BY DANIEL KIRBY, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
MIRAMAR BEACH, FL. – The Florida Statewide Organization (FSO) of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. held its annual Talent Hunt competition in Miramar Beach, Florida Friday, September 15th in conjunction with its 49th Florida State Workshop to a packed house of more than 250 spectators. Chi Tau Chapter of greater Orlando was represented by James Alexander Lewis, a classically trained pianist who won the chance to compete at the Statewide level after earning top honors in Chi Tau’s local 2023 Talent Hunt in dramatic fashion with a tie-breaking performance this past spring. Lewis enjoys a special connection to Chi Tau Chapter as he is the grandson of the late Alexander (Alex) Roberts, a distinguished and longstanding member of the fraternity who passed away in 2019 after more than 50 years of dedicated service.
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s Talent Hunt has a long-standing tradition and is one of the fraternity’s nationally mandated programs designed to identify and support the youth of our nation and world. The origins of the competition began in 1945 by fraternity members J. Austin Atkins of Winston Salem, NC and Dewey Duckett of Rock Hill, SC. The first competition was held in Charlotte, NC in 1946 at the Fraternity’s Sixth District Meeting, and due to the overwhelming success in the ensuing years, the Talent Hunt was adopted as a mandated program and made its international debut in 1953 at the fraternity’s Grand Conclave in Cincinnati, OH. Currently, High School students compete at the local (Chapter) level and the local winners go on to compete at the State level, and those winners compete at the District Meetings. Finally, the district winners perform at the International Grand Conclave.
Amid a group of superbly talented contestants in vocal performance, dance, spoken word and visual arts, James Alexander Lewis performed Fredric Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major (Op. 9 No. 2). Although he did not take home the grand prize, Lewis took the audience in the Bayside Ballroom inside the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on a dynamic ride through this emotionally powerful piece that was riveting until the final note. Manuel Jones, Omega Psi Phi member who has attended several Talent Hunt performances said, “This year’s contestants were the best in the last five years. The talent was exhibited at a very high level across several categories…”
The top two winners, Endia Sparks-Hardy a pianist, representing Sigma Alpha Chapter of greater Miami and Phillip Bond a violinist representing the three Tallahassee Chapters moved on to the District Level Competition in Biloxi, Mississippi slated for 2024. Israel Charles of Eta Nu Chapter (Pompano Beach) served as the emcee. The Adjudicators for the Statewide Talent Hunt were retired music professor Allison Everitt, Escambia County Schools Educator, Lawrence Young Jr., professional dancer Kimalee Piedad, and Gregory D. Brown a student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Commenting on this year’s competition, Chi Tau Chapter Basileus (President) Dr. Richard Williams stated, “The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Chi Tau Chapter of Greater Orlando is proud of what James Alexander Lewis accomplished. He represented his high school and the Orlando community in exceptional fashion. Additionally, the talent pool was outstanding this year and we hope the ultimate winners represent the 7th District equally as well next year in Biloxi.”