Two Los Al students named among two music finalists

Lou Gallagher

The Music Center named 113 of Southern California’s most talented high school students as semifinalists in The Music Center’s 32nd annual Spotlight (Spotlight) program, a free nationally acclaimed scholarship and arts training program for teens. Since its launch in 1988, Spotlight has transformed the lives of 49,000 students across Southern California by being more than just a competition.

An important part of The Music Center’s fundamental support for arts education, the arts training program provides students the opportunity to develop their performance abilities, learn about careers in arts management and receive valuable college preparedness and workforce readiness skills to pursue their dreams in the performing arts. This year, nearly 1,400 teens representing more than 260 schools, 198 cities and eight counties auditioned for the prestigious program.

The Music Center named this years’ semifinalists in each of seven categories—acting, ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental.

“Spotlight is a prime example of The Music Center’s commitment to deepen the cultural lives of all, in this case empowering young, aspiring artists with the skills and tools to explore their potential,” said Rachel Moore president and CEO of The Music Center. “This year-long journey has the added benefit of helping these students develop critical life skills that can set them on a path to success, whether or not they pursue a career in the arts.”

Santiago Lopez

According to Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program, “Spotlight is so much more than just a scholarship program, it’s an opportunity for young performers to discover their full potential and push themselves to continue to achieve their goals. What makes this program so unique is not only the amazing talent that goes through the Spotlight process, but also the individuals who discover a new passion for the arts off stage or behind the scenes.”

Semifinalists receive a rare opportunity to attend a special master class in their genre with highly regarded artists, who share their expertise on performance technique, training and professional life. Experts provide students with highly valuable feedback on their performances, offering them 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 at The Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre in the Spotlight Grand Finale Performance on May 30, 2020.

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 also celebrates five 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. This year, The Music Center is also partnering with Interlochen Center for the Arts to award all Spotlight semifinalists scholarship dollars to Interlochen’s summer camp and Arts Academy for the 2020-2021 academic year. All participants who were selected to participate in the preliminary second round of Spotlight auditions also received scholarship dollars from Interlochen to use toward one of the organization’s three- or six-week programs.

Numerous 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 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 dance for American Ballet Theatre; Adam Lambert and Josh Groban, pop recording artists; Kris Bowers, Emmy® Award-winning composer whose work includes 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 new 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; Gerald Clayton, Grammy Award winning jazz recording artist; and many others.

Fredric Roberts is founding chairman of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. The late Walter E. Grauman is the creator. This year’s Spotlight co-chairs are Pamela and Dennis Beck, Terri and Jerry Koh, and Teresita and Shelby Notkin.

For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visit or join the conversation on