Boise teen appearing on American Idol shares passion for music with friends with disabilities

BOISE - A Treasure Valley teenager will soon take the national spotlight auditioning in front of some of the biggest names in music for this season's American Idol. But Maddie Zahm's passion for music is more than a search for fame.

At least twice a month she invites her friends over for a laidback music class. Those friends happen to have disabilities, but share the same love for music.

“It doesn’t take singing to be able to enjoy music or sing with us," Maddie Zahm said. “You know, they can have shakers, they can play the piano. There’s just so many ways that we can connect through music.”

Maddie got the inspiration from her best friend Marcus who has down syndrome. They met in junior high by a twist of fate when eighth-grade Maddie got mixed up and accidentally sat down in Marcus's special education music class. 

“I kind of have anxiety, so I didn’t want to leave half-way through," Maddie said, "We ended up meeting, and I switched over to their class, and that’s kind of how our music relationship formed.”

Since that day, Maddie's learned music is a language everyone can speak.

“Music is really universal, that’s part of the reason I kind of chose this outlet for my friends," Maddie said. "Even though they are on different spectrums of how they can communicate, music is something we can just so easily connect with.”

So last summer, Maddie took the leap of faith, taking her singing voice outside her living room, driving down to Utah to audition to American Idol. “Just because I felt like I was supposed to be there," Zahm said. "I stood in line with 5,000 people, and I was one of 20 chosen, and it was just such a crazy day. I had to go through a couple of rounds after that just to sing for the judges.”

And when the time came to steal the spotlight, Maddie just couldn't finish the audition without sharing the big moment with her best friend, Marcus. 

“He got to sing a song for Lionel Richey, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry, too!” Zahm said. "It was really fun."

The season premiere of American Idol is March 11 on 6 On Your Side.

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