Madison VanDenburg’s first taste of fame wasn’t on “American Idol.”
It was the Capital District Soap Box Derby in 2010. The singer, who was just eight years old at the time, won the local competition in Albany. She went on to compete in the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships in Akron, Ohio, according to Ginger Miller.
Miller was the soap box derby race director for years and saw VanDenburg go on to win in just about every local division. In 2016 and 2017, VanDenburg was a driver in the Super Kids race, which is done with a two-seater car to make it accessible to kids with disabilities.
While Miller got a close look at VanDenburg’s derby career, she got an even closer look at VanDenburg’s musical career. Miller taught the “American Idol” contestant how to play piano and sing at the same time and was often VanDenburg’s champion when it came to local performances and shows.
More: The Gazette interviewed Madison and her sister at the 2010 Capital District Soap Box Derby. Our story from then (The VanDenburg family section starts at the 19th paragraph) - Soap Box Derby racers have need for speed, June 13, 2010
“At 12 years old, Madison sang at the Apple and Wine Festival, singing Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You.’ She had standing ovations. I knew then [that] she was going to be a superstar. She was blessed with this amazing voice,” Miller wrote in a letter to the Gazette.
Miller partially credits VanDenburg's father for the singer's success, as VanDenburg did on a recent episode of "Idol."
"He supported her 100 percent. He is her road man, sound man, light man, stage crew and any time anything goes wrong, he is there to fix it," Miller wrote.
The Cohoes native is one of the top 14 contestants of “American Idol.” The next episodes of the competition air at 8 p.m. on Sunday and Monday on ABC.
More: The Gazette interviewed Madison and her brother at the 2010 Capital District Soap Box Derby. Our story from then - Soap Box Derby racers have need for speed, June 13, 2010 (The VanDenburg family section starts at the 19th paragraph)