sound, and I’m lucky to hail from Philly’s “soul” experience. Center City is an amazing place to hear and perform music.

SL: What do you miss the most about Philadelphia when you’re not in the area?
JG: Geno’s!

SL: While you were in high school at Central Bucks East, you were in a production called “Zombie Prom.” Besides the fact that you were ahead of the zombie trend in pop culture, what do you remember most about that performance?
JG: I remember having to wear white contact lenses and trying not to die onstage—i.e., fall off the stage—because it was so hard to see anything; it was as though I had cataracts. It was also my first experience with quick changes. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack every time I was transforming into a zombie: lots of makeup, clothes and those [darned] contacts I had to put in. It was totally worth it, though, and I loved every minute of it.