Local students advance in performance spotlight

JJ Lybbert, of Seal Beach, attends Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Courtesy photo

Several local area students have been selected to participate in the Music Center’s Spotlight Program, an arts training and scholarship program with the Los Angeles based theater group. Following two rounds of virtual auditions, the Music Center selected 112 students from around Southern California.

The field of candidates was nearly 1,500 students from more than 275 schools. Sixteen students were chosen in seven different categories. However, each student who auditioned was provided with written feedback from the panel of judges to help them improve and learn from the auditioning experience.

Among the area students who have qualified to move on to the next phase are JJ Lybbert, of Seal Beach, who attends Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Lybbert was chosen in the Jazz Instrumental category. Two Los Alamitos High students will also be moving on in the program, Santiago Lopez and Max Nguyen. Lopez, a senior is from Long Beach and Nguyen, a junior is from Los Alamitos. Both will also be among the Jazz Instrumental category.

“Each round in the audition process is a little different so the knowledge and connections each participant makes compound, especially as the semifinalists attend mastery classes. Spotlight is very much an exploration of artistic skills and the students’ capacity to grow as individuals. We absolutely love seeing them shine throughout the process and over the years that they participate,” Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program said.

While the Spotlight program is free, it also rewards more than $100,000 in cash scholarships each year. Semifinalists each receive $300 and the eventual Grand Prize finalist will receive a $5,000 scholarship. One Honorable Mention in each category will receive $1,000.

Spotlight semifinalists will have an opportunity to attend a special mastery class in their discipline. Accomplished artists lead the classes and share their expertise on performance technique, training and professional life. Valuable feedback is provided to students on their performances, offering them a rich learning experience.

Lopez said that he felt good about the audition process after having plenty of time to practice over the past year. He also added that he is excited to learn more in the next phase.

“I hope to gain information from the judges to make me a better player. The judges always give a feedback letter that is always helpful,” Lopez said.

After the mastery classes, each semifinalist will audition again for a new panel of judges. The new judges will then select the top two finalists from each category for a total of 14 Grand Prize finalists. Finalists will perform in the Music Center’s Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance on May 22. The finale will premiere on The Music Center Offstage digital platform at 7 p.m.