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McKenna Breinholt. (Screenshot credit: American Idol/YouTube)

'There Was Jesus': Singer on 'American Idol' Surprised on Stage by Her Birth Family

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Singer McKenna Breinholt received more than just a thumbs up from the American Idol judges after her audition Sunday night. She also got to meet her birth family in person. 

For her audition in front of judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, Breinholt, 25, chose to perform There Was Jesus by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton.

The Gilbert, Arizona native had told her Instagram followers last month about her decision to audition for the popular television talent competition. 

"I FINALLY made the decision to try out for this next season of American Idol!! This has been a dream of mine for a long time now and I am proud of how far I have come. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity I was given to be able to even audition!" Breinholt wrote. 

"Today is exactly one month away from the season premiere and y'all better tune in to see if I got the golden ticket or not!! :)" she added.

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Before her audition, Breinholt shared her adoption story with the judges. She had discovered her birth mother was a singer named Amy Lopez. After turning 21, she started searching for Lopez but found out she had passed away in October 2013 due to complications of Lupus. 

"I found {out} I was adopted as early as I was able to understand it," Breinholt said. "My mom struggled for several years trying to get pregnant and eventually they decided to go through the adoption process."

"I have the best family in the world," she said. "They've always supported me."

Breinholt's search led her to find out that her birth mother was a singer, who performed in Bisbee, Arizona. She said she "instantly knew where I got my ear from and where I got my voice from—it just all clicked."

The young singer finally made contact with her birth family last summer. She also found out that they all sing. 

"My birth family was looking for me for probably the last eight years," Breinholt told the judges. "Knowing that I have another family out there who's equally excited to know and love me was amazing."

She explained she had only spoken to members of her birth family through Facetime but had plans to finally meet them in person in a few weeks. 

Following her audition for the show in which she sang while playing the piano, Perry called her performance "beautiful." Richie said her singing was "gorgeous…storytelling, smoky voice and I love the little cry in your voice that just cuts right through."

Perry then asked Breinholt if she wanted to invite her family into the room to join her in hearing their decision. As the singer opened the door to allow her family to come into the room, she received a surprise -- her birth family was standing there beside her adoptive parents.

Perry asked her to play one of her birth mother's songs for the families. 

Flanked by her adoptive family and her birth family, Breinholt sat down at the piano and sang one of her mother's songs. 

"Music is connection. Music is emotion. Music is heart. You're not the only person out there that's searching for their birth family," Perry said.

"It's wonderful to have them all together and it's so wonderful for your mom and dad to see this and to be so open and loving and supportive about this," she said. "I'm sure there was a big loss for your birth family, and for you to sing like that, I think it's healing," she added. 

All three judges then told her she was "going to Hollywood" to compete on the show. 

"It's amazing to see how God continues to use this song! Praying for McKenna and her family this season," Zach Williams told

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of