Avani Carter stands behind the curtain. She can see the bright lights off in the distance. She can feel the blood begin to run through her veins. She can hear the crowd – and she’s about to hear her name.
“Thirty seconds before I go on stage, I realize that I worked my butt off and now it’s showtime,” says Carter, a senior at Huron High School who will be performing in the extremely popular Pioneer Theatre Guild’s FutureStars 2020. “My favorite thing about performing is all the time I spend preparing and imagining how the performance will go.”
The hard work, passion and commitment to her craft gives her incredible confidence. And when she finally steps on stage and the spotlight greets her, well, that is the ultimate moment of truth. It’s you, your voice and the audience. It’s as real as real gets. It’s, as she calls it, showtime.
“When I perform, a different kind of kinetic energy bursts out of me, like a volcano,” she says. “Of course, before a performance, nervousness always occurs. I do begin to pace. I always peek on stage to view the audience and I see every single seat is filled. I see judges whisper, giggle and smile while they watch other performers. It’s an incredible feeling and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The 18th annual citywide talent search for Ann Arbor’s next star is Jan. 17-18 with the finals on Jan. 25 at Pioneer High School’s Schreiber Auditorium. The event features students from Ann Arbor’s public high schools as they sing, rap, and play music. Carter will be performing “Fallin” by Alicia Keys and also singing a duet with Cali Hill of the song “Carry on Wayward Son” by the band Kansas.
Carter, the daughter of Che’ and Angelique Carter, says it’s time to spread her wings and show everyone exactly what she is made of – and the best way to do that is with her beautiful voice. “Well my parents have always told me to use your talents or else they’ll disappear so that’s exactly what I’m doing,” she says. “In this case my talent is singing. I can show the city exactly what I am made of. My voice speaks for a different part of me that I can’t explain in speaking, but can explain throughout song so I use that to my advantage and as a support system for myself.”
And she feels quite at home on stage.
I love performing constantly because I always have a chance to improve and create a new memory,” she says. “When I perform, the goal is to always do better than I have the previous performance.”
This will be Carter’s third time on the FutureStars stage. As a sophomore, she hit the stage three times: a solo “What You Don’t Do” by Lianne La Havas; a trio of “Baby One More Time;” and “You Don’t Own Me,” by Lesley Gore with a group. Last year as a junior, she had two duets (“Best Part,” by Daniel Caesar and “H.E.R and Kiss,” by Prince. She also had a solo (“Killing me softly with his song,” by the Fugees) where she reached the finals as a wild card.
Carter says last year’s experience was “enlightening.”
“It’s very different than just singing a song and being done with it,” she explains. “It’s an entire experience that involves preparation, focus, communication and perseverance. I say perseverance because within those two months that we spend preparing we end up enduring illness, finals for some of us and just everyday life. I am really lucky to have been a part of this and it’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
And singing has always been a big part of her life. She was a regular performer during afternoon meetings on the carpet at Mitchell Elementary.
“I didn’t begin theater until my freshman year of high school at Community High,” says Carter, who has appeared in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Disaster!” and “School of Rock.” “The last three plays I’ve had named roles in. In September 2019 I auditioned at American Idol in Detroit and have an America’s Got Talent audition coming up this month.”
Carter says, “hopefully, I’ll be on stage someway, somehow” when it comes to a future. But she also has a pretty impressive backup plan just in case. “The big goal is to live and work in New York by 27. Otherwise, I will be attending WCC on the pre-law track and then transferring to U-M’s law program.”
But singing will always be a big part of her life. Once you experience the thrill of showtime it’s impossible to walk away.
MORE WLAA COVERAGE
FutureStars Profile: Pioneer’s Kat Berens finds her role backstage challenging, exciting and definitely rewarding