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Talent show selects student Spring Fling opener

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Melissa Schapiro.

GW held its first-ever talent competition Thursday night, selecting a senior to be the opening act for Spring Fling.

Taking home first place in the GW’s Got Talent competition was Joe Jean-Mary, an English and criminal justice major. Jean-Mary performed two original raps: first a low-key one and then his crowd pleaser, “Tuesday Night at McFadden’s.”

The talent competition was a joint project by GW Hillel and Program Board. It’s been in the works since last May, in an effort to give students a space to showcase talent even if they’re not involved with campus performance groups.

An initial round of auditions was held in October, with students from the Jewish Student Association as well as Program Board serving as judges. The committee narrowed it down from over 20 acts to the 11 that performed Thursday in front of the judges: GW music professor Robert Baker, Captain Cookie founder Kirk Francis and Student Association Executive Vice President Avra Bossov.

This was the first year of GW’s Got Talent, but Program Board Executive Chair Liz Moses hopes to make it an annual event. Moses said Jean-Mary is slated to be the student opener before another hired opening act, in a setup similar to this year’s Fall Fest, when student band Bencoolen opened for Moses Sumney.

Program board plans to announce the Spring Fling headliner and opener around the time of spring break.

There were no restrictions on the type of material, but all students performed musical acts that ranged from rap to piano performances to contemporary pop. Some students performed original songs.

“I thought long and hard about the songs I wanted to do. I figured I’d give them a side A and a side B,” Jean-Mary said.

The judges said they were drawn to Jean-Mary’s enthusiasm and command of the stage.

“One line you’re rhyming lingerie with chardonnay and the next you’re making a Dragon Ball Z reference,” Francis said with a laugh.

Another performer who won the audience over was senior Lillian Dawit, who tied for second place. Her rendition of “Listen” from “Dreamgirls” was met with loud cheers from the audience every time she belted out a high note, although Dawit admitted she was nervous.

“I was shaking before,” she said. “When I sing, I kind of overcome the nerves, but then immediately after [I finished] I started shaking again.”

Bossov said she thought the talent show was something that had been missing on campus.

“Having a talent show where kids not necessarily involved in a capella groups or theater or anything like that [can perform] can really bring the GW community together,” she said. “There’s so much talent at GW, and I think tonight was a really great way to showcase that.”

As a judge, Bossov said she felt “honored to be on the same level as Captain Cookie.”

The captain himself seemed to have a great time, showering the performers with praise and infusing cookie-related jokes into his commentary.

“I was going to score people based on how many cookies they usually buy,” Francis joked with a contestant, before adding that he’d give her a generous score even if she weren’t a devoted customer.

In addition to performing at Spring Fling, the winner will have the opportunity to perform Saturday at the women’s basketball halftime show. Jean-Mary will have to choose from his current repertoire for that televised performance, but he has bigger plans for Spring Fling.

“I’ll probably make another original piece and try to have it a little bit more specific to GW if I can,” he said. “But it’ll have the same intensity that I did tonight.”

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