“The whole American Idol experience was just unbelievable. From going to that first audition in Oklahoma City to making it (to Hollywood) … Wow!”
When Halie (Swan) Hilburn came to Oklahoma Christian University in 2004, she had no idea the music career born in college would take her to one of the most-watched TV programs ever.
In fact, coming to OC was as much of a surprise as her sudden fame on American Idol.
“I never intended to go to OC,” Halie said. “My heart was set on going to West Texas A&M to rodeo. I prayed about it and next thing I know, I am enrolled. It was such a great decision! OC has left such an amazing mark on the Swan family.”
Halie (08) followed her older sister Corlie (06) Agnew to OC, soon followed by her younger sister, Whitnie (10) Huser.
“I loved getting to be with both of my sisters at OC,” Halie said. “We have always been really close, so getting to stay together was amazing. Corlie and Whitnie are my everything. They are the most supportive sisters anyone could have.”
All three Swan girls became members of social service club Gamma Rho. Through Gamma, she was involved in Spring Sing as “Waldo,” “Lucy,” and a two-time hostess.
“I absolutely loved being involved in Spring Sing,” Halie said. “I really love every aspect of music, whether it is practicing or performing. Putting in all the long hours doesn’t bother me a bit when it comes to music.”
It was at OC that Halie met her best friend, Harriet (Rosenberg 09) Martin, along with several other people she said greatly impacted her life.
Dean of Students Neil Arter (90) mentored her through college and led the Summer Singers.
“Neil Arter and his family were like a second family to me,” Halie said. “He gave me a chance by allowing me to be a part of the Summer Singers, and there my true career began. I sang and performed my whole life, but it wasn’t until those two amazing summers that I became an artist.”
Her talent took her to Hollywood with American Idol after she auditioned with more than 10,000 other hopefuls in Oklahoma City.
“The whole American Idol experience was just unbelievable,” Halie said. “From going to that first audition in Oklahoma City to making it with the top 160 women … Wow!”
Halie’s initial audition gained a lot of notoriety because of her big voice and her puppet “Oscar.” She’s been a ventriloquist since she was young, and occasionally showed off that talent on the OC stage.
She said she still can’t believe how far she advanced on American Idol, and will always remember the strengthening experiences during her journey.
“The people I met were unforgettable, from crazy amazing Zoanette to precious Kree Harrison. I can’t believe I got to know these people and even became close friends with several of them,” Halie said. “The competition was stiff and the industry was just as challenging. You have to be pretty tough to get through all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff.”
Halie said she discovered a strength within herself she didn’t know she had, but most importantly, she was able to stay true to who she is and whose she is.
Her music career continues.
She is in a band in Oklahoma City with her brother-in-law, Heath Agnew (08), who she has performed with since she was in eighth grade.
She works as a medical assistant at the Digestive Disease Clinic.
When she isn’t working, she’s writing music. She is getting everything together for her debut album, which will be released this summer.
She will be playing her original songs in Oklahoma and Texas while promoting her album.
“There’s not much time for rest, but I love what I do,” Halie said.
By Kelly Ferguson