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2019 Grand Prize Finalists

2018 Grand Prize Finalists with Host Angela Bassett

On Tuesday evening June 4, 2019, The Music Center will host the 31st annual Spotlight Grand Finale Performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall. This event culminates a process that began last September, when 1,600 students participated in the Spotlight program. 

Listed below are the 2019 Grand Prize Finalists in each category.


Adina Aaron

ADINA AARON, 18, is a senior at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) where she studies theatre and musical theatre. She also studies acting with Melissa Hayden and voice with Melissa Treinkmen. Adina was a National YoungArts Finalist (2019) and Honorable Mention (2018) in theatre. She was also a Spotlight Non-Classical Voice Semifinalist this year. Roles include: Marta in Spring Awakening, Natasha in Sparkleshark, and Asaka in Once on this Island. She would like to thank her teachers, inspiring friends, and incredibly supportive and loving family for helping her learn her truth through art. Adina will attend the University of Michigan for musical theater this fall.  This is Adina's third year participating in Spotlight.

DANIEL VELEZ, 18, is a senior at Ramon C. Cortines High School of Visual and Performing Arts. Roles include: Tom in The Glass Menagerie and Wilbur in Hairspray. The teachers and mentors that shaped him and his work are Wendell Stevenson, William Goldyn, Bernard Addison, David Metz, William Gressman, Stormy Sacks and Kim Bruno. Awards include: Center Theatre Group's August Wilson Monologue Competition, Los Angeles Regional Finalist (2018 & 2019). Daniel has studied theatre at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) and New York University (NYU) summer programs and will attend NYU in the fall as a Drama Major. He looks forward to continuing to grow and learn. This is Daniel’s second year participating in Spotlight. 


Petra Johnson

PETRA JOHNSON, 14, is a freshman in the Inspire Charter School program. She attends Peninsula School of Performing Arts, where she has performed many dance roles and is coached by Vera Ninkovic. She trains with Nazgul Shin. Awards include: Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP): New York Final Top 12 and Grand Prix Junior Award in Los Angeles (LA) (2018), Classical second place and Contemporary third place LA (2017), Hope Award LA (2016); Beijing International Dance Competition, finalist (2018); American Protege International Piano Competition, third place (2018); Spotlight Non-Classical Dance Semifinalist (2019). She thanks the Gabriella Foundation and Everybody Dance organization.  This is Petra’s first year participating in Spotlight.

Darrion SpellmanDARRION SELLMAN, 14, is a freshman at iLEAD school. He trains at the Los Angeles Ballet Academy (LABA), under the direction of Andrea Paris-Gutierrez, and is in their Conservatory Program. Roles include:   The Nutcracker, Prince, with LA Youth Ballet, and The Snow Queen, Rudy, with Redondo Beach Ballet School. Honors include: Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) New York Finals, Junior Youth Grand Prix winner (2019); YAGP Shelly King Award for Excellence (2018); RAD Dance Challenge, Grand Prize (2018); YAGP Junior Men’s Bronze Medal (2017); YAGP Men’s Pre-Competitive Division, Bronze Medal (2016); Dizzy Feet Foundation Scholarship (2017); Royal Ballet School International Scholar (2017). This is Darrion’s first year participating in Spotlight.


Tyler Kim

YEJIN AHN, 19, is a senior at the Colburn Music Academy and Oak Crest Academy. She studies clarinet with Yehuda Gilad. Honors include first prizes in: Seoul National Woodwind Competition, Seoungjung Competition, The Music Education News Competition, The Music Spring and Autumn Competition, and Music Journal Competition. She has performed with Yewon Arts Middle School Orchestra at Seoul Arts Center and with Yeum Woodwind Quintet. Yejin has had master classes with Sabine Meyer, Pascal Moragues, Charles Neidich, and Kurt Franz Schmid. She is grateful to her parents and teachers for their great support. Yejin will attend Curtis Institute of Music next year. This is Yejin’s first year participating in Spotlight.

Tristan ParadeeTRISTAN PARADEE, 18, is a senior at Excellence in Education Academy.  He studies piano with Hans Boepple. Tristan was featured on NPR’s From The Top this year. Honors include: Gina Bachauer Young Artists International Piano competition, finalist (2016); Los Angeles International Liszt competition, gold medal; Young Artists World Chopin Competition, gold medal; Young Artists World Piano Concerto Competition, first place (2013, 2016, 2018); Young Musicians Foundation Discovery Prize, first prize; Westside Music Foundation's Piano Concerto Competition, first prize; and Spotlight Classical Instrumental Semifinalist (2016, 2017). Performances with: Utah Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Symphony Orchestra; Culver City Chamber  & Symphony Orchestras; Brentwood-Westwood Symphony. This is Tristan’s forth year participating in Spotlight.


Lydia BrownLYDIA BROWN, 17, is a senior at Claremont High School. She studies voice with mezzo-soprano Milena Kitic. Lydia has been a member of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus for 10 years, and with them has performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Segerstrom Concert Hall. Recent theatrical credits include: LA Opera Camp’s, The White Bird of Poston and Brundibar; and Claremont High School’s productions of Freaky Friday and Oklahoma. This summer, Lydia will be attending New York University’s Classical Voice Intensive. Lydia will attend the USC Thornton School of Music for classical voice next year. This is Lydia’s third year participating in Spotlight.

 Eilyssa MacLeanEILYSSA MACLEAN, 17, is a junior at Aliso Niguel High School where she sings in the Madrigals. She studies classical voice with Kathleen Martin, William Vendice, and Vera Calabria. Honors include: National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) - Cal Western Regional Competition, first place (2019); Orange County Register Artist of the Year (2019); VOCE - Regionals, first place (2019); Southern California Philharmonic Competition, first place (2018); and Stars of Tomorrow, Classical Voice, first place (2018). Eilyssa’s dream is to pursue her studies in Classical Voice and become a professional Opera Singer. She will attend Schmidt Vocal Institute this summer.  This is Eilyssa’s third year participating in Spotlight.


Mark BeebeMARK BEEBE, 17, is a senior at Idyllwild Arts Academy, where he plays saxophone in a jazz combo and has played bassoon in the orchestra. He studies jazz saxophone with Paul Carman, jazz improvisation with Marshall Hawkins, and jazz piano and Improvisation with Mark Massey. Past teachers include: Ken Biskie and Dan Boulton. Honors include: Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival, Judge’s Choice & Outstanding Musician (2019), Judge’s Choice (2018); Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival, first place S4 Category (2017); Idyllwild Arts Academy Concerto Competition, honorable mention (2018); Rotary (Inland Empire) Concerto Competition, first place (2016). Mark will attend the Conservatory of Amsterdam next year. This is Mark’s first year participating in Spotlight.

Dario Bizio

DARIO BIZIO, 17, is a senior at the Hamilton Academy of Music and Performing Arts. He studies jazz with Dave Robaire and classical bass with Dr. David Young. Dario is a member of Hamilton’s A Band and A Combo, the Colburn Thursday Night Band, Colburn Bass Ensemble, Colburn Youth Orchestra, and Los Angeles All-City big band. Honors include: 2019 Monterey Next Gen Outstanding Soloist Award; National YoungArts Merit Award in Jazz Double Bass (2019); DownBeat, best original composition, small group, winner (2019); Spotlight Jazz Instrumental Semifinalist (2018). He would like to thank his parents and all his teachers throughout his studies for their incredible support and inspiration. This is Dario’s third year participating in Spotlight.


Lilah HortonLILAH HORTON, 15, is a sophomore at Orange County School of the Arts, Commercial Dance Conservatory.  She currently studies with Caley & Kelsey, Jason Janas, Krista Miller, and is coached by Annie Gratton. Lilah is a member of Hollywood Vibe Company, directed by Liz Imperio; Will & Janelle Adams’ immaBEAST High Society; guests with Leah & Ron Silva’s REVERB; Chehon Wespi-Tschopp’s I AM FORCE; and was an inaugural member of Chloe & Maud Arnold’s #NoFilter Sole Talk.  Lilah is represented by The Movement Talent Agency. She has performed on World of Dance; EMMY Award’s Governors Balls; and Choreographer’s Carnival. This is Lilah’s second year participating in Spotlight.

Zack SommerZACK SOMMER, 17, is a junior at Canyon Crest Academy, where he is a member of the Dance Conservatory. He trains at Danceology under the direction of Nicole Lucia. Zack has worked with choreographers including Alexandra Damiani, Travis Wall, Jermaine Spivey, Spenser Theberge, and Dwight Rhoden. Honors include: The Dance Awards, Teen Male Best Dancer, first runner-up (2018). Scholarships include: NYCDA, Break the Floor, Joffrey Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Zack will be attending Juilliard Summer Intensive and Arts Umbrella International Dance Intensive this summer. Zack plans to attend college to pursue BFA in Dance after high school.  This is Zack’s second year participating in Spotlight.


 Jaden LewisJADEN LEWIS, 17, is a senior at Valencia High School, where she is a member of the Choral Association (Co-President), 2N4 Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Improvisation Team, Theatre Council, and Concert Choir.  Jaden studies voice with Christine Mocha and drama with Stephen Whelan.  Honors include: Fullerton College Jazz Festival Vocal Division, High School Soloist, first place (2019); Drama Teachers Association of Southern California (DTASC) Audition Monologue Category, first place (2018); Fullerton College Jazz Festival, Outstanding Vocalist (2018); Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, Outstanding Vocalist (2017 & 2018); Disney Music in the Parks, Outstanding Vocalist (2017 & 2018); Folsom Jazz Festival Outstanding Musicianship Award (2018). This is Jaden’s first year participating in Spotlight.

Sage McNeely

SAGE MCNEELY, 18, is a senior at John Burroughs High School where she is a featured award-winning soloist in the award-winning show choir Powerhouse, directed by Brendan Jennings. Sage was the lead in Burroughs on Broadway and is the Vocal Ensemble (VE) president. She has performed background vocals for the Captain Marvel Demo and Inventing Tomorrow movie score. Sage was a National YoungArts Popular Voice Honorable Mention (2019) and Spotlight Non-Classical Voice Semifinalist (2017 & 2018).  She thanks her parents and vocal teacher Joyce Warman for their support. Sage will attend the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at Cal State Long Beach next year. This is Sage’s fourth year participating in Spotlight.

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