The Music Center announced Thursday 112 of Southern California’s most talented high school students have advanced to become semifinalists in The Music Center’s 35th Annual Spotlight program, including three students from the Santa Clarita Valley. The program is a free, nationally acclaimed performing arts competition, scholarship and artistic development program for teens. This year, more than 1,300 teens, representing more than 245 schools, 170 cities and eight counties, auditioned for the prestigious program.
The three local students are:
Lexi Hoek, a sophomore from Saugus High School.
Jessica O’Brien, a junior from West Ranch High School.
Quinn Sims, a senior from West Ranch High School.
A program of The Music Center’s programming arm TMC Arts, Spotlight offers Southern California teens expert advice, coaching, auditions and mastery classes taught by professional artists and arts administrators in seven categories: acting, ballet, dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental. The program recognizes and rewards participants throughout the competition with more than $100,000 in cash awards following three rounds of auditions. To date, The Music Center has given over $2.7 million in scholarships. All Spotlight applicants receive written feedback from distinguished panels of judges following each audition round to help them improve and gain insight in their performing arts discipline. An initiative of The Music Center’s fundamental support for arts learning, Spotlight provides students with the opportunity to develop and hone their performance abilities, receive crucial college preparedness skills and gain the confidence to pursue their dreams in the performing arts. Through a supportive environment, students also develop vital life skills, including self-esteem, preparation and perseverance, that benefit them beyond the stage.
“For many participants, Spotlight is their first step in the journey toward a successful future in the arts,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. “We are proud to have provided thousands of aspiring young people with the opportunity to hone their skills and explore their potential. Congratulations to this year’s Spotlight semifinalists for
advancing this far in the competition! Your passion for the arts is making Los Angeles—and the world—a better and more joyful place.”
Spotlight semifinalists have the rare opportunity to attend a special mastery class within their discipline with highly regarded artists, who share their expertise on performance technique, training and professional life. Experts provide students with invaluable feedback about their performances, offering the students a rich learning experience. Each semifinalist will audition 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 Grand Finale on Thursday, June 8, 2023, at 7:00
p.m., at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
“Every year, our Spotlight judges are wowed by the artistic caliber of hundreds of students, and this year is no exception,” said Jeri Gaile, Fredric Roberts director, The Music Center’s Spotlight. “The Music Center launched this program 35 years ago because we recognized the enormous potential of young artists that deserved to be discovered and uplifted. Spotlight is not only an exploration of students’ artistic skills but also a vessel to help them develop as valuable contributors to the world.” The Music Center’s Spotlight program awards more than $100,000 in cash scholarships annually.
Semifinalists each receive $500. Grand Prize Finalists will each receive $5,000 scholarships; one Honorable Mention in each category will receive $1,000. The Music Center also celebrates 10 students in each category with the Merit Award, which acknowledges students who inspire the judges by their commitment and dedication to their art form; Spotlight Merit Award recipients each receive $100.
To help students interested in applying to the Spotlight program, The Music Center created The Spotlight Academy as an episodic series of online videos and tutorials. Designed for young artists, parents and educators, The Spotlight Academy features more than a dozen webisodes that 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 provide a deep dive into the program’s seven categories and discuss curated topics featuring alumni and experts in the field, including Superstore actress Carla Renata, opera singer Suzanna Guzmán, New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck and more.
Since its launch in 1988, Spotlight has transformed the lives of more than 54,000 high school students hailing from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers. For example, nearly two dozen finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Notable Spotlight alumni 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, pop recording artists; Kris Bowers, Emmy Award-winning 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 from the 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 Toronto Symphony; and Gerald Clayton, GRAMMY Awardwinning jazz recording artist, among numerous others.
Major support for The Music Center’s Spotlight program is provided by Fredric Roberts, Helen and Peter Bing, Terri and Jerry Kohl, Marie Song, The Hearst Foundations and an anonymous donor. 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, visit musiccenter.org/spotlight or follow @musiccenterspotlight on social media (Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
About The Music Center
The Music Center convenes artists, communities and ideas with the goal of deepening the cultural lives of every resident in Los Angeles County. The $70 million non-profit performing arts organization has two divisions: TMC Arts and TMC Ops. TMC Arts, The Music Center’s programming engine, provides year- round programming inside The Music Center’s four theatres, on Jerry Moss Plaza, outside at Grand Park—a 12-acre adjacent green space—in schools and other locations all over Los Angeles County and on a digital platform called The Music Center Offstage. TMC Arts presents world-class dance with Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, free and low-cost public concerts and events, as well as live and digital K–12 arts education programs, workshops, performances, interactive experiences and special events. TMC Ops manages the theatres, the Plaza and Grand Park, which comprise $2 billion in county assets, on behalf of the County of Los Angeles. The Music Center is also home to four renowned resident companies—Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Master Chorale, LA Opera and LA Phil. For more information, visit musiccenter.org. Follow The Music Center on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @MusicCenterLA.
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