There was no Ryan Seacrest or Simon Cowell in attendance at Ahwatukee Foothills Prep on Tuesday, but some could argue that was what made the experience something special.

Fifty students waited up to two hours to perform a song or tout their ability to enthuse an audience during auditions for the second Ahwatukee Foothills Prep Idol.

The local charter school was brimming with talent on Tuesday, bringing out a range of performers who sang their hearts out to a panel of three judges. (Watch the auditions here.)

There were no cuts this time as all those who sang received a "Golden Ticket," enabling them to attend the rehearsals in the coming weeks prior to the final contest on May 21.

Even more incentive for those who did not win last year is the fact that the prize money for the top three went up drastically.

The overall winner, to be announced May 21, will receive $500, up from $100 last year. Second place is awarded $250 and the third place winner receives $150.

The creator of AFP Idol, music and drama teacher Chris Steward, said the increase in prize money was due to the success of last year's event, plus the additional time spent in trying to find sponsorships for the show. A local bank donated $500 this year.

"This year I looked at things a little longer," Steward said. "It was a totally new thing (last year) so this time around I took some time to find sponsors and get the kids ready."

Starting on Thursday, March 19, Steward will lead rehearsals for all the performers. Over the next two months, he will narrow the field down to 18, making cuts at the eight rehearsals he has planned leading up to the show.

"We had 25 make it to the show last year and it turned out to be about three hours long. We wanted to try to cut it down to about a two-and-a-half-hour show this year," Steward said, adding that there will be five or six judges at the final competition, four from local radio stations and two from talent agencies in the area.

He organized last year's contest after seeing how enthralled his students were with the television show that is still going strong now in its eighth season.

"All the kids talked about American Idol a lot last year and I just decided, we'll go for it," Steward said. "A lot of the kids came back interested this year so we had a good turnout. They are all talented and love to sing."

The final competition is being held at 6 p.m. May 21 at Ahwatukee Foothills Prep, 10210 S. 50th Place. Stay tuned to the AFN for all your AFP Idol updates. For more information, contact Steward at (480) 763-5101.

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