Ruder talks family, faith, APU and auditioning for the hit TV show

Ashlyn “Ash” Ruder, a senior at Azusa Pacific University studying business management and music, was recently featured on “American Idol” and auditioned with an original song she wrote for her father. The 22-year-old grew up in Turlock, Calif. and currently resides with her husband, Dylan Ruder, an APU alum, in Los Angeles.

Although Ruder has been passionate about singing and playing guitar and piano since she was a child, her husband was actually the one who submitted her for the “American Idol” casting call. 

“I didn’t really think anything of it until it started getting serious: casting directors, producers and agents were trying to reach me to hear more. This eventually led to the opportunity to be asked to come on the show to audition for Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie,” said Ruder.

Ruder also spoke about the long road to be on the show and how different it is from what viewers might expect, explaining that there are many preliminary rounds of auditions for contestants to go through. 

“What’s crazy is how many preliminary non-televised rounds come before even getting the chance to be on the show! There were about three prior auditions along with multiple meetings that we all attended before we even got the chance to showcase our voices to the glowing celebrity judges. So much work goes into the process behind the scenes. For my audition to have even been shown on national television is a HUGE blessing!” said Ruder.

Besides the usual nerves brought about by an audition, Ruder also experienced the emotions that came with singing an original song to her father — who struggled with various addictions throughout Ruder’s childhood — during her audition. Her performance was tender, tear-jerking and now has 1.7 million views on YouTube. You can watch it here.

“I knew it would be an emotional journey musically but also familially. The auditions were held the week of my 22nd birthday as well as my Dad’s 50th birthday. So, going into that week, I wasn’t doing the audition just for myself, but also for those who have been rooting for me since day one,” Ruder said. 

Ruder goes on to explain why her audition was meaningful beyond the excitement of receiving the coveted golden ticket.

“It hit me that not only sharing this song, but also sharing my Dad’s emotional and beautiful road to recovery would be the greatest honor, and best birthday gift, that I could bestow upon him as his daughter … That week in Ojai was not only amazing because I walked away with a Golden Ticket to Hollywood, but because I also walked away with a proud father smiling ear-to-ear. And that, in the long run of life, is all I could want,” Ruder continued. 

Ruder’s story has inspired others with similar struggles to reach out to Ruder and share their stories with her, including other fathers. “It’s very cool to see our story is encouraging people and helping people heal,” Ruder said in an interview with the Modesto Bee

As an APU student, Ruder also talked about the valuable experiences and lessons the university provided her with that have helped her through this process. 

“So much about Azusa Pacific University both practically and spiritually has equipped me to be the storytelling, confident, yet humbled woman that I am today as a musician,” she said. “APU has blessed me with wonderful mentors such as Dr. Stephen Martin, a man who has always given me spiritual and practical wisdom, Professor Laura Pitts whose grace and office hours have made it possible for me to obtain a degree while in the pursuit of an exciting career and Professor Traci Birge whose love for exploring female leadership in scripture has emboldened my confidence in who I am as a woman who walks with Christ. Lastly, the late Lavone Barnett-Seetal’s passion for Gospel music enriched my love for music’s healing qualities,” Ruder said.

Besides mentorship and education, APU is also the place Ruder and her husband met. “… had I not attended this school, I wouldn’t have met [Dylan], and if I never met him, I wouldn’t have been submitted for the show! So, I am really grateful to APU for allowing my husband and I’s paths to cross.” 

Throughout this process, Ruder spoke about how important her faith in Christ has been, saying her faith is what got her to this point. Despite any fear of rejection, Ruder is confident in the Lord’s ultimate plan for her.

“It is so easy to navigate through the journey of American Idol in fear, but as a Christian I’ve been able to turn that fear into faith. Faith that if it’s within God’s divine will, He will carry me through the show. And in the potential case that He doesn’t, I know he will give me something even better!”

While reflecting on her experience so far, Ruder said that she has enjoyed making new friends, being surrounded by other talented musicians and that being on “Idol” has been fun and encouraging. 

“The journey has really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and has really shown me that this music business is a whole bunch of knowing who you are or embracing who you are, even when you’re not fully sure!” Ruder said.

You can watch Ruder continue her “American Idol” journey in the show’s infamous “Hollywood Week” this Sunday at 8/7c on ABC!