Twenty-one-year-old Katani Lewis dreams of becoming professionally trained and pursuing a career in the performing arts.
The young man started his performing career at the tender age of eight when he joined the Haynesville Youth Club. There, he developed skills in drumming and dancing, and got opportunities to perform in Barbados at Crop Over and the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) and across the Eastern Caribbean.
Katani joined Operation Triple Threat in 2012, where he received intense training in singing, dancing and acting. Due to his astounding talent, he was able to perform in two of their Broadway hit productions — The Wiz and Into The Woods.
However, in pursuing his dream, Katani faces one major hurdle — finding approximately US$100,000 or BDS$200,000 to cover tuition costs for his two-year programme. Upon realizing that he could not afford the tuition, Lewis put plans in action to try to ask members of the public and corporate Barbados for help but to no avail.
“I auditioned for American Musical Dramatic Academy [AMDA] in 2015 and I got into the school three weeks after and I got a scholarship for $14,000. [However,] I had to defer for two years just to raise money for school [and] it was very very difficult as I [have] to pay bills and food [but] I decided that I really wanted to go to school. So, I sent out scholarship proposals and sent some stuff to different companies but I didn’t really get a response,” he said.
Though unsuccessful in securing the required funding, Katani is determined to achieve his goal and has found a job being a patient service representative. He noted that entering the crème de la crème institute was nerve-wracking; however he was excited to be accepted into the prestigious institution.
“Well the audition process for me was very challenging because you really have to choose your songs [and monologues] wisely. Before I went to ADMA they sent us the criteria in terms of what they needed and it had to be one monologue and one song. So, I considered all the material that I have done in the past and decided to do two of my favourite pieces – Monologue by Horace Holly – The Genius and I also did the song from The Wiz – What Would I do if I could feel.”
Katani said that he rehearsed very very hard and worked alongside Janelle Headley, Founder of Operation Triple Threat and a lot of his friends as six of them went to audition for AMDA in 2015. “There are six of us who meet up to do the audition. We worked together to put the piece together. So, when I went up to audition, it was very nerve racking but it was a good audition [and a] good process,” he said.
Coming out of his audition experience, Katani received interviews and a dance audition. He noted that approximately 100 persons had applied for entry into the prestigious institution and that they all were in groups. What excited him was that the Caribbean was well represented.
Katani also took it a step further when he decided last year to take a major risk and at just twenty- one-years old he auditioned for a role in a Broadway musical. He vied for the role of Daniel but was unsuccessful. He said the experience, nevertheless, was enjoyable.
Katani was described by Janelle Headley as a very determined young man. That was evident with how hard he has been working for the past two years to raise the funds for his tuition, mostly on his own. Due to his hard work, Operation Triple Threat has come on board to assist him by mobilizing supplementary funding to cover some of his AMDA enrollment fees.
Katani is making a final plea to both the general public and corporate Barbados to be able to commence his studies in October this year.
“I would tell the general public to see my dream and how hard I worked for this. I mean I deferred for two years and that is unprecedented because no school likes you to defer for this long [as] that is a long time. They really wanted me to come and I was liaising with my adviser to try to get different scholarships and sponsors,” he said.
Katani said while he wanted the public to see his need, more importantly he wanted them to see his passion for the arts. “I just would like the public to see my need, my passion [and] my dream, [and] hopefully be able to help me out. I would like people to help out and know that they are investing in something that is worthwhile,” he said.