As the lights dimmed and the orchestra started to play, three Temple theater students were ready to sweep the competition with their voices.
The American Pops Orchestra held the NextGen: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow talent competition at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. on March 9. Temple students José Mangual, Kodiak Thompson and Rita Castagna participated in the talent show, winning three of four singing awards distributed to the top two male and female artists.
The performers auditioned for the competition in February when the American Pops Orchestra came to Presser Hall to recruit vocalists. After their selection, they had to prepare two songs of different styles of “golden-age” songs released before 1970.
Senior musical theater major Mangual placed first in the Male Vocalist section. Their performances of “Honestly Sincere” from the 1960 musical “Bye, Bye, Birdie” and “Lonely Town” from the 2014 musical “On The Town,” based on the 1949 film of the same name, won them the award.
The competition featured a panel of four judges, with an additional opportunity for the audience to vote online. Hundreds of students auditioned from colleges across the east coast, and 29 were chosen to perform in the competition. 10 final contestants were chosen to compete in a second performance final round.
The overall experience of the competition was a positive one, said Mangual, who was surprised at the kindness from the event organizers considering the competitive setting.
“The organizers were so jovial and encouraging,” Mangual said. “Everyone interacts differently in competitions.”
Castagna said winning the first-place Female Vocalist award was a surprise considering the amount of talent in the competition. The senior acting and musical theater major won with her rendition of “Think” by Aretha Franklin.
“It was so exciting, it was ethereal,” Castagna said. “People were offering the most unimaginable compliments.”
Thompson, a sophomore musical theater major won the second-place Male Vocalist award with his song “Cry” from “Forever Plaid: The Musical.”
“It’s the most invigorating feeling to combine all of your talents and abilities and use them simultaneously to evoke a reaction or response from an audience,” Thompson said. “It reaches people in one way other things can’t.”
In addition to his competition success, Thompson has performed in “Guys and Dolls,” “Chicago,” “Side Show,” and this semester’s “Sunday in the Park with George” with Temple Theaters.
Temple students won three of the four awards. Ally Dods from James Madison University took home the second place Female Vocalist award.
The trio of winners plans on continuing their careers in the performing arts, whether that be in film, television or theater. Along with winning the awards, the students will perform with the American Pops Orchestra in an unannounced event during the Orchestra’s 2019-20 season.
“I just plan to move forward with different theaters and having as many diverse experiences as possible,” Thompson said. “I want to broaden my horizons and see what part of the industry I’m interested in.”