Last night,

American Idol

pared down its pack of pop-star wannabes to a double dozen: 12 "girls" and 12 "boys."

Among those making the cut was Nicole Tranquillo, 20, a vocal performance major at Philadelphia's University of the Arts.

She tells some of her story on a video on the American Idol website. (View it at

From Wernersville, Pa., a small town just west of Reading, she relates to first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's storyline: "Small town girl moves to big city and now she wants to be a star."

Although Tranquillo has been taking piano lessons for 13 years, she didn't start taking singing seriously until eighth grade, she says.

On her contestant profile (, she lists her goals: "Recording contract, tour, multiplatinum albums, marry my boyfriend JP, have kids."

She plays guitar, too, and says she's "an avid hip hop dancer."

If she doesn't win? "Go back to the University of the Arts and finish my degree."

Next Tuesday, the top 12 male singers will compete, and the next night, Tranquillo and the other 11 females take the stage.

The 24 semifinalists

The guys: Chris Sligh, 28, Greenville, S.C.; Sanjaya Malakar, 17, Federal Way, Wash.; Brandon Rogers, 29, Los Angeles; Philip Stacy, 29, Jacksonville, Fla.; Blake Lewis, 25, Bothell, Wash.; Rudy Cardenas, 28, Los Angeles; Paul Kim, 25, Saratoga, Calif.; A.J. Tabaldo, 22, Santa Maria, Calif.; Nicholas Pedro, 25, Taunton, Mass.; Chris Richardson, 22, Chesapeake, Va.; Jared Cotter, 25, West Orange, N.J., and Jason "Sundance" Head, 28, Porter, Texas.

The gals: Melinda Doolittle, 29, Brentwood, Tenn.; Gina Glocksen, 22, Naperville, Ill.; Haley Scarnato, 24, San Antonio, Texas; Jordin Sparks, 17, Glendale, Ariz.; Stephanie Edwards, 19, Savannah, Ga.; Leslie Hunt, 24, Chicago; Alaina Alexander, 24, West Hollywood, Calif.; Sabrina Sloan, 27, Los Angeles; Lakisha Jones, 27, Flint, Mich.; Nicole Tranquillo, 20, Philadelphia; Amy Krebs, 22, Federal Way, Wash., and Antonella Barba, 20, Point Pleasant, N.J.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or

The Associated Press contributed to this report.