For Michael Lynch, singing under the lights of a television studio and pouring his heart into a song while looking into the camera is familiar territory. And he's not a rookie when it comes to winning over audiences in a talent competition.
So when he performs today on "Windy City Live," the Wheaton native can set aside the nerves and focus on delivering a performance that will carry him through the first round of the ABC 7 morning show's "Dare to Dream Search for a Star."
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The contest features a field of 12 area singers selected from hopefuls who auditioned late in January. The first two finalists performed on the show Friday to open the head-to-head round that will see Lynch in a sing-off against Taylor Matos of Elk Grove Village live on the show Tuesday morning. Windy City Live airs at 9 a.m. on Channel 7.
Lynch's musical journey from Wheaton and the stage at St. Francis High School to performing on Chicago television is anything but a straight shot down the Eisenhower Expressway.
Always musical as a child, Lynch's love for singing grew into a creative outlet in high school. By his senior year at St. Francis, he had joined a school choir, performed at full-school functions and played the lead in a school musical.
He took guitar and piano lessons, eager to learn more about music, then studied music and Spanish at the University of Iowa.
That's where Lynch found a new level of success in performing, earning the title of "Iowa Idol" for the top musical performer on the 30,000-student campus.
But Lynch's career has been shaped by experiences outside music as well.
For seven summers, Lynch worked on a landscaping crew with co-workers from Mexico who taught him Spanish and introduced him to Latin music, which he fell in love with.
"The workers were like brothers to me and we connected through music," Lynch said.
He has gone on to write songs in both English and Spanish and to perform in Miami, Spain and Mexico -- including three turns on "Sabado Gigante," the Spanish-language equivalent of "Saturday Night Live" that airs weekly on Univision.
"I see music as a language that everybody speaks and understands," Lynch said. "Music moves people in deep and profound ways."
Lynch recently returned to the Chicago area and has joined the Ken Arlen Orchestra.
Audiences will decide whether Lynch's eclectic influences are worthy of the Search for a Star title. Following today's performance, fans can vote on Windy City Live's Facebook page. The winner of Lynch's challenge round with Matos will be announced Wednesday.
Following the initial challenge round, the six remaining contestants will be paired in a second round of head-to-head competitions. The three finalists each will sing Thursday, Feb. 21. The winner, to be announced Friday, Feb. 22, will take home the title, as well as prizes including a 2014 Mazda 6.