Elise Testone made her singing debut as a little girl. It was a solo … celebrating barnyard animals.

On "American Idol," the Charlestonian is enjoying a loftier place in the performers' pecking order. But the pressure's still on.

Having survived the first cut of Hollywood Week, Testone performs in the second half of the group round of the popular TV series at 8 tonight on WTAT-TV.

Testone, 28, who teaches at Music Unlimited in Mount Pleasant, is the daughter of New Jersey residents LuAnne and Victor Testone. She is a 2005 graduate of Coastal Carolina University with a degree in music.

Fame and fortune, however, are not her goals.

"What drives me is just doing my music," she said Tuesday. "If I won, I'd probably just donate the money. I've never thought of doing anything but music."

Testone said she also has begun to understand how much she has affected her students, who are of all ages.

"I'm always acquiring new skills and encouraging others," she said. "I only wish I'd had someone like me to offer encouragement and guidance when I was younger."

Locally, Testone has been a regular performer at restaurants and clubs. She also has several James Brown Dance Parties and was lead singer for the local band the Freeloaders.

She said her forte is soul music.

"I grew up loving it. My dad collects jukeboxes, and I was always playing Motown records. Of course I played everything else, too. But I really listened to a lot of soul."

Testone can't reveal what happens tonight, but win or lose, she said, the experience has been memorable.

"To this point, it's been amazing. I have acquired many musical skills in my life, but this is a different challenge, on stage in front of those judges.

"But I'm accustomed to working very hard as a performer. I put a lot of effort into my career."