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2017 Grand Prize Finalists

Grand Finale
2017 Grand Prize Finalists with President and CEO of The Music Center, Rachel Moore

On Tuesday evening May 23, 2017 The Music Center hosted the 29th annual Spotlight Grand Finale Performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall. This event culminates a process that began last September, when over 1,300 students participated in the Spotlight program. 

Listed below are the Grand Prize Finalists in each category.


SpotlightSAMUEL CHRISTIAN (Acting), 18, is a senior at Options for Youth in Highland Park. Honors Include: Center Theater Group’s National August Wilson Monologue Competition regional finalist, 2016. Samuel has studied acting at Amazing Grace Conservatory (AGC), Los Angeles County High School of the Arts, and the California State Summer School of the Arts. His love for theatre and the work behind acting has always existed. Performances include: Allen in Play It Again, Sam, Dennis in This is Our YouthWest Side Story, Crodille in Sarafina, The Crucible, and AGC’s Hope in the Hood. This is Samuel’s first year participating in Spotlight.  




CAMILLE UMOFF (Acting), 16, is a senior at Santa Barbara High School. She studies voice with Julia Gregory and acting with Lea Floden. Camille's roles include: Velma Kelly in Chicago, Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Mrs. Johnstone in Blood Brothers, and the Leading Player in Pippin. Honors include: National Merit Scholarship Finalist, 2017; Spotlight Semifinalist in Non-Classical Voice, 2016 and 2017. She would like to thank her teachers for shaping her focus and perspective of the craft. Additionally, she would like to thank her family for being her biggest fans. This is Camille's second year participating in Spotlight.



SpotlightJORDAN COUTTS (Ballet), 14, is a freshman honors student at Laurel Springs High School.  She trains with Victor and Tatiana Kasatsky at V&T Classical Ballet Academy. Honors include: Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) New York Finals, 3rd Place winner, Junior Division, 2017; YAGP Youth Grand Prix Award, in San Diego, 2017;  Scholarships include:  The Royal Ballet School, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Princess Grace Academy, Tanz Akademie Zurich, and John Cranko Schule. Jordan represents Russian Pointe as a Brand Ambassador.  She is very thankful to her family and teachers for their tremendous support. This is Jordan’s first year participating in Spotlight.




LAUREN HUNTER (Ballet), 15, is a sophomore at Laurel Springs High School. She trains at Marat Daukayev School of Ballet under the direction of Alla Khaniashvili.  Honors include: Youth America Grand Prix New York Finals, 3rd Place winner, Senior Division, 2017; Prix de Lausanne competition prize winner, Switzerland, 2017. World Ballet Competition, Pre-professional division, bronze medal, 2016. Scholarships include: San Francisco Ballet and School of American Ballet summer intensives.  Lauren will be attending The Royal Ballet summer intensive and year round program in the fall.  She dreams of joining The Royal Ballet Company in London. This is Lauren’s first year participating in Spotlight.




SpotlightAILEEN CHUNG (Classical Instrumental), 17, is a senior at Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine. She studies violin with Margaret Batjer at the Colburn Music Academy. Honors and Awards include: Orange County Register's Artist of The Year, 2017; runner up in the Mondavi National Competition, 2016; and Young Musicians Foundation David Weiss Scholarship, 2016; and a Semifinalist in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Aileen also won Culver City Symphony's Parness Concerto Competition and Bellflower Symphony’s Young Artists Competition. Aileen will attend the New England Conservatory in the fall. This is Aileen's third year participating in Spotlight.




VICTOR SHLYAKHTENKO (Classical Instrumental), 15, is a freshman at Sky Mountain Charter School. He studies piano with Teresa de Jong Pombo at The Colburn School. He has performed as soloist with the Orange County Symphony, LA Doctor’s Symphony, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra, and Colburn Youth Orchestra and Concert Choir. Honors in 2016 & 2017 include: 1st places at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, the Robert Turner Piano Concerto competition, California MTNA Junior Piano and Junior Composition Competitions, as well as the Chopin Foundation Scholarship and the Colburn School Merit Scholarship.  This is Victor’s first year participating in Spotlight.


Classical Voice

SpotlightJEANNINE BAUER (Classical Voice), 17, is a junior at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, where she participates in the school choir and musicals.  She studies with Kathleen Martin, William Vendice, and Vera Calabria. Honors include: National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) regionals, 1st place; South Coast Singer’s Stars of Tomorrow, 1st place winner; Vocal Organization of California, 1st Place; Music Arts Competition (MAC), 1st place; Music Teacher’s Association of California’s VOCE Competition, 2nd place; and Spotlight Honorable Mention in Classical Voice, 2016. She sees herself performing in operas in the future. This is Jeannine’s third year participating in Spotlight.




NATHAN VASQUEZ (Classical Voice), 18, is a senior in the Classical Voice Conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts where he participates in Opera Scenes, Barbershop Quartet, and is the Vice-President of Chamber Choir and French Honor Society. He studies voice with Kathleen Martin and Vera Calabria. Performances include: Carmina Burana at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House under conductor Larry Livingston and again at the Musco Center for the Arts under Grant Gershon as a featured soloist. Nathan will attend George Washington University pursuing International Business and Music in the fall. This is Nathan’s second year participating in Spotlight.



Jazz Instrumental

SpotlightANNA ABONDOLO (Jazz Instrumental), 16, is a junior at Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences where she plays in Evan Avery’s A-Band.  She studies bass with David Robaire and Peter Rofe. Anna plays in the Colburn School’s Big Band under Lee Secard. Honors in 2017 include: Next Generation Monterey Jazz Festival, combo division, 1st place and Outstanding Soloist Award; and National YoungArts honorable mention. She has performed with the Kubis Big Band. Anna has attended Idyllwild Arts and The Stanford Jazz summer program where she was awarded the Duke Ellington Award for Outstanding Musicianship. This is Anna’s first year participating in Spotlight.




WILLIAM BRANDT (Jazz Instrumental), 16, is a junior at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts at Hamilton High School where he performs in Jim Foschia’s Jazz Ensemble A and in the award-winning Jazz Combo A.  He also studies jazz saxophone with Lee Secard, at The Colburn School, and participates in multiple groups including Lee Secard’s Colburn Community Jazz Workshop and Sunday combo.  William is also a jazz vocalist and was a National YoungArts Finalist in Jazz Voice in 2017. William feels very appreciative of his teachers and his musical family for their inspiration. This is Williams first year participating in Spotlight.


Non-Classical Dance

SpotlightSOPHIA FRILOT (Non-Classical Dance), 14, is a freshman in the Commercial Dance conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts, where she studies Hip-hop, Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Modern, and Contemporary dance.  She trains at Westside Dance Project under Jessie Riley and at Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy with Dmitri and Jennifer Kulev.  Sophia has worked with various choreographers including Jermaine Spivey, Bryan Arias, and Matt Luck.  Honors include: scholarships from NUVO and Jump Dance Conventions; Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) Top 12 Classical & Contemporary regional winner, 2017; YAGP Top 12 Classical & 2nd place Contemporary, 2016.  This is Sophia’s first year participating in Spotlight.




TAYLOR KURTZ (Non-Classical Dance), 16, is a junior at Great Oak High School. She trains with Jimmy Peters at Temecula Dance Company. Honors in 2016 include: National YoungArts Finalist in Dance; and Spotlight Non–Classical Dance Semifinalist.  Taylor attended the Musical Theatre Dance Program at the School at Jacob’s Pillow, under direction of Chet Walker. She thanks each of her teachers, her friends, and her parents for their constant support. Taylor sees herself moving to New York City and performing as a Rockette and in Broadway shows in her future.  This is Taylors third year participating in Spotlight.



Non-Classical Voice

SpotlightJOSEPH SILVA (Non-Classical Voice), 18, is a senior at Notre Dame High School, where he participates in Advance Choir. He studies voice with Caroline Wilson and acting with Karen Morrow. Honors include: National YoungArts Merit Award winner in Popular Voice, 2016 and 2017; and Spotlight Semifinalist in Non-Classical Voice, 2015.  Performances include singing the National Anthem for both the US Men’s and US Women’s National Soccer Teams live on National TV; and singing regularly at Our Lady of Grace Parish.   Joseph plans to major in voice and music in college. This is Joseph’s third year participating in Spotlight.




BRIGHTON THOMAS (Non-Classical Voice), 18, is a senior at John Burroughs High School, where she is involved in Drama, Choir, and is the Vocal Music Association President. Honors include: Best Female Soloist, 2014 Show Choir Nationals; Michael Feinstein's Songbook Academy National High School Competition Winner and Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador, 2016; National YoungArts Merit Winner, Non-Classical Voice, 2016; and Spotlight Non-Classical Voice Semifinalist, 2016. As Songbook Ambassador she has performed across the country and at the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Induction Gala honoring Dionne Warwick and Hoagy Carmichael. This is Brighton’s fourth year participating in Spotlight.


Emma SchiffAlumni Performance by EMMA SCHIFF
(Non-Classical Dance Finalist – 2016)