Clay Aiken

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Clay Aiken was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a young boy, Aiken sang in the Raleigh Boychoir, and as a teenager, he sang in school choirs, church choir, musicals and local theatre productions. After high school, he sang lead with a local band, "Just By Chance." He was also MC and performer at the Johnston Community College Country Showcase in Smithfield, and at the North Carolina Music Connection and Hometown Music Connection shows in Garner and Benson. He performed the national anthem numerous times for the Raleigh Ice Caps and the Carolina Hurricanes. He also legally changed his last name from Grissom to Aiken. Three demo albums of Aiken's vocals were created before American Idol.

Aiken attended Raleigh's Leesville Road High School and took courses at Campbell University before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He found his interest in special education while directing YMCA children's camps as a teenager, and at age 19, he served as a substitute teacher for a classroom of students with autism at Brentwood Elementary School in Raleigh. While attending college in Charlotte, he took a as an assistant to a boy with autism, and it was this child's mother, Diane Bubel, who urged him to audition for American Idol. Although his American Idol activities temporarily delayed his academic pursuits, Aiken completed his course work while on tour and graduated with a bachelor's degree in special education in December 2003.

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Clay Aiken announced on his personal blog: "My dear friend, Jaymes, and I are so excited to announce the birth of Parker Foster Aiken" Aiken's son was born August 8, 2008 in North Carolina. The child's mother is Jaymes Foster, the sister of record producer David Foster. She has been the executive producer of Aiken's last three albums. "The little man is healthy, happy, and as loud as his daddy," Aiken wrote. "Mama Jaymes is doing quite well also." Aiken said in his book, Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, that "It's a Southern tradition to be given your first name from your grandmama's maiden name." His middle name came from his paternal grandmother's maiden name; using instead the married surnames of their mothers, he and Foster followed that tradition in choosing their son's name.

Clay Aiken

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