Former ‘American Idol’ finalist performing at ‘Ignite the Night’

Give her a match.

Gina Glocksen’s ready to make it burn at tonight’s inaugural KidsMatter ‘Ignite the Nite’ benefit concert in Naperville.

From the white-hot spotlight of the national stage as one of “American Idol’s” top 10 finalists to touring the country and playing local gigs, the rocker knows how to turn up the heat.

It’s been a busy five years since she shot to national fame during season six. She’s since married Neuqua Valley High School science teacher Joe Ruzicka. She formed the Gina Glocksen Band. She and her husband have built a new house in Oswego.

During her “Idol” heyday, Glocksen lived in Naperville and the city embraced the Tinley Park native as one of its own, hosting a Gina Glocksen Day and bestowing her with a key to the city. She’s embraced the city right back.

Now, she’ll headline the KidsMatter benefit concert — an event to raise money for the organization credited with supporting kids throughout the area.

She recently spoke with the Daily Herald in a catchall interview, where she talked “Idol,” starting a family and about her current tour — Ballroom with a Twist, which includes pros from “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol.”

You can keep up with Gina at

Q. What have you been up to lately?

A. Since “Idol,” I formed my own band. We play around the Chicago area. We’re a cover band and we do some of my originals. It’s called the Gina Glocksen Band. My husband, who is a teacher at Neuqua, is my bass player.

Also, I’m part of this tour called Ballroom with a Twist, where (fellow “American Idol” alum) David Hernandez and I sing while they dance.

Q. Tell me about Ballroom with a Twist.

A. Anna Trebunskaya, who is on the show right now, her husband and Edyta Sliwinka and her husband are the stars of the show. There’s contemporary dancers from “So You Think You Can Dance.” They dance while we sing.

The promotion for it is not quite there yet, but the show is amazing. We’ll perform in a city and we’ll play for three days. The first day there’s not a lot of people there, but the second and third day it’s sold out just because of word-of-mouth. It’s such a cool show, and it’s family friendly.

I would never have thought that I wanted to do it. I think of ballroom as, I don’t know, not my thing. But it’s so cool and it’s so contemporary.

Q. You’re married now? When was the big day?

A. New Year’s Eve of 2008. We got married in the chapel at Naper Settlement and then the reception was at Bolingbrook Golf Club. Jordin Sparks and Haley Scarnato from my season were bridesmaids and Jordin sang our first dance.

Q. Do you keep up with other people from your season?

A. I probably keep in touch with seven. Jordin definitely. Melinda Doolittle, Chris Richardson, Blake Lewis — that’s the core. We still stay together, and we visit each other. Jordin and Melinda and Chris flew in last year because I had a show at Joe’s on Weed Street and they wanted to see it.

Q. When you’re back in the Naperville area, is it a little bit more normal these days?

A. I was having a pity party for myself yesterday as I was watching “Idol.” It was five years ago yesterday that I got voted off. So I’d say two or three years ago it started dying down. I can’t believe that five years later I’m still doing interviews and still riding the wave and getting paid to sing and getting to do what I love to do.

When I’m home from tour, my life is never normal because I’m always singing. I’m always singing every Friday and Saturday. That’s what I do. So I don’t really have a normal night life with my friends, but it’s what I love to do.

Q. There’s been talk of an album. Are you still working on that?

A. It’s still in the works. Unfortunately, my producer got a little bit more famous faster than I did. I was kind of lowered on his totem pole, but we’re going to get together so I can finish it up. It’s been three years, so I kind of feel I have nothing to show for what I’ve been doing for three years. But I think once it comes out, people will be pleasantly surprised.

Q. On “Idol,” you were labeled as the rocker chick. Is that reflected in your own personal music?

A. “Idol” just kind of takes people with streaks in their hair and the cool style and places them in that category. If you were to come out and see my shows, you’d see I’m a lot more versatile than just rock. I do pop. One of my favorite things to do is just a stripped down ballad acoustically. If you think Kelly Clarkson is a rocker chick, well then, yeah, so am I. But I’d say maybe more pop rock.

Q. Someone comes out and catches a weekend show. What’s that like?

A. The 21 and over shows are pretty fun. We just performed at The Lodge in Lisle, and we started off pretty acoustically. We did some Sugarland, some Brandi Carlisle, Alanis Morissette, and then we got into some Foo Fighters and Cee Lo Green and Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Led Zeppelin. We try to target every genre and every audience. Someone who would listen to Led Zeppelin would probably never listen to Katy Perry, but we do our arrangement so they would want to listen to more of Katy Perry.

Q. You released your first single, “Superhero,” in March 2011. How was that received?

A. Pretty well. It was all over iTunes and my Facebook when people were buying it and how much they’ve loved it. We’ve had groups at high schools use it for competitions. I loved that song.

Q. You’re loved by so many in Naperville. What about performing for KidsMatter? Does it mean a lot to you?

A. It’s just an honor. So many other people could be asked to do this. It shows parents and teachers and authority figures still think I’m a good role model, and that’s amazing to me. I feel like kids in this area need that. It means so much to me. More than the kids will ever know because this is my dream. All the pressure in academics and socially in school: it’s really hard.

Q. Did you enjoy high school?

A. I loved high school. If I could go back today, I would in a heartbeat. I was a social butterfly. I wasn’t 100 percent academically there. But that’s what shaped me. The groups — band, choir, sports — that’s what made me who I am and gave me confidence.

Q. Have you been keeping up with this season’s “Idol?”

A. I have to. I’m obsessed with that show.

Q. Thoughts on the current finalists?

A. I feel like this season people are just old souls on that show. They remind me of people from the ’70s and ’80s. Deandre is like today’s Aaron Neville. He’s amazing.

Kids are so used to listening to people like Ke$ha and they think that’s real music, but it’s not. It’s about the true talent and not having to use effects on your voice. It’s about the raw talent, and Deandre and Elise really have that.

Q. Who’s going to win it all?

A. It’s so hard to tell. I definitely think Jessica and Joshua are the best vocalists by far, but one of the things that I love about watching “Idol” is watching the contestants grow and get better each week. I just think Jessica and Joshua are at their best moments already. But I really like watching people who would not normally have a chance make it and succeed, such as Elise and Deandre. Right now, the top eight is probably the strongest I’ve seen of any season.

Q. So, I asked several hundred of my closest Facebook friends if they had any questions for you. Here’s a few that made the cut: Is that your real name?

A. It is my birth name, but on my bills and everything, I’m Gina Ruzicka, and I hope to get to Gina Ruzicka nationwide at some point. That’s who I am now. That’s my husband’s name and I honor him, and I love him. But it’s Gina Glocksen for now until another reality show comes along and I change it.

Q. Did anyone ever want to poke Simon in the eye with a sharp stick?

A. Oh, I’m sure. I didn’t. He has beautiful eyes. There’s was one time he forgot Haley’s name, and he just kept calling her “legs.” And she hated that.

Q. You had an “Idol Moment” when you sang “I’ll Stand by You.” Were you disappointed at all that later on in the season, for “Idol Gives Back,” Carrie Underwood sang the same song?

A. That is an awesome question. Yeah, I was devastated. I was. That was my moment. I would lie if I said I wasn’t disappointed, for sure. But it’s an amazing song.

On the other side of the coin, people kept talking about it. It brought my name back. I was still being talked about. So it was one of those things where even bad press is press, so at least I was still being talked about. Yeah, it hurt.

Q. OK, back to my questions. What’s next for you?

A. I’d love to start making music with my band. We work so good together. I’d love to just write our own music and travel Chicago with it and see what happens.

Um, some goals for myself? I’d like to be a mom. I’d like to start a family. My husband’s not getting any younger.

Concert honors KidsMatter’s ‘founding mothers’

Naperville's 'Idol,' teens to 'Ignite the Nite' in support of KidsMatter

Gina Glocksen-Ruzicka Courtesy of Sammy Faze Photography
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