BY SHELTON STARK, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
ORLANDO – Orlando’s youthful brilliance was on display at the J.B. Callahan Community Center Saturday April 22, 2023, as seven students from three area high schools vied for first, second and third prize in the areas of modern dance, piano solo, and song as part of the annual Talent Hunt program sponsored by the Chi Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. of Greater Orlando.
Omega’s Talent Hunt has a long-standing tradition and is one of the nationally 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.
For the second consecutive year, Chi Tau’s Talent Hunt was chaired by Roderick Taylor whose encouragement about this year’s level of talent and participation was indicative when he said “the talent continues to improve each year, and the turnout is much better than last year too. The change of venue was also a plus. When asked to assess the day’s events Co-Chair Dr. Carl Gilmore remarked, “I’m proud to be part of an opportunity to show-case and encourage this amazing young talent. People so often overlook the many ways our community excels.” Committee chairman Taylor commented further saying, “there is an abundance of talent in the room and it’s obvious the kids are well prepared. The judges will not have an easy task with deciding a winner today.”
Speaking of winners, this year’s top prize went to James Alexander Lewis, a Senior from Orlando Science School who took home $500 in a run-off victory. His initial performance was a piano solo of Chopin’s “Nocturn in E Flat Major Opus 9”, but he won with his rendition of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”. James is an honor student with a 4.0 GPA and is also part of the President’s academic achievement and Honor Roll. He is considering FSU or Florida A&M University (FAMU) for his secondary education and is currently undecided on a major. Customarily, the first-place winner goes on to compete in the Florida State Talent Hunt in the Fall. If James wins the state competition, he will be eligible to go on to the district level competition, and if continues to excel, he could compete in the International Talent Hunt at the 84th Grand Conclave in 2024. The Second prize winner was Garry Curry Jr, and he was awarded $300 for his interpretation of “The Story I’ll Tell” by Naomi Raine of Maverick City. Garry is a Junior at Jones High and he has a 3.7 GPA. His hobbies include singing, cooking, and writing. He plans to attend Florida A&M University (FAMU) after he graduates from high school. Third prize and $200 was awarded to Kionna Smith for her inspiring rendition of “Take me to the King” by Tamela Mann. Kionna is also a Junior at Jones with a 3.4 GPA. She is a member of the JHS Concert Choir and Masters Singers. Her hobbies include singing, shopping, and reading. She plans to enter Full Sail University to study Vocal Music after finishing high school. Honorable mention goes to Alyssa Slaughter for her dance routine to “Be Italian”, Brianna Lewis for her dance interpretation to Ledisi’s “Take my hand precious Lord”, Jiya Woodard for singing the Broadway tune “Gimme, Gimme” by Jeanine Tesori, and Alleya Calixte for her self-titled song “Sing with my life.”
On this auspicious Spring day in Central Florida, James Alexander Lewis was clearly the winner. However, all of the participants were winners in their own right and by the level of competition witnessed today, they all have bright futures ahead. They participated at the highest level, and undoubtedly displayed to the crowd of well-wishers and onlookers that Orlando truly has lots of talent!