Music Center’s Spotlight Program Names Grand Prize Finalists

Posted on April 13th, 2017


14 of Southern California’s Most Talented High School Students Named as
2017 Grand Prize Finalists in The Music Center’s 29th Annual Spotlight Program
Nationally-Acclaimed Scholarship and Arts Training Program Has Awarded More than
$2 Million to Help Youth Advance Their Artistic Ambitions

(Complete list of finalists by home city and school included)

The Music Center named 14 outstanding Southern California high school students as Grand Prize Finalists in the 29th annual The Music Center’s Spotlight program (Spotlight), a free nationally recognized scholarship and arts training program for teens.  Two Grand Prize Finalists were named in each of seven categories, including acting, ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental.  All finalists will receive $5,000 scholarships and appear in a ticketed Grand Finale Performance at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall on May 23, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.  Spotlight Grand Prize Finalists were chosen from more than 1,300 Southern California students who auditioned for panels of expert judges.
The Grand Prize Finalists include:

  • Acting: Samuel Christian, 18, Options for Youth – Highland Park; Camille Umoff, 16, Santa Barbara High School
  • Ballet: Jordan Coutts, 15, Laurel Spring School; Lauren Hunter, 15, Laurel Springs School;
  • Non-Classical Dance: Taylor Kurtz, 16, Great Oak High School; Sophia Frilot, 14, Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA)
  • Classical Voice: Nathan Vasquez, 18, Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA); Jeannine Bauer, 17, St. Margaret’s Episcopal High School
  • Non-Classical Voice: Joseph Silva, 18, Notre Dame High School; Brighton Thomas, 18, John Burroughs High School
  • Classical Instrumental: Aileen Chung, 17, Crean Lutheran High School; Victor Shlyakhtenko, 15, Sky Mountain Charter School
  • Jazz Instrumental: William Brandt, 16, Hamilton High School; Anna Abondolo, 16, Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences

More than a competition, the year-long Spotlight program provides opportunities for Southern California high school students to acquire the skills necessary to pursue their artistic dreams in the performing arts along with valuable workforce readiness skills.

According to Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center and a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Spotlight is an integral part of The MusicCenter’s fundamental support for arts education.  “The Music Center’s Spotlight Program is about giving young people the opportunity to grow personally and artistically, while exploring their potential in the performing arts.

Spotlight teens learn from professionals in their field and get direct personalized feedback from highly regarded professional artists, educators and arts administrators,” Moore explained.  “Every teen who goes through this program is a winner as he or she is able to identify tangible paths toward meeting career goals. The 14 Spotlight Finalists will also get the unique experience of performing on the Walt Disney Concert Hall stage, and, just as importantly, have gained the important life skills they need to build their future careers,” she added.

“These 14 amazing students exemplify what the Spotlight program is about,” said Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program.  “They have the dedication and perseverance, along with a passion for their art, that will propel them forward as young artists and help them as they navigate their future careers.”

In addition to the Grand Prize Finalists, The Music Center also named an Honorable Mention in each category, each of whom will receive a $1,000 scholarship.  The Honorable Mentions include: Acting – Summer Ainsworth, 17, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA); Ballet – Tate Lee, 17, Home Schooled; Non-Classical Dance – Hannahlei Cabanilla, 17, Canyon High School; Classical Voice – Marita Bos-Villalobos, 17, High Tech North Country; Non-Classical Voice – Sofia Gonzalez, 18, Alverno High School; Classical Instrumental – Javier Morales, 16, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA); Jazz Instrumental – Jordan Reifkind, 16, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA).

More than 45,000 students have participated in Spotlight since its inception in 1988.  The Music Center has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships and cash awards to aspiring performers and artists through this program.  All high school students have the opportunity to attend the Spotlight Academy, a free day-long series of seminars and workshops led by outstanding professionals and arts educators.  During the Academy, students, parents and teachers learn about what it takes to pursue higher education and careers in the arts.  Throughout the program, students present their work for feedback before panels of judges, offering the aspiring performers a rich, customized learning experience.

Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers.  Twenty finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, 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.

Frederic M. Roberts is founding chairman of The Music Center’s Spotlight program.  The late Walter

Grauman was the creator.

Tickets to the May 23, 2017, Spotlight Grand Finale Performance are on sale now.  Tickets start at $10 and are available at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 90012; by calling (213) 972-0711; or by visiting

For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visit or join the conversation on
About The Music Center
As L.A.’s performing arts destination, The Music Center is L.A.’s home to the world’s greatest artistic programs and events. With four iconic theaters and four renowned resident companies – Center Theatre Group, the LA Master Chorale, the LA Opera and the LA Philharmonic – and recognized for its illustrious dance programming, Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, The Music Center is a destination where audiences find inspiration in the very best of live performance, as well as nationally recognized arts education and participatory arts experiences. The Music Center also programs and manages Grand Park, a 12-acre adjacent greenspace, with year-round free programming.  For more information, visit Follow The Music Center on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@MusicCenterLA).

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