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Guess the 30-hour drive from New London to New Orleans was worth it.
Spoken-word artist Jasmine Bond took that long road trip to audition on Feb. 16 for "America's Got Talent." She has been performaning since last year and recently decided to take the plunge and try out for the NBC variety show.
"It was the last open audition they had. I just made the decision - there's one city left, I'm going to do this," says Bond, who had a friend accompany her on the drives down and back.
Bond, who now lives in New London, graduated from Waterford High School and is majoring in psychology at the University of Connecticut.
Producers told Bond that she was the first spoken-word performer ever to audition for "America's Got Talent."
"I've always loved the show. I've always preferred it to any other reality judge (show) like 'The X Factor,' all those things. ... They always get people who really matter. It's not who's prettier. It's about who's got the better talent."
And, she added, it's open to all sorts of talents.
"There was a woman who hand-whistled, and she made it to the sixth round of the show. That's really cool," she says.
Bond likewise hopes to bring spoken-word performance to the masses.
"I think it could be mainstream. That was my inspiration for going down to 'America's Got Talent,'" she says. "There are so many people that enjoy it, and there are so many people who want to hear it, but there's no real resources for spoken word."
When she auditioned for "America's Got Talent," most of the performers were slotted into the rapper, singer or dancer categories. Bond and one other performer - a dancing magician - were the only ones filed under the "variety acts" heading.
The "America's Got Talent" producers pulled Bond - in a sequined dress and with freshly dyed hot-pink hair - aside to film an interview of her. They also had her sit next to another contestant - a dentist who sings - and banter for a while on camera. They were the only ones asked to do that during the entire day, which Bond takes as a good omen. Well, there was that and the fact that, she says, the producers "basically hinted at but weren't allowed to tell me that I would get to (move) on to the celebrity judge audition."
So she is awaiting the producers' official phone call but says it's pretty much guaranteed that would happen. If so, she'll audition in May in front of the show's judges: Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and the newly appointed Mel B.
Bond gives a sample of the piece she did during the auditions. She performs it, even for one person, with energy and drama, punctuating the sentences with strong rhythm and timed pauses.
Here's an excerpt:
" ... the train in my brain and the thoughts that I've got are all words for you, and they don't stop. There are no stations, it's memories of conversations that kept my gears turning and my wheels burning, like, what if? What if one day we stopped being Egyptians and Mexicans and Canadians and Americans and turn into yes, we can all be free. And stop categorizing by things we cannot control and start spiritualizing the way we move our soul."
Bond has long written poetry, but the performance aspect grew out of a joke rap she created for her then-boyfriend, a writer. Friends of hers heard it and told her how good it was. That and another friend-centric rap finally led to her to join in open mic night at Bean & Leaf in New London.
Last September, she did a feature at Bean & Leaf, meaning she got 30 to 45 minutes to showcase her own poetry.
"I've continued to write every day since then, and I've done a few stints with people writing tracks and me doing (poetry) over music, just constantly collaborating with people," she says.