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Bel Air's Emma Kleinberg makes top 40 on 'American Idol,' heads to Hawaii for next round

Bel Air's Emma Kleinberg makes top 40 on 'American Idol,' heads to Hawaii for next round
Emma Kleinberg of Bel Air looks pensive during Hollywood Week on "American Idol." Kleinberg made the top 40 and advanced to the next round, which will air Sunday and Monday. (Courtesy Kim Kleinberg)

Emma Kleinberg took a chance during Hollywood Week on “American Idol” by singing an original song and it paid off — she made the top 40.

The week of rehearsals and three rounds of competition at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles was “amazing, exhausting, emotion, just a million different things,” Kleinberg said Tuesday, home in Bel Air visiting her parents for a week.

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“It’s probably the most tired I’ve ever been in my life,” she said. “You just don’t sleep at all.”

Going to bed at 3:30 a.m. and with call times at 5:30 a.m., she got two hours of sleep most nights.

“But you bond with people when you’re tired together,” Kleinberg said. “I made a lot of really amazing friends that week. Even though it was exhausting, it gives you a little taste of life when you’re sick, not feeling your best and you still have to get up and sing and show up. So that was really good.”

Two other Maryland performers, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, of Catonsville, and Dimitrius Graham, of Windsor Mill, both in their 20s, also moved on to the next round.

In the first round, Kleinberg sang “Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware, followed by “Drag Me Down” by One Direction in the group round.

She took her chance in the solo round, where contestants were given the option of singing an original song, but it was strongly discouraged. Kleinberg opted to sing “Off My Mind,” an original tune she intends to release next month.

“While I’m here, I’d rather go home singing a song I want to sing rather than a song they want me to sing,” Kleinberg said. “I went for it and it ended up paying off, so it went great.”

Emma’s parents, Allen and Kim Kleinberg, and her brother, Alex, were in LA for the week to support her.

“It was exciting, stressful, exhausting. We were there every second we could be,” Kim Kleinberg said. “We watched every performance of every kid in Hollywood Week.”

It was nerve-wracking, she said, because there were three rounds of cuts during the week.

“Each day brought another round of anxiety,” Kim Kleinberg said.

The week started with 175 aspiring singers and by the end was narrowed to 40.

Katy Perry broke the news to Kleinberg’s group that they were moving on.

“Hi guys. We just want to let you know, whatever happens, we’re really honored that you have shared your talents with us, your experience with us,” Perry said. “It’s not been easy and there’s a lot of people going home tonight. There’s three groups and … your group … is going to go through, because you’re going to Hawaii.”

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That’s where the “Green Mile” showcase round and Final Judgment will be aired Sunday and Monday. If she makes it past that, she’ll be part of live and live-to-tape episodes beginning April 14.

Kleinberg was sitting next to her best friend from college, Walker Borroughs, a fellow contestant.

“I told him ‘I don’t think I could have done this without you,’” Kleinberg said. “Having him with me made me feel like I can hold on to who I was as a person. Walker and I were there for affirmation for each other, we would lift each other up.”

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