At Circles Bar & Grill in Apollo Beach, he's known as "the singing waiter."
But 2008 Newsome High School graduate Dan Wood soon will sing in front a much larger audience.
At auditions Jan. 24 in Baton Rouge, La., Wood received his "golden ticket" from American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj and is headed to Hollywood to compete as a semifinalist on Season 12 of the television show (see the attached "Road to Hollywood" interview).
Born in Houston, Wood, 22, moved with his family to FishHawk Ranch where he participated in cross country at Newsome High School and pursued his love of singing at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico as the only male member of the Life Teen Choir. His mother, Cindy, served as the adult education and formation minister of the church until relocating to Virginia two years ago.
Wood was determined to display his natural singing talents on American Idol. He first tried out for the show while attending Newsome. Last year, during auditions in Charleston, S.C., he made it into the top 50. However, only the top 20 received invitations to Hollywood.
The Baton Rouge auditions were his fourth attempt to be a contestant on the show. This time, he impressed the judges enough to be one of 34 contestants selected to move on to competition in Hollywood.
So far 160 semifinalists have been selected in regional auditions. Three more auditions will take place in San Antonio, Texas, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City, Okla., Jan. 30 and 31.
"When I got the golden ticket, I honestly don’t even know if I was thinking," said Wood.
Although his leanings are toward country music, Wood said he was inspired to pursue his singing career by his grandmother, an opera singer.
"She kind of gave me her talent," he said during his Idol interview. "If it wasn t for her, I wouldn’t be here."
Wood, who is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of South Florida, currently lives in Apollo Beach where he gets plenty of practice performing for audiences by singing "Happy Birthday" to diners at the Circles Bar & Grill in between waiting on tables.
The show airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox TV.