Hunting For Talent In Orlando

2024 Talent Hunt committee and contestants: L to R: Daniel Kirby, Syndey Grant, David Bolden, Solomon Riggins, Justin Monroe, Kionna Smith, Jiya Woodard; James Lewis, Gary Curry, Roderick Taylor, Danny Vereen, Dr. Carl Gilmore
L to R: Dr. Nick Henderson (DJ); Front row: Solomon Riggins, David Bolden, Sydney Grant, Kionna Smith, Jiya Woodard, James Lewis, Gary Curry, Kimberli Alphonso, Brittany Alphonso, Noelle Miller. Back row: Daniel Kirby, Russell Drake, Danny Vereen, Roderick Taylor, Dr. Carl Gilmore, Shemico Henfield
Top prize winner Sydney Grant performing “I have nothing” by Whitney Houston
2nd Prize winner Solomon Riggins performing “4/4 Rica” by Kevin Bobo & Jalen Moore
3rd Prize winner Kionna Smith performing “Made for me” by Muni Long


OCOEE – Saturday March 23rd, the hunt was on, and this year’s proving ground was the Ocoee High School auditorium. Six students from area high schools donned their best armor and competed for prize money in the genres of singing and instrumental music to see who would emerge victorious in the 2024 Talent Hunt sponsored by the Chi Tau (Graduate) and Chi Tau (Undergraduate) Chapters of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. This year’s event was unique in that four participants, including last year’s winner, competed a second time. The audience was also treated to Co-MCs who go by the name of Dan & Dave (Daniel Kirby and David Bolden). The duo, who happen to be new members of the fraternity provided a mixture of comic relief and education during their performance. Speaking candidly, Dan Kirby told the audience; “For over 70 years, the International Talent Hunt has provided an opportunity for us to celebrate young talent in the arts. I continue to be inspired, but not surprised by the outstanding quality of the talent on this stage. We see the commitment of the students and support of families and educators.”

Omega Psi Phi’s Talent Hunt has a long-standing tradition and is one of the internationally mandated programs of the fraternity 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. In recent years, the competition has expanded to include Dramatic Interpretation (i.e., rap) and Visual Art (painting/sculpturing) to be more inclusive of the artistic genres engaged by today’s youth.

Locally, Roderick Taylor Talent Hunt chairperson for the third consecutive year spoke about this year’s venue. Smiling he said, “Ocoee High School’s auditorium is the perfect location for this event. The amenities in this space are indicative of the level of talent we have, which is outstanding. It’s not the Dr. Phillips Center, but we’re slowly working our way to it.”

The talent level was indeed exceptional, which made it even more difficult to pick the winners. However, the adjudicators were experts in their fields and well suited for the task. The trio was represented accordingly: Noelle Miller, a classically trained singer, performer, and Grammy Recording Academy member. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in Classical Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music in NYC and is a true student of her craft. Next was Kimberli Alphonso. Kimberli is a coloratura soprano and cellist from Orlando, Florida. She graduated with a degree in music from Rollins College with an emphasis on vocal and cello performance and the music business. Rounding out the trio was Brittani Alphonso. Brittani is a soprano originally from Jacksonville, Florida. Miss Alphonso graduated with a degree in music from Rollins College with a focus on vocal performance, conducting, and ethnomusicology. She has worked in both private and public schools teaching general music, art, and chorus.

After careful deliberation, the judges selected Sydney Grant as the top prize winner for this year’s competition for her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I have nothing.” The Junior representing University HS took home $500 and dazzled the audience with her talent of playing the keyboard and singing. Sydney is undecided about her plans after high school. Fortunately, she has another year to contemplate her decision. Meanwhile, she will represent Chi Tau and Chi Tau Tau Chapters this fall at the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Florida State Organization (FSO) meeting, and she is eligible to participate locally next year. Second prize was awarded to Solomon Riggins. The Senior from Evans HS pocketed $300 for his outstanding percussion performance of “4/4 Rica” by Kevin Bobo and Jelan Moore. The musical prodigy was accepted to seven universities and is still deciding which one to select. Third prize of $200 was awarded to Kionna Smith, a Senior from Jones HS for her vocal interpretation of Muni Long’s “Made for me.” Incidentally, Kionna competed last year and was also awarded third prize. She is undecided about her secondary education plans. However, there is no doubt this talented singer has a bright future ahead.

Closing out the competition, Dr. Carl Gilmore Chi Tau Chapter Basileus (President) surprised the audience and contestants by providing the non-winners with a special award. He emphasized the following: “It is important that we continue to highlight the talents, showcase the talents, and make sure we recognize the talents of these young people at every turn. That is why I am proposing a special “love offering” to the non-winners and hoping this will encourage those of you who can return to compete next year to please do so. The level of talent displayed here today is why we do this. And we want to make sure we reward your efforts.” He ended by saying; “I want to thank all of the contestants, their families, the Talent Hunt committee, and adjudicators for a job well done. God bless you, and we hope to see everyone again next year.”