Every year, DCPS students have the opportunity to compete to become a DC Capital Star. Vocalists, instrumentalists, and dancers are all invited to showcase their talents and contend for the $10,000 scholarship from the DC College Access Program (DC-CAP). DC-CAP, established in 1999, is a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the number of DC students who go to college.
After the initial round of auditions, a panel of judges selects 40 semifinalists. On the DC-CAP website, there is a photo, essay, and video showcasing the talents of every semifinalist. It is then up to the general public to vote for the 10 finalists, who get the opportunity to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts annual gala. The finalists will be announced on Friday, January 25. All 40 semifinalists are able to participate in the gala as well. This year’s theme is the British Invasion, and the gala will take place on April 10.
“They’re doing a semifinalist piece, which… they described to me as this whole eight-minute theatrical performance of singing and dancing in costume,” said semifinalist junior Catherine Hammes, who plays the flute. To exemplify the theme of the British Invasion, Hammes explained that the contestants will be choosing songs from the 1960s and 1970s.
Several students found out about the competition through music teacher Lori Williams, who encouraged students in her choir classes to audition. Others found out about DC-CAP through friends who had been finalists in past years.
Williams, who has been a support system for students who have auditioned for DC-CAP, mentioned that when she looks for students to audition, she looks for natural talent and students who should be recognized. “I wanted them to perform their best and to remember that the outcome of the audition—favorable or not—doesn’t define who they are. They are talented and should be heard,” Williams said.
To pick out their audition pieces, students found pieces that both exemplified their talents and were recognizable. “I played a peace called ‘Syrinx’ by Claude Debussy, which is a very standard flute repertoire piece,” Hammes said. “My flute teacher picked it for me because she thought that it would be a good fit for where I was performance wise, and… she said that it’s standard repertoire, so it’s a piece that I would have to learn anyway.”
Similarly, sophomore Nikki Keating picked her song, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston because it was “commercial,” meaning that it was both memorable and recognizable. “I didn’t know ‘I Have Nothing’ before DC-CAP, and now I know it like the back of my hand,” Keating said.
In addition to the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center, many semifinalists were glad that they entered because of the people that they’ve met through the competition. “You get to work with a lot of professionals from the area who can give you a good insight about not only how to perfect your craft, but also the politics and the logistics of how to be a musician,” Hammes said. Keating was offered individual lessons and the chance to be in the choir of one of the judges.
Senior Julia Ravenscroft sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables.” “I’ve been singing and dancing and acting for as long as I can remember,” Ravenscroft said. Going into the audition, Ravenscroft mentioned that she was confident since she has had a lot of theater experience. “The first shows I did were in 2011, one at a summer camp and one at a community theater with adults. After that I did school shows mostly, but also went to theater lab and Gonzaga to get opportunities outside of just Deal and Wilson,” Ravenscroft added. The first audition was in September, but semifinalists’ videos for the website were filmed in November. Although the process was long, Ravenscroft concluded by saying, “I would recommend it since it’s a good opportunity—good exposure and if you go far you win money for college, so what’s wrong with that?”
“If I won, It would mean the world to me honestly,” said freshman Zach Rakotomaniraka, who sang “Circle of Life” by Elton John. Rakotomaniraka found the audition process to be nerve-wracking. “There were so many talented people there, I felt that I really had to push my game up and be on my A-game,” he said.
Rakotomaniraka took William’s advice and gave the auditions his all. “It means so much to me just singing, being able to express my talent, that’s really all that matters to me,” he said. When asked about college, Rakotomaniraka mentioned that he has no doubts about pursuing singing. “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”