Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gaithersburg High senior wins talent competition

‘Omega Idol’ contest sponsored by fraternity

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Germantown resident Valerie Cabrejo plays keyboards and sings Sunday during ‘‘Omega Idol,” a talent competition for high school students held at the East County Community Center in Silver Spring. Cabrejo won last year’s talent hunt, sponsored by the Mu Nu chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Categories included instrumental music, classical or popular⁄contemporary; vocal music, classical or popular⁄contemporary; dramatics; dance, either ballet, creative, modern or tap; and visual arts, paintings or sculptures.
Nicola McClain captivated the audience on Sunday, singing her way to the No. 1 spot in the ‘‘Omega Idol” countywide youth talent competition.

‘‘I’m really excited,” she said. ‘‘I’ve never really won a competition before.”

The Gaithersburg High School senior, who performed ‘‘I Am Changing” from the ‘‘Dreamgirls” soundtrack, impressed the judges with her stage presence and her big voice at the competition sponsored by the Mu Nu chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

‘‘She was the most comfortable on the stage,” said Godfrey E. Maynor, a competition judge and member of the fraternity, also noting McClain’s expressions and voice control.

Eight high school students from around the county competed for a $50 prize and a chance to advance to the District level competition in Atlantic City, N.J., during the event held Sunday at the East County Community Center in Silver Spring. Contestants sang, played violin, saxophone, piano and bass guitar, displaying a variety of musical talent.

Second-place winner Valerie Cabrejo, a senior at Seneca Valley High School, was last year’s winner, but she wasn’t disappointed with her finish this year.

‘‘I just came to have fun, to see the talent around here,” Cabrejo said. ‘‘I think I did a good job.”

Cabrejo played piano as she sang. She also plays guitar and violin. She will be attending Shepherd University, W.Va., in the fall, where she will major in music performance.

‘‘I’m very proud of her,” said her mother, Martha Cabrejo. ‘‘This is her passion, this is her love.”

Third-place winner Taman Thomas, a junior at the McLean School of Maryland, performed twice, singing ‘‘Ribbon in the Sky” as he played piano in the first number and then playing another piece on piano in the second.

‘‘I’ve been singing ever since I was little,” he said. ‘‘I would love to perform for a living.”

Thomas is a member of the Washington Youth Choir.

Other competitors included sophomore Morgan Byrd of Rockville High School, who played violin; junior Imani Palmer of Northwest High School, who played saxophone, juniors Ankeet Presswala and Shabnam Salek, who played bass guitar and sang, respectively; and senior Naja Mays of Springbrook High School.

The fraternity has been holding talent competitions in Montgomery County since 1972, two years after the chapter was founded. Each of the 18 active chapters in Maryland should be sending a representative to the district competition.

The national fraternity held its first competition in 1946.

‘‘Back in the ’40s when the event started, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for talented youth to express themselves with their talents,” said ‘‘Omega Idol” committee member Stacey Herring. ‘‘We’re basically trying to give these kids a chance to show their talents, to refine those skills, in hope that they might become ... future singers and artists.”

‘‘I want everyone to have a good time,” said committee chairman Dante Mayo. ‘‘I want it to be a positive uplifting event whether they win or not.”

The fraternity will send winner McClain and one of her parents to Atlantic City and pay for transportation and lodging.

‘‘She’s amazing,” said her mother, Sharon McClain. ‘‘She’s going to be someone no matter how she does.”