It was time for Sandra Wolf-Meei Cameron to perform at the Warner Theatre, and even though her piano accompanist was stuck in traffic, the 18-year-old walked onto the stage and placed the violin under her chin.
After she moved the bow with her gifted fingers, what began as a few strands of music quickly changed into a stirring classical music performance. Before her final note, the audience of 1,500 was standing and applauding.
"It all turned out okay. I had fun up there," said Cameron, who won a $1,500 scholarship Saturday night during the Third Annual Washington Post Music and Dance Scholarship Awards program for high school seniors.
Cameron, from Poolesville High School, joined several hundred other student artists from across the Washington region who turned out for an event that was much more than an awards show.
Acknowledgement of the performers' abilities is invaluable, said Rickey Payton Sr., founder of the Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir and producer of the program, because the "arts transcend all human barriers."
More than half of the 300 performers, many participating in dance groups and choirs, were not in the scholarship competition but were on stage to showcase their creativity and art. Twelve scholarship winners, each of whom received $1,500, were selected from 128 seniors from 50 high schools.
"This gives young artists the opportunity to display their talent in a positive environment," said Robin Pitts, creative director of Dance Makers, a Lanham group that featured such young dancers as 6-year-old Monet Fontaine, who said before the performance, "I can't wait to go on stage and do my thing."
The scholarship winners were doing their thing, too. Elizabeth Peroutka, 17, is a trumpet player from Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn. Carol Cheung, 16, is a classical pianist from Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring and Ashley Anderson, 17, is a modern dancer from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
"It is really great that they would have scholarships for seniors who want to go into the arts because it is hard to be a professional artist in the world," said Cheung, who gave Cameron a big hug after Cameron was presented the last scholarship of the night.
Cameron said that she was nervous when she walked on stage because it was the first time she had performed without her piano accompanist. "It is an amazing experience to perform for people and to be involved in music in this way," she said. "No matter what happens in the future, I just hope that people will keep this experience as part of their lives."
Avery Nielsen, a senior at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest Washington, opened the program with a classical piano selection, and members of the Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir closed the program by reminding all the performers that they were "heroes" and "shining stars."
Nielsen said that while he appreciates the scholarship, "The best thing about this is that I met all of these performers from all of these different genres, and they were all amazing."
Other scholarship winners were Kristen Garaffo, pianist, Hayfield Secondary School in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County; Suzanne McLeod, marimba instrumentalist, Owings Mills High School; Emma Misner, dancer, Annandale High School; Crystal Morgan, dancer, Grace Brethren Christian School, Clinton; Micah Robinson, singer, Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville; Mark Williams, singer, Dunbar Senior High School, Northwest Washington; and Cathy Teixeira, singer, Walter Johnson High School, Bethesda.