Music Center Spotlights SoCal High Schoolers

Submitted by The Music Center


school news - Spotlight awards 2016

2015 Spotlight Grand Prize finalists with host Jenna Elfman.

The Music Center named 111 Southern California high school students as semifinalists in its 28th annual Spotlight program, a free nationally acclaimed scholarship and arts training program for teens. Spotlight provides opportunities for Southern California high school students to acquire the skills they need to pursue their artistic dreams in the performing arts, along with valuable workforce readiness skills.

Semifinalists were named in acting, ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental categories. See the complete list here.

“With Spotlight, young people have the opportunity to see what it is like to take risks and learn how to prepare for the important transitions in life,” said Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. “While students compete in this program, they are mostly competing with themselves as they build self-esteem and learn how to persevere to achieve their goals,” she added.

Approximately 1,100 participants auditioned for Spotlight this year, and more than 41,000 students have participated in the program since 1988. Semifinalists attend master classes with highly regarded artists, who share their expertise on performance technique, training and professional life, and offer feedback on student performances. Each semifinalist will audition again before a new panel of judges, who will then select the top two finalist performers in each category as Grand Prize Finalists. Judges will also name an Honorable Mention in each category. These students will perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall at The Music Center in the Spotlight Grand Finale Performance June 11.

The Music Center’s Spotlight program awards more than $100,000 in cash scholarships annually. Both Grand Prize Finalists in each category receive $5,000 scholarships, with one Honorable Mention in each category receiving $1,000. Semifinalists each receive $300. The Music Center will also celebrate five students in each preliminary category with the Promise Award, which acknowledges students who inspire the judges by their commitment and dedication to their art form. Spotlight Promise Award recipients each receive $100.

Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers. Fifteen finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. They 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; Erin Mackey, star of Broadway’s Wicked, Sondheim on Sondheim, Anything Goes, Chaplin and Amazing Grace; Yao Guan Zhai, associate principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony; Gerald Clayton, Grammy Award winning jazz recording artist; and many others.

For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visit

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