In its first season, Tacoma teenager A. J. Gil made it into "American Idol's" final 10. More than a year later, Garfield High School junior...

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In its first season, Tacoma teenager A.J. Gil made it into “American Idol’s” final 10. More than a year later, Garfield High School junior Leah LaBelle made it into the top 12.


Neither Gil nor LaBelle was crowned America’s idol, but they both continue to pursue their dreams.


Gil, now 22, toured the country with first season’s “American Idol” concert series, then moved to Orlando, Fla., to work on an ill-fated CD project. After three years he severed ties with his producer and last fall moved to Los Angeles, said his sister, Dina Gil, of Tacoma.


Last May, Gil appeared on “Family Feud” with a team of nine other “Idol” finalists from various seasons.


Now he’s working with the Edmonds Studio on another R&B album, with 11 tracks completed, Dina Gil said. Fans can keep track of Gil on his Myspace page, http://myspace.com/ajgil.


LaBelle started classes last month at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her classmates include sophomore John Stevens, the redheaded crooner who was among her group of “Idol” finalists.


“I love it, I’m just feeling so much more motivated out here to really work harder for what I want,” she said, from New York. “I needed to get out of Seattle. I had to just come into my own world, my own zone and really appreciate me and my music.”


She’s turned down two recording contract offers, she said, on the advice of her attorney. The first was with Fanatic, who has produced Beyoncé and Lil’ Kim. While working with Fanatic, in New York, she recorded a demo written by Makeba Riddick, who since then has broken into the big time with hit songs by Beyoncé.


“He really loved her, but the contract they were offering was too binding,” explained LaBelle’s mother, former Bulgarian pop star Anastasia “Sia” Vladowski.


R&B music is LaBelle’s love; she wants to fuse it with pop. “I want to bring real music back but make it marketable and mainstream,” she said. “To me real music isn’t everything being synthesized, computerized.”


And she’s quite ambitious. She’s studying all aspects of music at Berklee, because she wants to own her own production company and label — and a clothing line, too.


“I hope I’m not going to be here for four years,” she said. “I hope I make it before then.”


Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or dbrooks@seattletimes.com