By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer

Los Angeles — The future of performance arts is in good hands because of the commitment and dedication of upcoming young artists. It does my heart good to witness the young artists performing live before an appreciative audience. Following two rounds of virtual auditions, The Music Center has selected semifinalist in the Music Center’s 33rd annual Spotlight Program, a free nationally acclaimed arts training and scholarship program for teens.     

A TMC Arts program, Spotlight offers valuable performance opportunities, audition experience and mentorship, plus technical and artistic insights taught by professional artists and arts administrators, and awards more than $100,000 in scholarships each year. The Music Center named 16 semi-finalists in each of seven categories- acting, ballet, dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrument, and jazz instrumental.

This year, nearly 1,500 teens representing more than 275 schools, 194 cities, and 8 counties auditioned for the prestigious program. All Spotlight applicants received written feedback from distinguished panels of judges following each audition round to help students improve and gain knowledge in their respective performance discipline.

Since it’s launch in 1988, Spotlight has transformed the lives of 51,000 high school students from Santa Barbara to San Diego, by being more than just a competition. An important part of The Music Center’s fundamental support for arts learning, the program provides students the opportunity to develop their performance abilities, receive valuable college preparedness skills and gain confidence to pursue their dreams in the performance arts through a supportive environment. Students also important life skills including building self-esteem, preparation, and perseverance, that benefit the participants beyond the stage.

Notable Spotlight alumni include the Tony Award® winner Lindsey Mendez, American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer Misty Copeland, Emmy® award winning composer Kris Bowers and major recording artists Josh Groban and Adam Lambert, among many others. Recent Spotlight finalist appeared as guest performers during Groban’s first livestream Holiday concert in December 2020, which was viewed by an international audience.

“While arts learning remains under pressure in school’s budgets, The Music Center’s Spotlight is a vibrant program that serves as essential needs. Spotlight participants receive multiple opportunities to perform in front of professional experts who provide personalized and precise feedback that other free programs just don’t offer,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. “Spotlight is a year-long journey with a lifetime of benefits for these young students. We are very proud that our program offers a comprehensive learning experience that nurtures young artists’ aspirations and support the next generation of performers and arts professionals.”

“Spotlight is completely free with no financial barriers to participate, which give equal footing to kids looking to make their dreams come true, no matter their talent level,” added Jeri’ Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. “Each round in the audition process is a little different so that the knowledge and connections each participant makes compound, especially as the semi-finalist attend mastery classes. Spotlight is very much an exploration of artistic skills and the student’s capacity to grow as individuals. We absolutely love seeing them shine throughout the process and over the years that they participate.”

Spotlight semi-finalists have the rare opportunity to attend mastery classes in the discipline with highly regarded artists, who share their expertise on performances technique training and professional life. Experts provide students with highly valuable feedback on their performance, offering them a rich learning experience. Each semi-finalist will audition virtually again before a new panel of judges, who will then select the top two finalist performers from each category. The Grand Prize Finalist will perform in The Music Center’s Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance on May 22, 2021, premiering on the Music Center’s Offstage digital platform at 7:00pm.

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