American Idol Finalist James Durbin attends Fox's 'American Idol' Finalist Party on March 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Update: James Durbin was voted off ‘Idol’ tonight. The result was in well before the show went on the air here on the West Coast. More on the vote: Santa Cruz’s James Durbin Voted Off ‘American Idol.’

A local favorite could make it to the American Idol finals tonight. 22-year-old James Durbin has inspired fans around the country with how he has overcome challenges, including diagnoses of Aspergers and Tourette’s Syndrome when he was a boy.  But nothing beats the enthusiasm of his fans in his hometown of Santa Cruz.

One hot spot for fans is at Dale Ockerman’s Musicscool.  Ockerman, a former guitarist with the Doobie Brothers, opened the self-styled “school of rock” around six years ago in the back of his friend’s guitar shop.  James Durbin was one of his first students.

Ockerman says Durbin always “worked really hard.”

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, he’s just a savant.’ No way, he worked really hard just like these guys do. You have to practice and I think he was always ready for the big time,” says Ockerman.

But Ockerman acknowledges what many say — that Durbin got his talent from his father, who died when Durbin was nine years old.

Ockerman actually knew and played with James’ dad Willy: “He was like the baddest bass player in town. Willy Durbin was a serious bass player.”

Just this week Ockerman says he discovered how small the music world is when he found a DVD of Willy Durbin opening a concert that featured Randy Jackson, the “American Idol” judge who is now playing such an important part in James Durbin’s life.

Ockerman’s not the only one excited for Durbin’s homecoming.  Mary Lundberg is the woman who first recruited Durbin to her daughter’s musical theater group Kids on Broadway, where Durbin held the lead in three plays.

Durbin’s first show with Kids on Broadway was Grease in 2006. The show’s directory, Will Gilford, remembers when he first saw James audition and noticed his Tourette’s Syndrome.

“I saw the tics and said to my musical director and said look, it’s a ’50s show, he’s playing John Travolta’s character Danny Zucko,” says Gilfrod. “I said who cares if he has tics, it’ll play with his character.  So we just let him be free with who he was.”

Mary Lundberg remembers what it was like for Durbin to be in those plays, and credits James’ mother with helping make his conditions a non-issue. “His mother was just so good with him,” Lunberg said. “She came with brochures about Tourette’s syndrome and autism, and tried to educate everybody around her.”

Lunberg says the dressing room was difficult for Durbin to handle at times with all the chaos, but they found if they gave him a guitar and headphones he could focus without being undone by all the activity.

Will Gilford says Durbin is about as perfect a local hero as you can get: “He is Santa Cruz — he’s creative, he’s open, he’s different, and this will be a different American Idol. Which to me speaks volumes not just to Santa Cruz but to our whole country.”

If Durbin advances to final three on American Idol, it’s expected that FOX will follow him back to Santa Cruz for a homecoming performance on the Beach Boardwalk this Saturday, May 14.

‘A Different American Idol’ 13 May,2011Rachel Dornhelm

  • whats wrong whith you people why would you kick james out.

  • jeremy

    James got robbed!! Haley should’ve been sent home. James, Scotty, Lauren ROCK IDOL!!!! Give James a record deal someone.

  • Doc Ditrich

    James just got cut. What in the hell are folks thinking?! This was the man that should have won the whole thing. How many ‘tweens’ are NOT doing their homework and voting when they should not? What kind of talent are people looking for these days?! My god what a bunch of crap! There has to be a HUGH mistake!

  • WTF…….James being voted off!!! Like the young man is super talented as are the rest but hey, he will prevail, just like Daughtry…unbelievable! No wonder Jennifer was crying! So were millions of us!!! James you are the winner in my eyes!

  • joey tilley

    I’m done watching american idol.First it was Chris Daughtry and now James Durbin.The people left are not even in the same class as him.

  • who would do this to im he is the best singer ever and that other man shouldent of won james is the best and he will alwas be the best.

  • Pat

    Something happened in the voting for James. I tried both numbers for over an hour and half and could not get through. Instead of busy the operator said the number is not available at this time. He got voted off tonight and something has to be wrong with the voting.

    • Paula

      Yes, there was definitely something wrong with the voting. Every week I would vote for 2 hrs with 2 phones for James. But last night on 1 phone I got an almost constant busy signal and on the other one I always got an “all circuits are busy” message. If the lines were that busy for James, he would be in the top 3! He was robbed of my votes! And I have been told that when some tried to vote for James online, Haley’s picture kept popping up. Whats with that? Its either “rigged” or Idol has major problems with there voting system! BRING JAMES BACK!

      • Sushmita

        If you couldn’t vote over the phone you should have just texted your votes or done it on the website. I didn’t have a problem with the online voting system. I never bother calling over phone as it always seems busy.

  • Carolyn Spencer

    I was so sad to see James leave American Idol. The voters need to give their heads a shake. Haley was so rude to Randy Wednesday night; that and the fact that she made a fool of herself screaming a Micheal Jackson song and Lauren, no ones too good to say the word evil!! All I can say is go Scotty!!
    James had courage beyond belief and one day he’ll be a star and I would be the first to buy the CD. Good luck to James & his family. What a sweet little boy.

  • yeah i bet there somthing wrong with that voting.i cryed when he got cut off :(.

  • christy hackett

    Really this is as bad as Chris Daughtry were going to end up with another
    taylor Hicks whoopy!!!!!!! You really screwed up!!!!!! Dont think I will watch again this is fixed!!!!!!!!!! REALLY this is REDICULAS

  • debbie maslanka

    i agree with everyone james is a breath of fresh air and it really peed me off how haley didnt even look upset for james. she should have gone home after her attitude on wednesday. all i can say is someone give this gut a recording contract.

  • John Akinnubi

    This is not fair.I think there is technical problem with the numbers.I tried to vote for him but not going through.

  • Rhonda Holt

    There has been alot of wrong vote offs for years!! We all know what is going on.. If the owner (Mobster) in the back says one has to go well we all now know this happens every year, he gets what he wants and it all has to do with $$$$$$ Its no wonder Simon left the show… Our votes mean nothing!! Its up to that AI record producer who owns and runs the show in the back!! I have seen this happen over and over again every year and it has nothing to do with our votes!! I love the show and know they bring on and find so many wonderful artists for us to love and enjoy… I really believe they are better off making it as far as the tour and going out on their own…James will make it big and he is strong and made of Metal with a pure heart and he will be the Idol that walks away with more loving fans and gold metal records to come…GivingMetalAChance!!!

  • Debbie Evans

    I am stunned…By Far, James should have won, with Scotty and Lauren. Haley should go, better yet, should have been gone long time ago. She has attitude problems. She has showed her true colors…and she is not all that.
    Something don’t add up…American Idol keep up doing what your doing, and you will lose viewers! I am one who won’t be watching.!

  • Rhonda Holt

    I been reading around on other sites and have heard that for some reason many were unable to get thru to vote for James due to his line being constantly busy… Either there is a conspiracy going on or so many voted and the lines were jammed to the point the we and James were robed from the votes that did not get to him!!

  • Tina Holmes

    It is so sad that James was voted off!!! Listen everyone…I remember hearing that there was a website that was begun by idol (lousy and disgruntled) cast-offs called–they are so awful…I went on it and they are continually choosing the worst or who they think are the worst contestants to vote for so the best are voted off early and the show goes down the tubes…it’s terrible. Is there a way to get this done away with or bought to the show’s attention? This is why so many shockers have happened and winners who shouldn’t have won did…apparently it was started in 2004–I plugged the info into FB today and there was a summary about it…these votes are not America’s choice–just mean and aangry people who want to hurt other’s votes…any suggestion’s folk’s?


    I am literally sick to my stomach at the way James Durbin was treated. I am not a metal fan but I am a James Durbing fan. He deserved to be in the top three and get a chance to go home and be appreciated for all his efforts. This is so wrong. I have no faith in American Idol anymore – it hurt with Daughtry, it hurt with Adam Lambert and now this. This is so awful I don’t know when I will get over it. Hang in there James, don’t stop believing, you made it this far and you will go even further. Your future is secure. Haley has been in the bottom so many times and you not one single time and this is the treatment you get – shame on you people.

  • claire twomey

    Haley is a bitch!

    I should have known when Adam Lambert..the best..did not win..
    This show is a joke. It is either rigged…or America is dumb beyond taste…I don’t want to, but may just want to continue to watch to see Haley lose, and the look on her face.

  • claire twomey

    Oh,..just as an aside…I saw Adam Lambert in concert last June at the Nokia Theatre in NYC…maybe stood 8 yards from him…Outstanding beyond belief…and who won American Idol that year…Chris who????

    This show is done!

    • Tina Holmes

      Chris won because of vote for the worst–awful…started in 2004—sick people!

  • Sandie Ware

    I am 64 years old and i just love the way Jame’s Durbin could sing anything and had such a multiple range in his voice it was just amazing.
    i feel there was also something wrong in the voting, to go strong all these weeks and never being in the bottom and all of a sudden he is out, I find this to be a little unbelievable, something had to go wrong and i wish they would have a re-vote but i know that is impossible and unfair to past idols , but something went very wrong and unfortunately will never know the truth of it all.
    I also agree that there should only be 1 vote per house whole ,this may help in some of the confusion.
    I also think James Durbin has nothing to worry about and sometimes it is not good to be the winner on AI because he won’t be tided down to them and make it even bigger on his own which i know he will and then some.
    I don’t feel James will be a gold record recorder ,he will go platinum all the way to the top.
    James if you read these beautiful things that the people are writing about you, you can see we are all cheering for you and we all love you very much and are hopes and prayers are with you each and everyday.
    James you rock to the top and metal is here to stay as rock and roll has for many years to come and into the future and so on.
    So just look forward and don’t look back got got your foot in the door now push it open and rock us all…………………


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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