Luis Barrera Wins 'Academy Idol'

The Academy of Art University’s School of Multimedia Communication’s annual singing competition Academy Idol entered its fourth season this past fall. The competition allowed students to test their performance skills under bright lights and on a live stream at

New rounds of Idol were held every Wednesday night for nearly a dozen weeks at 79 New Montgomery, and online voting determined which voices made it to the next round. With the help of three hosts and five judges, the winner of Academy Idol receives an all expense paid trip to audition for any singing competition in the United States.

This year the first-place prize was earned by Academy senior Luis Barrera, who sealed his victory in the final round with more than 1,800 votes online. It was a close race between Barrera and Michael Regalo, who is studying music production and sound design, but the emotional component in Barrera’s heartfelt performances boosted him towards success. Barrera said he plans on cashing in his prize to audition for a singing competition show called Va Por Ti on the Spanish network Univision.

Academy Idol was an amazing experience, it taught me a lot and helped me grow as an aspiring artist,” Barrera said. “It also helped me accept constructive criticism and apply it during my rehearsals in order to prepare for the next week.”

Barrera has been singing and playing the guitar for years, but it wasn’t until eight months ago that he started his own YouTube channel and Facebook page as outlets to share his songs online. Now, Barrera has more than 2,000 likes on Facebook and almost 3,000 views on YouTube, not to mention 1,423 followers on Instagram.




Courtesy of the School of Multimedia Communications.


Luis Barrera. Photo by Bob Toy.

Barrera is currently finishing his last semester at the Academy in the School of Web Design + New Media, and while singing is his passion, he plans to finance his dreams working as a UI/UX designer after graduation; a job that still allows him to think creatively. Apart from singing and developing his skills as a designer, Barrera also played soccer at the Academy for three years as one of the Urban Knights.

His music idols include the likes of Ed Sheeran, Camil and Reik, not just because of their talent as singers, but because of the emotional depth in their songs. “I think that good lyrics separate good artists from great artists,” Barrera said.

Barrera’s music is heavily influenced by his Spanish background, and in the songs he covers he will often interchange English lyrics for Spanish and vice versa. “I like the fact that I can reach out to two different audiences,” Barrera said, “I think that separates me from other musicians that only stick to one language.” 

During the final round of Academy Idol, Barrera sang a cover of Enrique Iglesais’ “Hero,” and included a moving mix of English and Spanish that textured the lyrics and kept the audience listening. “Most of the songs I choose showed how and what I was feeling that week,” Barrera said.

“I have always sung and play[ed] the guitar, in family functions with my aunts and cousins, but I started to take it seriously in April of last year when I composed my first song which I recorded,” Barrera said. He recorded his first single, “Tu Existencia,” in Los Angeles, and created a music video that’s now on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Google Play.

It was the feedback from the judges, Barrera said, that made the Academy Idol experience so valuable. “Being critiqued by the judges was nerve-racking, because you never knew what they were going to say,” he said. “But overall it was a great thing because they always gave me good advice on how I could be better for the next performance.”