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In this 2007 photo, Frederic Sellars watches his daughter, Marrialle, audition for the Circle of Lights holiday show. / Star file photo

Whether on national TV, at church or in school, Marrialle Sellars makes music for the same reason.

The Indianapolis 18-year-old and Top 30 American Idol competitor sings to honor her late father, Frederic Sellars.

On Idol, one of the biggest platforms for unknown singers trying to become known, Marrialle told Fox network cameras, "I'm auditioning for American Idol because I've got something to prove to myself and to make my dad proud."

Frederic launched Marrialle's journey to Idol when she and sister Zena, now 17, were preteens singing at area nursing homes and homeless shelters.

"We loved it," Marrialle said during a phone interview from California. "He showed us that there's so much more to our voices than just a pretty sound. It can actually touch people's hearts and uplift their spirits. I guess my appreciation for music was heightened when he did that for us."

Marrialle's ability to reach millions of listeners rather than hundreds arrived Jan. 16, when American Idol picked her Detroit audition to launch the 13th season of the televised talent search. Since then, it's been smooth sailing.

She wasn't required to perform during a surprise Hollywood or Home auditions episode, she didn't experience group-sing drama, and she experienced only moderate tension before judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. told her she made the Top 30 of an audition pool that likely exceeded 100,000 hopefuls.

Marrialle will attempt to advance in the competition Feb. 18, when the season's first live episode airs at 8 p.m. on Fox.

"This is my career that I'm fighting for," she said. "I'm ready to give it all I've got."

A nurturing force

Frederic built a home recording studio for his daughters and introduced the girls to multiple musical instruments.

But his mentoring came to an abrupt end three days after Christmas in 2009, when a blood clot claimed the 39-year-old's life.

"He was strong; he never stopped," said Luzviminda Sellars, his wife and Marrialle's mother. "When it happened, we didn't expect it."

Frederic took Marrialle and Zena to St. Luke's United Methodist Church in 2009, when they auditioned to be part of the music ministry at the church's Sunday evening "Later @ St. Luke's" service.

Pastor Marion Miller said she hesitated to bring the sisters onto the program because "they were so young," 14 and 13.

"When (Frederic) passed away, I knew he had brought them to 'Later' for a reason," Miller said. "They started singing every Sunday in 2010."

Luzviminda, also known as "Lou," said Frederic worked in the medical technology field and spent free time as an evangelical minister reaching out to the destitute and downtrodden.

"When he came to 'Later,' he fell in love with us' and we fell in love with him," Miller said. "He never sang at the church. I actually was gearing him toward preaching for me."

Frederic grew up in Indianapolis and attended the University of Indianapolis, where he started a pen-pal relationship with Lou, a Filipino attending college in her home country.

"I fell in love with his music," said Lou, noting that Frederic recorded and sent cassettes of himself performing songs popularized by Lionel Richie and Barry Manilow.

After two years of exchanging letters, Lou told Frederic, "If you come to the Philippines, I will marry you." He did.

The couple married in 1994. Marrialle was born in January 1996, and three daughters followed: Zena, Blessed (now 11) and Grace (now 10).

Marrialle's appreciation and affection for Frederic is easy to find on the Internet. A 2-year-old Facebook post by the Carmel International Arts Festival quotes Marrialle as saying everything she does musically is for her father.

"I love performing," Marrialle said. "I guess it's just kind of my personality and who I am."

Lou characterizes her oldest daughter as "happy go lucky." Traveling to the Detroit auditions with Marrialle and Zena (who didn't receive a "Golden Ticket" to Hollywood) was more or less a whim, Lou said.

"It's an experience for them," Lou said. "They watch American Idol on TV all the time, but you don't know what to expect."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: 'Idol' singer's goal: 'To make my dad proud'

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