UVA Wise Freshman Aidan Bowman Auditions for 22nd Season of “American Idol” Releases First Single on Spotify

Aiden Bowman with guitar case
Photo by Mark Robertson-Baker II

When Aidan Bowman took guitar ensemble his first semester at UVA Wise, his professor, apparently impressed by his talent, would kid him saying, “I get 30 percent.” 

In an unexpected twist, later that fall 2023 semester, Bowman auditioned for one of the most famous singing competitions in the U.S.—“American Idol.”

While others were preparing for finals, Bowman flew to Los Angeles to perform for the show’s celebrity judges—Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.

“It's been, hands down, the greatest experience of my life. It’s everything I've dreamed of. I’m a huge fan of all three of them and I'm super thankful to be given this opportunity,” said Bowman, 20, a Pound-native and UVA Wise exercise science major. 

The premiere of “American Idol’s” 22nd season kicked off on February 18. Bowman, along with family, friends and UVA Wise supporters will continue to check into upcoming episodes to follow Bowman’s journey.

This month, Bowman, 20, also released his first rock single, “She Knows,” on Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming music platforms. He wrote the song and played on all instruments but drums. So far, the response has been good—from “American Idol” fellow contestants, friends, family and new listeners. 

“It’s about wanting somebody that you miss or can't have. I wanted to write a song a lot of people could relate to. I wanted my experiences to intertwine with other people’s different experiences,” he said.

A self-taught musician, Bowman said music is in his DNA, coming from both sides of his family.

At around six or seven years old, he began playing music with his twin brother, who played guitar while Aidan played drums. When his nine-year-old brother tragically passed away, Aidan started playing guitar. In middle school, Bowman began singing.

Now he’s a singer-songwriter creating every kind of music imaginable—rock, pop, soul and country.

“I have a special connection with music. Regardless of the mood I’m in, music puts me in a good one. I honestly think it’s made me a better person. It’s allowed me to progress as a songwriter, a guitar player and play in front of people,” he said. “It’s always fun to play for people.”

But he was blind-sided when he learned about the chance to audition for “American Idol.” Seemingly out of the blue, he got the email. That’s because his mom, Crystal Shortt Bowman, a 1998 UVA Wise alumna, applied for him without telling him.

“My mom plotted all of this. She submitted a video of me singing and I get an email on my phone saying, ‘We’d like to have a call back for you on ‘American Idol’,’” Bowman said. “I was like ‘What?’ I went outside and told her and she’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I submitted a video of you.’"

It started last summer.

“We were just sitting on our front porch one day and he belts out this song and I record it. I trimmed it down to where I felt like it was his best performance,” Shortt Bowman said. “I get little concerts at home all the time. He’s always randomly playing stuff and nailing it.”

So when she discovered “American Idol” was doing online auditions she thought, “He’s great, let's just give it a shot and see.”

Bowman did numerous rounds of Zoom auditions and kept moving up the ladder until finally, he got the invite to Los Angeles to audition in front of the celebrity judges.

“It was probably one of the best moments of my life hearing those words,” Bowman said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is happening.’ It was great, and also nerve-wracking.”

While auditioning in Los Angeles, Bowman received vocal and guitar coaching and gained expertise in sound production. He also made lots of great friends with fellow contestants.

“They show you the love and really help you grow. You get to hang out with other artists and contestants, harmonize with them,” Bowman said. “It was an experience I will hold onto for the rest of my life.”

This semester, Bowman is back studying exercise science at UVA Wise. He is still a part of the guitar ensemble class he took during his first semester, but he doesn’t often get to play gigs because of scheduling conflicts.

Last semester, he played gigs more often with his guitar ensemble class taught by longtime UVA Wise guitar professor Chris Rose.

“He always made a joke. He would look at me and go, ‘I get 30 percent,’” Bowman said. 

Bowman shared the “American Idol” news with Rose last year.

“He was so excited for me. He was so understanding about missing classes, and that meant the world,” he said.

Rose unexpectedly passed away at the end of last year. 

“I’ve never seen another human being have the impact on people Chris did with what he was able to do and express through music. He was a mentor to me and so many other people,” Bowman said. “He's a musical giant and made a major impact on my ability and my music. It just means the world that I got to know him and I got to play songs and gigs with him.”

Bowman hopes to continue putting out more projects and make his own impact on others. He’s appreciative of the overwhelming support he’s received since people have heard about his “American Idol” audition and checked out his newly released song.

“The only thing that I've ever really wanted to do was make and put out my music,” Bowman said. “The fact that I've been able to do that, the love I've received—just the fact that people are sharing it and trying to get me out there—it means the world. I'm just so blessed to have that feeling.”

Learn more about Bowman and his music at @aidanbowmanmusic.