Approximately two months after her remarkable and jaw-dropping performance of the Billie Eilish tear-jerker, What Was I Made For? Abi Carter is the American Idol 2024! To the world, she kinda came out of nowhere endearing the hearts and captivating the ears and eyes of everyone who listened. To her family, friends and the Coachella Valley, this was in her trajectory the entire time. I’ll give Luke Bryan partial credit when after her initial performance he stated to Lionel Richie, “That may be the winner of American Idol”. On my behalf, I won’t say I have the gift of prophecy, but I first met Abi at the age 15 at TKB Bakery and Deli after she submitted an essay to desert guitar Bluesman John Carey to win an Schecter magenta-colored electric guitar he was giving away, which he does yearly. Watching her perform with said guitar along with John and his band at Woody’s Burger in Palm Springs, I knew she was special. What I didn’t know is how special she would become.

Abi fully embraced the American Idol experience with grace and humility. In doing so, she won over American Idol and music fans alike around the world.



During her homecoming visit last week, Abi attended events from Palm Springs to Indio. Although home – town visits are a part of the American Idol script, this was different, Abi’s visit was truly sentimental for many. The American Idol film crew followed her around, not to miss any potential eventful and dramatic moment. One stop on her way to the evening concert at Indio’s new outdoor stage was Washington Charter Elementary School in Palm Desert.

As I stood in the 85+ degree weather at Washington Charter, I slowly took in what I realized was happening. Something captured me and I unconsciously thought, this is what it must have felt like when The Beatles came to America in 1964. I truly felt compelled and both eyes began to tear up. It was cathartic to witness what these kids must be experiencing. They were there to support Abi as well as participate in an event that was likely a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. The chants of “Abi-Abi-Abi” were drilled into my soul. I joined in and started walking around along with the teachers to encourage those kids who were a little more introverted to share in the joy…and they did! Seeing the other adults, teaching staff and administration chiming in was also inspiring and I’m certain their desire to inspire is a daily ritual they are accustomed to. But even this was unique…they were crying too! Leticia Teran, Administrative Assistant, shared, “We’re excited to have Abi here at Washington Charter School where she attended. She’s providing a great core memory for all our kids and staff”. And boy did she!

As Abi walked through the makeshift parade route of 750 students, each side of the winding path was lined with kids holding up self-made cardboard signs with colorful messages of support written on them. Abi made every attempt to greet each smiling face and sign as many posters as humanly possible, knowing the American Idol schedule is hectic and things needed to keep moving. She later shared, “I was able to look at every single one of your faces and just appreciate everything you have done for me”.

Despite American Idol producers attempting to manage Abi’s schedule, it was Principal Allan Lehmann who was the Master of Ceremonies. In his last year as principal, Mr. Lehmann provided the emotional foundation for the day, inviting students to read letters they wrote to Abi aloud once she was whisked to the indoor auditorium. Student Charlie shared, “I was so excited to see someone from the Coachella Valley follow their dreams and passions, ending up on a stage as big as American Idol. We are rooting for you! You will always be a Patriot”. Student Harlow exclaimed, “You’re an awesome singer and I love your voice! You’re also really brave”. And student Grace attested, “Abi has an incredible voice. She is so poised and beautiful. Abi has her own way of singing songs and it’s perfect, it expresses her personality and character”.

As music instructor Linda Hushaw directed her students, Abi sat behind the piano and played as the Washington Charter choir sang. During the performances, Abi was able to address the students. “I never thought I’d be able to come back here and to see all of you guys look at me the way I looked at my teachers. I had the brightest eyes for them. This is surreal and I’m just looking around this room and I know that every single one of you can do amazing things. When I was your age, I was told I would never be a singer, my voice was too raspy. I don’t want any of you to have your dreams crushed. I’m still standing here and I’m still able to do what I love. I want all of you to do the same”.

Abi then shared a story from her kindergarten year as she and her sister auditioned for the talent show and were turned down. “Anything that you wanna do, you’re gonna be told ‘no’. You’re gonna be told you’re not good enough, that what you want to do in life is not achievable. When I got that first ‘no’ from the talent show, I never wanted to sing again. I felt so bad about myself. I figured I’m never gonna dance or sing again or be able to get up on stage and sing in front of a bunch of people. It was so scary. But I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t ignored all of the ‘nos’ I was getting in life….as long as you work at it, you’re gonna be able to do it for the rest of your life. You guys are making it so that I can do what I love for the rest of my life, so thank you so much”. Abi’s theme that day to those young people was to never give up and follow your passions.

Fast forward to later in the day in Indio, seeing Abi parading down the burgeoning downtown Indio streets of Miles and Oasis gave pause that we are all a part of her story. From toddlers to older adults, fans were standing shoulder to shoulder proudly displaying “Indio Loves Abi” signs and shirts maneuvering to get a glimpse of Abi or to get in earshot so they could chant “Abi” along with the thousands in attendance. The city of Indio did such a great job of creating an electric atmosphere that permeated every soul in attendance. Despite the wait and the heat, there would only be joy and celebration on this day. That’s what Abi brings to the table, purified excitement. I met a realtor named Katie Rollins who drove from the Yuba-Sutter area of Northern California to be at the parade and concert. She was there representing her daughter Rylie Kate “RK” who suffers from a medical condition called Type II Pfeiffer Syndrome, a craniofacial syndrome that causes her skull and elbows to be completely fused. What a blessing to meet her and know that RK is a huge Abi Carter fan. In 2018, I asked Abi where she’d like to take her talents. She responded, “I have always had the goal of making people smile, wherever I’m singing back-up vocals in a small restaurant or in stadiums with a guitar or pianos, I’ll have deemed myself successful as soon as it gives happiness to others”. Abi travels with joy everywhere she goes, it’s infectious.


I spoke to Abi’s mom Andrea briefly, she was beside herself with joy, “This is unreal! In just two months her life has changed completely. I couldn’t be more proud, proud isn’t the word, I wish I had another word…It unbelievable”.

I asked Andrea about the support Abi has received, “Nobody gets to where they are alone and she’s had a whole village around her to get her here; from church family to schools, to principals to teachers to piano teachers to her siblings and other extended family members, it’s been everyone that’s got her to this point, and we’re all proud!”


Abi expressed her appreciation to all her supporters, “I feel so loved and supported, it means the world to me”. Abi is also proud of her roots and where she hails from, “This valley has supported me from the beginning, in being creative and an artist and musician, all of you have lifted me up and brought me where I am today. I cannot thank you enough. Indio is home to me, I feel as the directionally challenged person I am, the mountains have always brought me such support. Everywhere you look, you know where you’re at. It’s like a warm blanket wrapped around me. I’m excited to see Indio on national television”.


“I’m looking forward to writing my own music, to release my own songs, I’ve written so many. I’m excited to get them out there and for people to listen to them”. Abi’s new single, This Isn’t Over, was released on May 17 and is moving up the charts and is currently in the Top 10 of the iTunes chart. Abi shared about the meaning behind the song, “It’s about struggling as a kid, when I felt I couldn’t fight for myself. The person that I am today had to grow a lot stronger than she was. It’s about fighting for the kid that I was”. Her first single, It’s All Love was released March 29 and introduced us to her songwriting skills and musicianship. The song demonstrates the vulnerability that we have learned to love about her. Her ability to express in words and music how I believe many young people may be feeling; awkward, discomfort, inadequacy. What she does is relay that it’s OK and it’s all for a greater purpose. It’s all love…

During the Indio event, on behalf of American Idol, Country Music Association Foundation and the American Broadcasting Company, a donation of $20,000 was made in honor of Abi to ‘Tools for Tomorrow’ a non-profit after-school and online arts literacy program that integrates creative writing, art, music and theater for kids eight to eleven. The arts got a shot in the arm with Abi’s success on American Idol. Washing Charter will not only have a music instructor next year, they have also allotted funding to hire a full-time art teacher as well! This valley is not only proud but thankful for what Abi has given back in such a short time.

As for the City of Indio, no longer will we only be the City of Festivals or the site of Coachella and Stagecoach…we are also the home of Abi Carter, American Idol!