Maroulis was born in Brooklyn to Greek parents, James Constantine Maroulis and Constance P. Maroulis (born 1938). Both maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated to the States from Greece in the 1920s. He was brought up in the Greek Orthodox religion. He can speak Greek. His older brother Athanasios Demetrios Maroulis (born 1964) is a record producer and his sister Anastacia P. Maroulis (born 1968) is a New York schoolteacher. They also have 20 cousins, one of whom being George Economos. Constantine "Gus" Economos died in the September 11, 2001 attacks from the fall of the World Trade Center. When Maroulis was five years old his family moved to Wyckoff, New Jersey, an affluent suburb of New York City, where he grew up. At that time he developed an interest in music, following his older brother's lead who was performing in professional bands and pursuing a career in the record business, and being influenced by the piano and records his family listened to. By age eleven he was studying the trumpet at Eisenhower Middle School. He later sang in high school garage bands, including Lady Rain and Milkbone. In high school, he claims to have been shy and nerdy. Went by the name "Dean" and always sported a turtleneck. He graduated from Ramapo High School in 1993 and moved on to The Boston Conservatory of Music. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2002, majoring in musical theater with a minor in voice performance from Berklee College of Music.
He was in the cast recording of the 2000 musical, Suburban Dreams, which was produced by composer Stephen Thompson, Richard Kenner and Jesse Merz.
Some years before appearing on Idol, Maroulis competed on the dating show Elimidate and was an extra in NBC's Law and Order: SVU and the WB's Astro Boy.
He has a cavalcade of off-Broadway roles from the Conservatory, along with a series of independent films. After graduating the Conservatory, Maroulis trained as a director's apprentice at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and toured in the Broadway international touring company of Rent as the lead role Roger Davis. His role as Roger was non- equity. Since he had no agent representing him, he was allowed to appear on American Idol. As of 2006, Maroulis is now represented by the Creative Artists Agency.
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