12 Aspiring Performers Receive Scholarships

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 19, 2007

Tap dancers, tuba players, violinists and an opera singer have little in common on the face of it. But all were onstage Saturday night at the Warner Theatre for an artistic recital at the sixth annual Music and Dance Scholarship Awards program.

They were among hundreds of high school seniors from across the region who performed. Judges chose 12 seniors who each won $2,000 scholarships.

"These kids have prevailed in spite of institutional neglect," said WRC-TV (Channel 4) anchor Jim Vance, who co-hosted the event with Karyn Parsons, best known for her role on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." Vance criticized budget cuts in music education, and Parsons compared the performers to the finalists on "American Idol."

"We don't need to look for another idol; we have them here tonight in the Warner Theatre," Parsons said.

The event, sponsored by The Washington Post, was produced by Rickey Payton Sr., a local recording artist, producer and co-founder of the renowned Urban Nation HIP-HOP Choir, which closed out the three-hour program with "Celebration."

Some of the young performers said just appearing onstage was worthwhile.

"This is a very prestigious theater, and it is a great honor to be able to perform here," said Valli Sanmugalingam, 17, a senior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.

Benjamin Warner, 17, a tuba player at Magruder High School in Rockville, said performing at the Warner helps demonstrate that African Americans can excel.

"One of the most important things in life is to break that stereotype of black men not succeeding and ending up in jail," Warner said.

Harvumi Elders, 17, of Sandy Spring performed a classical ballet. "Tonight was a high for me," Elders said.

Soprano Teresa Ferrara, 17, a senior at the District's Duke Ellington School of the Arts, performed "Quando M'en Vo" from "La Boheme." One of the 12 scholarship winners, she expressed her gratitude: "I wish to pursue my art in college, and knowing that people are behind me, it's so good to know that."

The other scholarship recipients, all age 17, were: Cameron Krug of Walter Johnson; Kayla Lyles of Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick; Anna Wuttig of Holton-Arms School in Bethesda; Tracy Helen Ramsay of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax; Spencer Ramirez of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield; Bianca N. Edwards of Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in the District; Whitney Chou of Rockville High School; Owen Adams of Bowie High School; Leah Claiborne of Tuscarora High School in Frederick; Emilija Grinvalds of the Arlington Center for Dance; and Shanna Gayer of Westfield High School in Chantilly.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company