The Music Center announces first Virtual Music Center Spotlight Grand Finale

As California continues to remain “Safer at Home” and follow social distancing guidelines, The Music Center announced today that its 32nd annual Music Center Spotlight Grand Finale (Spotlight) performance will take place as a virtual event and benefit, premiering on May 30, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on The Music Center’s website at The organization’s first-ever virtual Spotlight finale celebrates the talent and perseverance of Southern California’s most talented teens as they complete their year-long Spotlight journey.

The event features Tony Award® winner and Spotlight alum Lindsay Mendez as this year’s host, along with performances by each Grand Prize finalist, an inside look at each finalist’s Spotlight experience and messages from notable Spotlight alumni including Matthew Rushing and Melinda Sullivan.

“With the safety of our patrons and staff as The Music Center’s number one priority, we’re thrilled to find a way to keep the spotlight on Spotlight,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. “We made the commitment to continue this program even under unprecedented circumstances and to honor these talented students with a global stage that celebrates their incredible artistry and dedication. We’re committed to nurturing the creativity of young talent, and Spotlight, with its focus on world-class arts training, scholarships and college and career guidance, is an important part of that effort.”

With its campus closed, The Music Center transitioned the final round of Spotlight auditions from the usual in-person tryouts to online video submissions. According to Jeri Gaile, director of the Spotlight program, the students persevered, applying one of the important life skills the program emphasizes. “We’re so impressed with our cadre of Spotlight finalists, not only because of their talent, but also because of their ability to adapt quickly to change. This virtual finale will be a powerful culmination of the work they have done all-year-long to achieve their goals through highly valuable real-world learning experiences. Spotlight is truly a steppingstone for students to achieve their dreams and we’re excited to watch these stars shine, both at the finale and in the future.”

The Music Center also named the 14 Spotlight Grand Prize Finalists, which include two finalists in each of seven categories: acting, ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental. In addition to appearing in the finale event, each student will receive a $5,000 scholarship. The Spotlight Grand Prize Finalists are:

  • Acting: Tyla Uzo, 16, a junior at Ramon C. Cortines High School (Los Angeles), and Evan Klein, 17, a junior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles);
  • Ballet: Jacob Jovanni Alvarado, 16, a sophomore at Cabrillo Point Academy of Inspire Charter Schools (San Diego), and Ashley Lew, 16, a junior at Capistrano Connections Academy (San Juan Capistrano);
  • Non-Classical Dance: Maya Alvarez-Coyne, 16, a junior at Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana), and Bergundi Loyd, 15, a home-schooled sophomore (Riverside);
  • Classical Voice: Estefani Lopez, 17, a junior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles), and Rena Maduro, 17, a senior at North (John W.) High School (Riverside);
  • Non-Classical Voice: Amelia Aguilar, 16, a junior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles), and Daisy Tye, 17, a senior at Huntington Beach High School (Huntington Beach);
  • Classical Instrumental: Anoush Pogossian (clarinet), 17, a senior at Verdugo Academy (Glendale), and Albert Gang (violin), 17, a senior at Sage Hill School (Newport Beach); and
  • Jazz Instrumental: Ethan Avery (trumpet), 18, a home-schooled senior (Los Angeles), and Kai Burns (guitar), 16, a junior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles).

In addition to the Grand Prize Finalists, The Music Center also named an Honorable Mention in each category, awarding each student with a $1,000 scholarship. The Honorable Mentions include: Acting: Jayla Jones, 18, Verdugo Hills High School (Tujunga); Ballet: Sophia Boghosian, 16, Marlborough School (Los Angeles); Non-Classical Dance: Savea Kagan, 17, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles); Classical Voice: Skylar Lehr-Bryant, 17, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Los Angeles); Non-Classical Voice: Jater Webb, 17, Chaminade College Preparatory High School (Canoga Park); Classical Instrumental: Shengyu Meng (cello), 17, IQ Academy California (Simi Valley); and Jazz Instrumental: Santiago Lopez (saxophone), 17, Los Alamitos High School (Los Alamitos).

The Music Center’s Spotlight Grand Finale is also a benefit to raise critical funds needed to sustain the Spotlight program. Viewers can support Spotlight and the cultivation of young artists by texting “TMCSPOTLIGHT” to 44-321 and through The Music Center website. Both options will be available throughout the program and also on This year’s Spotlight co-chairs are Pamela and Dennis Beck, Terri and Jerry Kohl, and Teresita and Shelby Notkin. Helen and Peter Bing are principal benefactors. Fredric Roberts is founding chairman of The Music Center’s Spotlight program and the late Walter E. Grauman is the creator.

Nearly 1,400 teens representing more than 260 schools, 198 cities and eight California counties auditioned for the prestigious program this year. All applicants had the opportunity to attend the Spotlight Academy, a free day-long series of seminars and workshops led by outstanding professionals and arts educators. Students, parents and teachers learned about what it takes to pursue higher education and careers in the arts.

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.

Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers, like this year’s host Lindsay Mendez, who was recognized with a Tony Award® for her role in the Broadway revival of Carousel, and who currently stars in CBS’s new television drama All Rise. 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, pop recording artist; Kris Bowers, Emmy® Award-winning composer whose work includes Green Book and Dear White People; 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.

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

About The Music Center

The Music Center convenes artists, communities and ideas with the goal of deepening the cultural lives of every resident in Los Angeles County. The non-profit performing arts organization has two divisions: TMC Arts and TMC Ops. TMC Arts, The Music Center’s programming engine, provides year-round programming inside The Music Center’s four theatres, on The Music Center Plaza, outside at Grand Park—a 12-acre adjacent green space—and in schools and other locations all over Los Angeles County.

It also presents world-class dance with Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, free and low-cost public concerts and events, as well as K–12 arts education programs. TMC Ops manages the theatres, the Plaza and Grand Park on behalf of the County of Los Angeles. The Music Center is also home to four renowned resident companies—Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Master Chorale, LA Opera and LA Phil. For more information, visit Follow The Music Center on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @MusicCenterLA.

This article was released by The Music Center.