In March of this year, I wrote an article announcing the selection of 16 students from nearly 1,500 applicants for The Music Center’s 33rd Annual Spotlight Awards in the categories acting, ballet, dance, classical instrumental, jazz instrumental, classical voice and non-classical voice. All applicants had to be Southern California high school students who attend a public, private, online or home school, and live in one of the following counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern, San Diego, Riverside, or San Bernardino.
Each of the 14 Spotlight Grand Prize winners will perform via The Music Center Offstage Virtual Platform on May 22, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. PT hosted by Spotlight Alum and Pop Recording Icon Josh Groban. The program can be viewed free at musiccenter.org as well as Facebook Live @musiccenterla. In addition to performing on this special program, each finalist will also receive a $5,000 scholarship.
The performance begins with the 14 finalists performing together in a show-stopping song-and-dance number, designed by film, television and music video choreographer Phillip Chbeeb. Directed by Nicole Alexander and produced in association with Hashtag, You’re It. The Music Center’s 33rd annual Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance will also be broadcast once again on KCET as part of its weekly arts and culture series, SOUTHLAND SESSIONS, and on its sister station PBS SoCal (KOCE) later this summer; broadcast dates to be announced.
Throughout the entire competitive process, students had the opportunity to attend special master classes in their discipline with renown artists. These artists not only shared their professional experiences and techniques but provide valuable feedback to the students along the way. The 14 Spotlight Grand Prize winners are:
Acting: Jordan Anderson, 18, a senior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles), and Hannah Nordberg, 16, a junior at Campbell Hall (Los Angeles).
Ballet: Mia Schlosser, 15, a freshman at Westlake High School (Thousand Oaks), and Natalie Steele, 14, a freshman at JSerra Catholic High School (San Juan Capistrano).
Dance: Emmy Cheung, 17, a junior at Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana), and Selena Hamilton, 16, a home-schooled junior (Los Angeles).
Classical Voice: Catherine Johnston, 17, a senior at Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana), and Ava Kuntz, 17, a senior at Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana).
Non-Classical Voice: Megan Colton, 17, a senior at Rancho Learning Center (Arcadia), and Christian Tyler Dorey, 17, a senior at California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley (Duarte).
Classical Instrumental: Fengyang Ju (oboe), 16, a junior at Colburn Music Academy (Los Angeles), and Daniel Bae (violin), 18, a senior at IQ Academy California (Simi Valley).
Jazz Instrumental: Santiago Lopez (saxophone), 18, a senior at Los Alamitos High School (Los Alamitos), and Jj Lybbert (drums), 16, a sophomore at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles).
In addition to the Grand Prize Finalists, The Music Center also named an Honorable Mention in each category, awarding each student with a $1,000 scholarship. The Honorable Mentions include: Acting: Kaylah Copeland, 17, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles); Ballet: Chase Rogers, 16, San Juan Hills High School (San Juan Capistrano); Dance: Francine Mae Peji, 17, Valencia High School (Valencia); Classical Voice: Kevin Corrigan, 17, Woodbridge High School (Irvine); Non-Classical Voice: Akira Sky, 17, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles); Classical Instrumental: Allison Park (violin), 18, Harvard-Westlake Upper School (Studio City); and Jazz Instrumental: Declan Houlihan (vibraphone), 18, Hamilton High School (Los Angeles). The Music Center’s Spotlight program awards more than $100,000 in cash scholarships annually.
“Each year, we are astonished by the level of talent we see come through the Spotlight program, and this year is no exception. We truly believe these students are stars in the making and are proud to have contributed to the development of their artistry and confidence as aspiring performers and young adults,” said Rachel S. Moore president and CEO of The Music Center. “The Spotlight Grand Finale is a chance for the finalists to shine before a large audience and we’re very grateful to all of the Spotlight sponsors and benefactors who believe as we do in providing the opportunity and access for students to explore their craft and cultivate their artistic abilities.”
Spotlight participants who have gone on to achieve illustrious careers include Misty Copeland, who made history in the dance world as the first African American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre; Adam Lambert and Josh Groban, GRAMMY®-nominated recording artists; Kris Bowers, Emmy® Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated composer whose work includes the scores for Bridgerton, Green Book and Dear White People; Lindsay Mendez, Tony Award® winner for her role in the Broadway revival of Carousel and now starring in CBS’s television drama All Rise; Erin Mackey, star of Broadway’s Wicked, Sondheim on Sondheim, Anything Goes, Chaplin, and Amazing Grace; Matthew Rushing, associate artistic director for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Yao Guang Zhai, associate principal clarinet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Gerald Clayton, GRAMMY® Award-winning jazz recording artist; and many others.
WHAT: The Music Center’s 33rd Annual Spotlight Awards
WHEN: May 22, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. PT
WHERE: By clicking HERE as well as Facebook Live @musiccenterla
To learn more about The Music Center’s 33rd Annual Spotlight Awards, click HERE.
To visit The Music Center website, click HERE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: The Music Center’s Spotlight 2021 – Courtesy of TMC