BY NICOLE A. HAWLEY Staff writer

From Hollywood to Rome, American Idol contestant Ben Bright will swoon an audience of diners at The Savoy Restaurant, 255 E. Dominick St., at 6 this evening.

Bright, 25, failed to get a nod from the infamous Simon Cowell and Idol’s panel of judges last Tuesday. He was briefly shown on camera with other contestants who did not make it to the next round of the Fox TV show.

Bright, the son of Gerald and Suki Bright, of 524 W. Liberty St., is a 2001 graduate of Rome Free Academy. He received a coveted "golden ticket to Hollywood" when he auditioned for Idol last summer in Boston. His performance of the Beatles’ "All My Lovin," for judges Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and guest judge Victoria Beckham, was aired on the season nine premiere of the show Jan. 12.

Although Bright didn’t make it to the next round of competition on the last episode, he said he can’t be bitter. The experience has not only made him a better musician, but a better role model for his pupils, he said. Bright teaches general music to grades kindergarten through fifth at Cumberland Head Elementary School in Plattsburgh. He is a graduate of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.

"It was an awesome experience," Bright said of being on Idol. "Now I’ve got the validity to my talent and craft. This is something I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life."

"I’m not bitter by any means," he said. "It’s great to continue" in a competition like that, "but it’s still a win-win situation. Now I can sit in front of my students, who are still very excited for me, and I can share the joy of my experience. When I say, ‘Let’s learn how to sing this song or how to play this instrument in a new way,’ this can help get them to where I am today. It’s solid validity that through rehearsals, performing and practicing hard, maybe they can do this too."

All-in-all, American Idol’s judges thought Bright was a good singer, but they were more critical on his song choice, he said. Despite his harsh, tell-it-like-it-is reputation, Bright said Cowell seemed to be a pretty good guy.

"Everyone was really great," Bright said. "And I don’t think Simon Cowell is mean at all. He was just honest, and I appreciate his honesty. That’s what performers need to hear."

Right now Bright is preparing to audition for the next season of American Idol along with his twin brother Brian, who will play guitar. He also plans to continue with his teaching career, and is currently in his tenure year.

"I’m open to any new avenues," Bright said. "I’m still playing gigs" in the Plattsburgh area, "but I’m keeping my options open."

Bright said he’s in talks right now for a performance at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona and will sing at the Capitol Theater in March. During the March performance, Bright said he hopes to talk with a local audience of family and friends about his Idol experience and share his ideas of success.

As for his debut at The Savoy, Bright said he hopes the audience will enjoy some of his original tunes as well as the more than 175 cover songs that are among his repertoire. He even hopes some diners will pass along their requests.

"I’m glad to be out performing for my fans locally," Bright said.