Every year, DCPS students show off their singing, instrument-playing, and dancing skills to compete for a $10,000 scholarship from the DC College Access Program (DC-CAP) and become a DC-CAPital Star. This year, ten out of the 40 contestants in the competitive semifinal round are from Wilson.
The semi-finalists are chosen to proceed to the final round based on public voting on the DC-CAP official website, where many feel like it becomes a popularity contest. “It shouldn’t be called a talent competition if it’s not just focused on talent,” senior 7 Tackes, who is competing in dance, said.
Some contestants are hopeful about the possibility of making it to the top ten. Guy Knoll, having entered the semifinal round for the second time, came to the realization that he has to promote himself to get people to vote for him. He has even plastered posters all over the halls of Wilson in an effort to increase his visibility.
In order to deliver a more finely-tuned performance, contestants had the opportunity to work with professionals during the training process this year. Tackes savored the experience of working with fellow dancers under the guidance of Shawn Cosby, Creative Director for the DC-CAP Performing Arts Gala at the Kennedy Center.
“She is an incredible choreographer [who] knows specifically what will make your dance stand out. The way she works with people is fantastic,” Tackes said. A professionally trained actress and dancer, Cosby advises her pupils on choosing an overall theme for a dancing performance and how to deliver the message in a coherent but subtle way.
Some contestants also have to overcome the archenemy of live performance: stage fright. One method that Wilson semifinalists have refined is creating an alternate persona. Much like how Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce and Marshal Mathers has The Slim Shady, a performer can develop an alternate version of themselves in order to enhance the performance aesthetically.
While taking voice lessons at the Levine School of Music, vocalist Avery Wright found that she got nervous when singing in front of a large crowd, losing the powerful emotions and facial expressions that were the core of her performance. Her voice teacher, Charles Williams, suggested she take on a different persona—Blondie Diamond—and become her while performing. The method turned out to be helpful, as she felt that her rendition of “Chasing Pavements” by Adele was one of her best auditions, “expression and confidence-wise.”
Similarly, dancer Tackes developed his alter ego, 7, a persona that allowed him to be vulnerable and open-minded. “I want to take away all the stigma that men get from dance and just do what I truly love.”