A dozen talented high school seniors from the District, Maryland and Virginia danced, sang and played their way to $18,000 in scholarship money, awarded Saturday at the gala Washington Post Music and Dance Scholarship Awards evening at the Warner Theatre.
But before the winners each left the stage with a $1,500 stipend each in hand, they and other teenagers entertained a packed house with numbers that ran the gamut of music and dance entertainment, from ballet to hip-hop.
"This is a wonderful time when we can honor our youth," said Ricky Payton Sr., the program's producer and director of the Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir, which performed. "We lose a lot of youth to violence, but this is a time when we can really honor the youth who are achieving. This is a night of honors."
Hosting the scholarship's fourth awards ceremony were Channel 4 news anchor Jim Vance and Jasmine Guy, best known as the sassy Whitley on the NBC series "A Different World" in the 1980s and '90s.
First up was Nora McCormick, 17, of Chevy Chase, a student from Georgetown Visitation Prep School, who danced a ballet called "Lark Variations." Concluding the evening was the Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir with a high-octane performance that had young folks singing and rocking in the aisle.
In all, 147 scholarship applicants produced audition tapes and essays and submitted their grades in their quest for money to further their education. Dance and music professionals selected the winners.
"This is great," said Jasmine Muhammad, 17, a winning vocalist from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. "Now I will have money to buy books."
Muhammad sang "Summertime," from the opera "Porgy and Bess." Another winner, Ninia Agustine, a senior at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, danced to the sounds of "One," from Broadway's "A Chorus Line."
Joseph Edwards, 17, a winner from Upper Marlboro, received a big ovation for his funky saxophone rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon."
The other scholarship winners were: Jonathan Satria, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Montgomery County; Chelsea Vallana-Wilcom, Governor Thomas Johnson High School, Frederick County; Schuyler Slack, J.E.B. Stuart High School, Fairfax County; Erin Burniston, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Fairfax County; Kellie Eng, Glen Burnie High School, Anne Arundel County; Katrina Bello, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Prince George's County; Talya Schenk, Walter Johnson High School, Montgomery County; and Lauren Williams, Thomas Stone High School in Charles County.
David Jones, the evening's associate producer, said that although 12 scholarships were awarded, "all of the contestants received a letter of commendation and certificate of distinction that they will be able to use as building blocks for the collegiate application."
Scholarship presenters were a cross section of Washington area VIPs, among them: Maxine B. Baker, president and chief executive of the Freddie Mac Foundation, Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert and former Washington Redskins player Art Monk.
Saturday's event was a return visit to the Warner for Guy, who was cast as a flying monkey there in a production of "The Wiz" about 20 years ago. Guy, 43, said she understands the stage-struck journeys these teenagers have embarked on.
"Dance for me was my bridge to the world," she said in an interview.
Now balancing a movie career with family, Guy said the key to her success was starting early.
At age 17, she moved to New York and trained under famed New York dance instructor Alvin Ailey.
"I did a lot of performing before I got to 'A Different World.' " she said. "I knew who I was and what I wanted to do. I was pretty focused."