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CVPA grad reflects on St. Louis Teen Talent Competition win and future endeavors

A Black man with black and blonde ombre dreads smiles and looks away from the camera while wearing a tan coat and a Morehouse College shirt.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Ray Strickland, a Central Visual and Performing Arts graduate and Morehouse College student, on Wednesday at St. Louis Public Radio in Grand Center. Strickland won the 2023 St. Louis Teen Talent Competition when he showcased his piano and singing skills.

When Central Visual and Performing Arts High School student Ray Strickland performed his original song “Time for Change” at the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition in 2023, he sang in recognition of his cousin, whom he lost to gun violence; of George Floyd, who was murdered shortly after Strickland wrote the song, and in reflection of the mass shooting at his school months earlier.

“As I was performing, I could hear people in the audience crying,” he said. “I knew in that moment … that this song wasn't just another song. It had impact behind it.”

Strickland won first place in the contest, which earned him a $8,000 scholarship, a support system as he enrolled in college and opportunities like the chance to sing the national anthem at a St. Louis City SC soccer game.

Now 19, Strickland is a freshman majoring in music at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He gives credit to the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s talent competition for helping him to achieve his goals.

“I gave the competition a shot, because a teacher asked me to,” Strickland said. “I had a bad experience before with going into a talent competition, so I said, ‘I will not go into something like that again.’ But then I took a chance, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.”

When Strickland isn’t traveling with the Morehouse College Glee Club, he plays music at several Atlanta churches, does community service as an Oprah Winfrey Scholar and works to master his singing and piano skills. He hopes to one day be an accompanist for orchestras and symphonies.

“I want to be able to continue to impact people through music because music is a universal language. It connects all people,” he said. “I want to help the next generations. I believe that when you pour into generations after you, they pour it back into you one way or the other, so my goal in my career is to allow music to live on even when I'm not here anymore.

“I've seen so much pain,” he added. “I've seen so many deaths in St. Louis alone, to where it helps me know what the world needs now — and it still reflects back to the fact that we need change.”

Registration for the 2024 St. Louis Teen Talent Competition is open through Monday. Preliminary rounds will be held on Jan. 13 and 14, and the semi-final rounds will be on Feb. 3. The finals will be held at the Fabulous Fox Theatre on March 24.

To learn more about Ray Strickland and what other St. Louis Teen Talent Competition winners are up to, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or click the play button below.

St. Louis Teen Talent winner Ray Strickland joins "St. Louis on the Air"

Related Event
What: St. Louis Teen Talent Competition
When: Registration for this year’s contest is open now through Jan. 8
Where: https://stlteentalent.org/sign-up-now/

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.