Music Center Spotlight names 14 finalists for annual high school program
The Music Center announced 14 Grand Prix finalists from more than 1,300 applicants in The 34th Annual Music Center Spotlight (Spotlight), a nationally recognized free performing arts competition, scholarship and artistic development program for teens. A TMC Arts program, Spotlight provides Southern California teens with expert guidance, coaching, auditions, and mastery classes from professional artists and arts administrators. The program recognizes and rewards all entrants throughout the competition with a range of benefits such as individual feedback from industry professionals, performance opportunities and over $100,000 in cash rewards across three rounds of auditions.
Held in-person for the first time since 2019 and at the Music Center’s Ahmanson Theater, this year’s Spotlight Grand Finale will showcase the talents of each of the individual finalists and offer a glimpse into their lives, with behind-the-scenes footage detailing their journey. artistry and the Spotlight experience, including how they persevered through multiple rounds of virtual auditions, improved their technical skills based on in-depth feedback from industry experts, and learned their craft by attending classes with world-renowned experts in their discipline.
The 14 Spotlight Grand Prize winners include two finalists in each of seven categories: Performance, Ballet, Dance, Classical Voice, Non-Classical Voice, Classical Instrument and Jazz Instrument. In addition to participating in the final event, each student will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
The Spotlight Grand Prize Finalists are:
Michael Davis, 18, senior at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (Chula Vista)
Lauren Mei, 16, junior at Orange County School of the Arts – OCSA (Irvine)
Sophia Koo, 14, freshman at Arnold O. Beckman High School and Tustin Connect (Irvine)
Justin Padilla, 15, sophomore at home (Lake Forest)
Dyllan Blackburn, 15, sophomore at Canyon High School (Anaheim)
Tegan Chou, 15, sophomore at ASU Prep Digital (Tustin)
Oscar Yum, 17, junior at Flintridge Prep (Altadena)
Lia Zheng, 17, junior at Canyon Crest Academy (San Diego)
Bella Aboulhosn, 17, premiering at Chaminade College Preparatory School – Canoga Park (Los Angeles)
Elias Robles, 17, senior at Los Altos High School (Hacienda Heights)
Andrew Shi, 17, piano, senior at Diamond Bar High School (Walnut)
Ashley Tsai, 16, violin, senior at Colburn Music Academy (Los Angeles)
Evan Dexter, 16, trombone, junior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), (Chatsworth)
Sophia Papouchado, 17, drums, premiering at Vistamar School (Manhattan Beach)
“The Music Center’s Spotlight provides teen artists in Southern California with the tools and guidance needed to perfect their craft and create a community with which they can share their passion for the arts. We were so happy that after two years of absence, we can bring back many Spotlight auditions and in-person workshops where the talent, hard work and perseverance of these 14 incredible finalists could shine,” said Rachel S. Moore, President and CEO of the Music Center “The Spotlight Grand Finale is the final stop on the finalists’ journey and a chance to celebrate each teenager as they take the stage in front of huge audiences at the Music Center.”
“With a 34-year history of helping develop and support some of Southern California’s most talented teens, Spotlight elevates budding artists and provides pathways for them to connect with each other and the greater Spotlight community. We provide a nurturing environment to help kids believe in themselves, because we believe in them,” added Jeri Gaile, Fredric Roberts Music Center’s Spotlight Program Director. “The Spotlight team is honored to help guide these 14 finalists as they identify their path to the future and enable them to do their best, whether on stage, in the classroom or in the community.”
In addition to the grand prize finalists, the Music Center also named an honorable mention in each category, awarding each student a $1,000 scholarship. Honorable mentions include: Acting: Lulu Royce, 17, Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (Los Angeles); Ballet: Ashley Chung, 17, Cypress High School (Cypress); Dance: Dakota Faunteroy, 17, Calabasas High School (Calabasas); Classical voice: Victoria Curet, 15, San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (San Diego); Unclassical voice: Lulu Royce, 17, Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (Los Angeles); Classical instrumental: Hwaseop Jeong (clarinet), 17, Colburn Music Academy (Los Angeles); and Jazz Instrumental: William Schwartzman (piano), 17, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Santa Monica). The Music Center’s Spotlight Program awards more than $100,000 in cash scholarships each year.
An important part of the Music Center’s foundational support for learning the arts, Spotlight offers valuable performance opportunities, audition and mentorship experiences, as well as technical and artistic information provided by professional artists and arts administrators. Spotlight is completely free and without financial barriers for participants, which gives a level playing field to all budding artists, regardless of their level of talent. This year, more than 1,300 teens auditioned for the prestigious program, representing more than 256 schools, 181 cities and eight counties. All Spotlight contestants receive written feedback from distinguished juries after each audition to help students improve and gain knowledge in their specific performance discipline. Since its launch in 1988, Spotlight has transformed the lives of 53,000 high school students from Santa Barbara to San Diego by being a competition and more. Spotlight offers students the opportunity to develop their performance skills, gain valuable college-readiness skills, and gain the confidence to pursue their dreams in the performing arts. Through a supportive environment, students also develop important life skills, including building self-esteem, preparation, and perseverance, which benefit participants beyond the stage.
Many Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers. Twenty-three finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. Notable Spotlight alumni include Misty Copeland, who made dance history as the first African-American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre; Adam Lambert and Josh Groban, pop artists; Kris Bowers, Emmy Award-winning composer whose work includes 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 the TV drama All Rise; Erin Mackey, star of Broadway’s Wicked, Sondheim on Sondheim, Anything Goes, Chaplin and Amazing Grace; Matthew Rushing, Associate Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Yao Guang Zhai, associate principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; GRAMMY Award-winning jazz recording artist Gerald Clayton; and many more.
The Music Center’s Spotlight Program is generously supported by Fredric Roberts, Helen and Peter Bing, Dr. Martin Balser, The Hearst Foundations, The Edgerton Foundation and one anonymous donor. Fredric Roberts is the founding president of Spotlight. The late Walter E. Grauman is the creator.