The popular talent show American Idol is shaking things up for its eighth season, which begins this month. The reality TV show is adding a fourth judge to help pick the country’s most talented vocalist of the year. Singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi joins the current line-up of judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson.
While DioGuardi may not yet be a household name, she is no stranger to the music world. A Grammy-nominated songwriter, she has co-written hit songs for Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Gwen Stefani, and Enrique Iglesias, among numerous others.
More than 250 of the songs she has composed have been released on major music labels; more than 80 have appeared on multi-platinum selling albums. Through her company Arthouse Entertainment, DioGuardi also develops and mentors fellow writers, producers and artists.
DioGuardi, who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., is the daughter of former N.Y. Congressman Joseph DioGuardi. A Republican, DioGuardi served in the House from 1984 to 1989. Joe DioGuardi’s father was Italian of Albanian descent who came to America in 1929 from the town of Grece in Avellino; his mother was a first-generation Italian American from Bari. Kara’s maternal grandparents were from the Naples area; her maternal grandfather was one of the first Italian Americans to graduate from the Columbia University School of Law.
Kara was recently honored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation at a gala in New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. At the event, she was introduced by her father, a Foundation member, who recalled that in 1983, at age 12, Kara had performed on that same stage and “had brought the house down.” The Grand Marshall of that gala, Sophia Loren, had then embraced the young Kara.
On accepting the honor, DioGuardi stressed the influence that her grandparents and parents have had on her career. Though she earned a political science degree (with honors) from Duke University, music was her first love. “There was never a moment when our house wasn’t filled with music, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett,” she said. She recalled that every Sunday after going to church, the entire family would unite for an extended luncheon. It was that family togetherness, she said, that “has kept me really grounded in Hollywood.”
On announcing DioGuardi’s selection, Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller said, “DioGuardi is a smart, sassy lady, and one of America’s most successful songwriters. We know she will bring a new level of energy and excitement to the show.”
For her part, DioGuardi warns that as a judge of talent, “I’m somebody who’s really honest and gives an opinion. If I need to be hard, I will be. And if I feel I need to be more nurturing I will be.”
(Published in Voce Italiana January 2008)•