• Long Beach Breeze

Jeb Vonderbruegge Shines on American Idol

By Andy Kanengiser, Long Beach Breeze Reporter

Jeb Vonderbruegge is a rock star in his hometown of Long Beach. His fans seem to be everywhere in this close-knit Mississippi Gulf Coast community.

After all, Jeb landed in the top 40 on the “American Idol’’ show in Hollywood. The ABC broadcast aired in late March. The 18-year-old Long Beach High graduate gave it his best shot on the follow-up show in Hawaii.

As millions of viewers tuned in, a trio of all-star judges began slicing the contestant numbers to 20 to cause heartbreak for some. Looking on was Ryan Secrest, one of the mainstays as the show’s able host.

Family and friends in Long Beach Bearcats Country rooted for Jeb to succeed. And he did super to make it so far. Talent levels in 2020 are off the charts for high school teens and college kids from across the USA. One of the outstanding “Idol’’ singers came from Long Beach, California.

But Jeb from Long Beach, Mississippi also shined as he belted out Elton John’s classic “Rocket Man’’ on a Hollywood stage.

“Congrats Jeb Vonderbruegge – you killed it,’’ first cousin, Chip Vonderbruegge posted on his Facebook page on March 23. “Even a shout out from Katy Perry herself!.’’

A Regions Bank branch and president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, Chip was among many residents singing his cousin’s praises.

“He is extremely talented but never really found his artistry until Gulf Coast Idol,’’ Chip said. “He’s been extremely involved his whole life with acting and performing arts. This opened up a whole new avenue for him. I noticed the confidence in his performance growing.’’

So did “American Idol’’ judges like singer-songwriter Katy Perry, music legend Lionel Ritchie and country star Luke Bryan. In the show’s 18th season, these judges are stellar evaluators of live performances.

Taking a semester break from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College classes in Biloxi to focus on his music, Jeb soared with “Rocket Man’’ as the judges watched his every move.

“One thing the judges told him from the beginning was to find himself and I feel like he did that during Hollywood Week,’’ Chip Vonderbruegge said. “This opportunity has done a lot for Jeb, his family and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.’’

From City Hall to ballfields around town, and at Sonic, loads of Long Beach folks give Jeb a thumbs up.

In the Friendly City, Jeb has many fans. From Mayor George Bass to city staffers, the Harrison County community warmly welcomes their new “American Idol’’ star.

“The City of Long Beach is very proud of Jeb and his incredible talent,’’ says Jenny Levens, the community affairs director. “We look forward to hosting a Long Beach Live concert with Jeb.’’

During a late March phone interview with the “Long Beach Breeze,’’ Jeb Vonderbruegge said he’s delighted by the reception he’s getting on his home turf.

It’s good to know, Jeb said, that “people are proud of me.’’

Even during a visit to the dentist to get his wisdom teeth removed, people said they “recognized me from the show.’’

Being part of Hollywood Week, then landing on the “Idol’’ show in Hawaii dubbed “The Judgement,’’ was definitely cool, he said.

But overwhelming hometown support may be sweeter. “It’s nice to have the support of everybody around you. I am very, very fortunate to have that.’’

Jeb raves about his parents. Nicole and Bryan Vonderbruegge are wonderful educators on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

As for all three “American Idol’’ judges, each one is excellent, Jeb says. He enjoyed his days at Long Beach High taking parts in theater productions.

Asked why he performed Elton John’s hit “Rocket Man,’’ Jeb didn’t hesitate. “I grew up listening to Elton John.’’

During “Hollywood Week’’ on “American Idol,’’ Jeb spoke on stage for a few moments. “My whole body is vibrating,’’ the Mississippi teen said.

Before he exited the stage, Jeb thanked the musicians backing up his solid performance. “The band is incredible.’’

What’s down the road for Jeb Vonderbruegge, in say five years? He plans to keep working on his music career.

For more information on ABC’s “American Idol’’ go to http://www.americanidol.com

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