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Captioning beyond my wildest musical dreams

Juanita Price, RPR

By Juanita Price

On Thursday, April 15, 2021, I received a call from my supervisor. She was giggling. I could tell she was excited about something, but I was clueless.

Even though I had no idea why, I started giggling right along with her. She managed to pull herself together to share some exciting news: The Court Reporting Division was asked to caption some or all of the District of Columbia Superior Court’s 2021 Virtual Courtwide Employee Conference, and CRD leadership thought I would be perfect for the job. My jaw dropped! This was a huge undertaking. This is a first! It’s history! Or should I say #herstory?

Of course, I said yes. I was on cloud 9! I was elated that our colleagues at the courthouse would be able to finally witness what court reporters and captioners can do!

My mind began to race. I collected myself and got down to business.  I informed my supervisor what I would need from the team to caption. She totally understood. She informed me a meeting would be taking place on Monday.

So I had the weekend (one week and a day) to get ready. I contacted my mentor and friend, Michelle Houston, RPR, who is a CART and broadcast captioner. She set up a date and time for us to do a run-through about writing into different platforms. (Okay, y’all, I looked down at the floor in dismay.) Yes, I forgot some of the things she taught me. That’s why this refresher course was sorely needed and totally appreciated. She took me through the various steps to ensure a smooth hookup and taught me how to troubleshoot in case I came across any technical problems. I felt privileged to be under the tutelage of such an experienced captioner. It was fun, yet serious. When we concluded, I felt I would be OK, and she assured me I would do fine.

After our session, it seemed like the weekend went by in a blur. I couldn’t wait for the meeting to take place on Monday. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was decided that I would caption the DJ and the music. I was asked, “Can you do it? Do you think you can do it?” In my mind, I was sure! You see, back in December 2020 and February 2021, I participated in Steno Karaoke, created and hosted by Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, BCR, RSA (many of you know her as Wisdom Hope). Partaking in these events prepared me for this event.

I informed the team I would need to know the songs/playlist the DJ was going to play!

The team wanted me to attend the “Run of Show” the next day. It was at that time that I got to demonstrate what we, court reporters/captioners, can do! Now, with the program participants ready, all we had to do was wait until the day of the event. While they were doing what they do, I was doing what I needed to do. I was prepping by listening to lyrics and setting up briefs.

Friday, April 23, the day of the event, finally arrived. When the music began, I got a little jittery! I could not believe it!  I chased those jitters away and wrote like I was trying to win an NCRA Speed Contest.

Did I tell you that the DJ would be talking while the music and lyrics were playing, and some of the music played would be rap music? Well, no worries! I took care of that! I was prepared!

Now, remember, I told you all that I told the team I needed the songs/playlist so I could prep! I had printed all the songs to be played, placed where I could grab them, if needed. Guess what? The worst case happened!  The DJ started playing a song I had not prepped for, let alone, knew anything about! I said a silent prayer, dug in deep with my captioner’s ears, and wrote the words! Hallelujah! At first, I almost lost it, but I quickly pulled myself together and said to myself, write, Nita, just write! And I did!

While I was captioning, I kept hearing my computer dinging to let me know I was receiving emails. My phone was vibrating alerting me to incoming text messages, but I stayed the course. I was captioning and enjoying every minute of it!

I was hoping my colleagues were proud and the spotlight on our division was beaming bright.

After the event, I knew in my heart I had done the best captioning that I could. I felt proud, and hoped my colleagues were as well. When I looked at my emails, one message was titled “JP CAPTIONING THE BREAK! GO JUANITA!” I began to smile.

My smile got bigger when I saw there were numerous messages connected to it from my colleagues cheering me on!

Finally, I looked at my text messages; they were from my colleagues as well cheering me on.

When I looked at the chat, one of my friends asked me if my fingers were tired.

I am humbled, happy, and proud to have been a part of this historical event that took place at District of Columbia Superior Court. The Court is certainly raising the bar by incorporating captioning. I am so proud of them.

Am I looking forward to the next event? Absolutely! I hope I am asked to participate, because I will say yes faster than you can blink. This event was an epic moment in my 37-year career. I am moving forward in the rest of my career — to use the words of my friend, Stacey E. Raikes, RPR, RMR, CRR — by being bold and daring greatly.

Juanita Price, RPR, is an official court reporter and captioner from Gainesville, Va. She can be reached at