“The best part of performing in the National Cherry Blossom Parade is getting to be part of a tradition!” said Justin Guarini (right), runner-up of American Idol in 2000 and host of The National Cherry Blossom’s recent Sing Into Spring vocal competition.
Guarani, a Fairfax native, expressed his excitement for the competition that took place Monday night giving local talent a chance to perform in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (which will take place on Saturday, April 12) in conjunction with international acts and celebrities. After 144 auditions, 18 finalists took center stage at the downtown Hard Rock Cafe.
The Sing Into Spring competition featured an exceptional panel of six well-known judges, including Joe Coleman, former lead vocalist of The Platters; Louise Robinson of Sweet Honey and the Rock; and Darik Kristofer, radio host for 94.7 Fresh FM… all looking for a local star to introduce to the national stage.
“DC Community shows the true sprit of the city,” said Kristofer, who agreed with Coleman that they were looking for winning contestants with “not only talent but confidence and charisma.”
“They can’t just sing it, the winners have to be able to sell it,” quipped fellow panelist Brenda Goldsmith.
As the competition began, groups and soloist of all ages took the spotlight with high hopes. After beautiful belting and soulful sounds, the judges decided on the five following contestants whose performances shined brightest:
- Alan Gendreau (Washington, DC) – an energetic soloist who compares his style to Michael Bublé. While growing up in Orlando, FL, Alan participated in school musicals and choral competitions around Florida before receiving a full athletic scholarship to play football at Middle Tennessee State University. Now a District resident, Alan is a regular open mic participant for Love to Sing DC.
- Ashley Brown (Mount Rainer, MD) – an R&B/pop artist who grew up with a great love of music. Ashley is currently gearing up for the release of her debut album “Dear Diary” and is pursuing additional opportunities in film/TV and modeling.
- The GW Vibes (Washington, DC) – a co-ed a capella group performing a range of styles from R&B to indie rock since its founding in 1999 at the George Washington University. With 22 active members, the GW Vibes is one of the largest a capella ensembles on campus, allowing the group to cover complicated, all-original a capella pieces.
- Reverb (Washington, DC) – an award winning, Washington-area a capella performance group that sings gospel, R&B and pop music. Yearly, Reverb facilitates “Black History in Harmony,” an educational musical program the group created for K-12 students.
- Kelvin Dukes (Burtonsville, MD) – a bright, young eight-year-old student who has enjoyed singing and performing for others since the age of three. Kelvin has taken acting at Round House Theater, as well as art classes at Royal Academy.
Be sure to catch the winners in all their glory as they sing amongst the elaborate floats in a magnificent musical showcase exclusively performed during the finale event of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.