The Music Center launched the Annual Spotlight Program in 1998 helping to change the lives of over 51,000 high school students from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Now in its 33rd year, this program involves far more than a series of competitions. The Music Center’s Spotlight program provides the groundwork for young and inspiring artists to learn more about their chosen art form, receive invaluable college preparedness skills and the most important elements of making it through this world, gaining the required confidence, self-esteem and perseverance to follow their dreams in the performing arts.  Just a few of the notable Spotlight alumni include Tony Award® winner Lindsay Mendez, American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer Misty Copeland, Emmy® award-winning composer Kris Bowers and major recording artists Josh Groban and Adam Lambert, Award-winning choreographer and dancer Thang Dao. Recent Spotlight finalists appeared as guest performers during Groban’s first livestream Holiday concert in December 2020, which was viewed by an international audience.

The Music Center’s nationally recognized Arts Education program offers more than $100,000 in Scholarships for aspiring artists, performance opportunities and indispensable feedback from professionals in their chose field. Other cash awards include $300 to each of the semifinalists and  $5,000 scholarships to the eventual Grand Prize Finalists, plus $1,000 goes to one Honorable Mention from each category. The Music Center also presents the Merit Award to  five students in each category who inspire the judges by their commitment and dedication. Each Spotlight Merit Award recipients receives $100.

Spotlight participants receive detailed feedback during Mastery Classes - Photo courtesy of The Music Center

Spotlight participants receive detailed feedback during Mastery Classes – Photo courtesy of The Music Center

“While arts learning remains under pressure in school budgets, The Music Center’s Spotlight is a vibrant program that serves an essential need. Spotlight participants receive multiple opportunities to perform in front of professional experts who provide personalized and precise feedback that other free programs just don’t offer,” said Rachel S. Moore president and CEO of The Music Center. “Spotlight is a year-long journey with a lifetime of benefits for these young students. We’re very proud that our program offers a comprehensive learning experience that nurtures young artists’ aspirations and supports the next generation of performers and arts professionals.”

“Spotlight is completely free with no financial barriers to participate, which gives equal footing to kids looking to make their dreams come true, no matter their talent level,” added Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. “Each round in the audition process is a little different so the knowledge and connections each participant makes compound, especially as the semifinalists attend mastery classes. Spotlight is very much an exploration of artistic skills and the students’ capacity to grow as individuals. We absolutely love seeing them shine throughout the process and over the years that they participate.”

Also included in the Spotlight program is the rare opportunity for semifinalists to attend a special master class in their discipline with highly regarded artists, who share their expertise on performance technique, training and professional life. Experts provide students with highly valuable feedback on their performances, offering them a rich learning experience. “Each semifinalist will audition virtually again before a new panel of judges, who will then select the top two finalist performers in each category for a total of 14 Grand Prize Finalists. Judges will also name an Honorable Mention in each category. The Grand Prize Finalists will perform in The Music Center’s Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance on May 22, 2021, premiering on The Music Center Offstage digital platform at 7:00 p.m.” …The Music Center press release – March 8, 2021

2021 Ballet semifinalists for The Music Center Spotlight - Photo courtesy of The Music Center

2021 Ballet semifinalists for The Music Center Spotlight – Photo courtesy of The Music Center

The Music Center launched The Spotlight Academy last summer with a series of online videos and tutorials designed for young artists, parents and educators. Called webisodes, these videos “focus on subjects related to applying for the Spotlight program as well as advice for anyone considering a career in the arts, both on- or offstage”. The videos explain thoroughly the program’s seven categories and involve discussions with alumni and experts in the field such as Superstore actress Carla Renata, opera singer Suzanna Guzmán and New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck, among others.

Because this is an online magazine for dance, I will only list those semifinalist in those categories, but we send our congratulations to all the participants who made it this far.

The semifinalists in the categories Ballet and Dance are Julia Outmesguine, Ballet, Agoura Hills; Erin Park, Dance, Chino; Sydney Thomas, Dance, Chino Hills; Lucy Cox, Ballet, Claremont; Julian Menendez, Dance, Costa Mesa; Fiona Poth, Ballet, Coto de Caza; Natalie Steele, Dana Point; Adam Takahashi, Ballet, Fullerton; Chloe Capulong, 2 categories – Ballet and Dance, Huntington Beach; Emma Chen, Ballet, Irvine; Emily Okamoto, Ballet, Irvine; Ella Horan, Dance, Irvine; Hana Uehara, Dance, Irvine; Kailyn Yi, Dance, Irvine; Natalia Burns, Ballet, Ladera Ranch; Chase Rogers, Ballet, Ladera Ranch; Ava Louise Winer, Ballet, Los Angeles; Claire Buchi, Ballet, Manhattan Beach; Gunner Stephens, Dance, Murrieta; Selena Hamilton, Dance, Norwalk; Rachael Hudak, Dance, San Diego; Grace Li, Dance, San Diego; Luc Simpson, Dance, San Diego; Francine Mae Peji, Dance, Santa Clarita; Abigail Wyrrick, Ballet, Thousand Oaks; Mia Schlosser, Ballet, Westlake Village; Keara Nichols, Ballet, Winchester; Chloe Kinzler, Ballet; and Mallory McKenna, Dance, Yorba Linda.

The majority of support for The Music Center’s Spotlight program is provided by Helen and Peter Bing, Terri and Jerry Kohl, Dr. Martin Balser, Marie Song and an anonymous donor. This year’s Spotlight co-chairs are Pamela and Dennis Beck and Terri and Jerry Kohl. Fredric Roberts is founding chairman of Spotlight. The late Walter E. Grauman is the creator.

For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, click HERE.  Or join the conversation on Facebook.

The Music Center is also home to four renowned resident companies—Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Master Chorale, LA Opera and LA Phil. To learn more, click HERE.  Follow The Music Center on social media @MusicCenterLA.

Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: 2021 Dance semifinalists for The Music Center Spotlight – Photo courtesy of The Music Center