2022 Grand Prize Finalists
Get to know each of our 14 Spotlight 2022 Grand Prize Finalists!
Michael Davis, 18, is a senior at San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SDSCPA) where he majors in musical theater. He has studied acting with Roxane Carrasco, Shauna Markey and Jennifer Banda. Awards include: National Youth Arts (NYA) Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical for Captain Hook in Peter Pan (2019); NYA Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical for Maui in Moana Jr. (2019); and SDSCPA Outstanding Musical Theater Student (2020). Roles include: Georg in Spring Awakening; Thénardier in Les Misérables; Kevin in In the Heights and Dom Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He would like to thank his family, teachers, coaches, and friends for supporting, mentoring and shaping him into the artist he is today. This is Michael’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Lauren Mei, 16, is a junior at the Orange County School of the Arts in the Acting Conservatory. Awards include: YoungArts Finalist for Theater (2022) and YoungArts Merit Winner for Theater (2021). She discovered her love for acting at a young age and began pursuing film and television. Roles and shows include: Florence in Waiting For Lefty, Maiden in Three Stories, Penny in Code Pink, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She is an advocate for Asian American representation, theater for social justice, and diverse storytelling. She thanks her parents and siblings for their support as well as her mentors, John Walcutt and Stephanie Dorian-Smith for their guidance. Mei plans to study Drama in college while continuing to advocate for Asian American representation. This is Lauren’s second year participating in Spotlight.
Sophia Koo, 14, is a freshman at Arnold O. Beckman High School and Tustin Connect High School. Sophia began dancing at four years old and has been training at Southland Ballet Academy under the direction of Salwa Rizkalla for the past 6 years. Awards include: Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) Youth Grand Prix Award (2022); Universal Ballet Competition Legacy Award (2021); Gala performance at YAGP Mexico 10th Anniversary Festival De Danza (2021); YAGP International Virtual Finals top 12 Junior Division (2021); and Royal Ballet School (London) and Académie Princesse Grace (Monaco) short term scholarships (2019). Sophia would like to acknowledge her director Salwa Rizkalla and Southland Ballet Academy for providing excellent training and the numerous performance opportunities given to her. This is Sophia’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Ballet Grand Prize Finalist
Justin Padilla, 15, is a sophomore in high school who is home schooling. Justin started dancing at the age of 9 at Infusion Dance with Shane Carpenter. He trains at the Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy (DKCBA) under the direction of Dmitri and Jennifer Kulev. He also trains in contemporary dance at Westside Dance Project (WDP) with Jessie Riley, Megan Guise and Krystal Matsuyama-Tsai. Awards include: Youth Grand Prix Award (YAGP) at YAGP Los Angeles (2021 and 2022), Spotlight Ballet Merit Winner (2021), New York City Dance Alliance convention’s Junior & Teen National Male Outstanding Dancer (2019 & 2021). Justin thanks his WDP and DKCBA family for providing such excellent training and support. Justin is pursuing a professional dance career. This is Justin’s second year participating in Spotlight.
Dyllan Blackburn, 15, is a sophomore at Canyon High School where she is on The Company dance team. She trains at Project 21 under Molly Long. Dyllan studies ballet at YLAB and in advanced principles of technique with Autumn Miller. Performances include: NBC’s World of Dance, Season 4; CBS’ The World’s Best; and Hear This music video by Jarami. Choreography collaborators include: Talia Favia, Chaz Buzan, Will Loftis, Brian Friedman, Andrew Winghart, Tricia Miranda, Jenna Johnson and Val Chmerkovskiy. Dyllan was on the Dance Spirit magazine cover (2020) and featured (2017). Awards include: YoungArts Merit Winner (2022); The Dance Awards, Teen Best Dancer national title (2021); and Radix Mini and Junior national titles (2017 & 2019). Dyllan is pursuing a professional dance career. This is Dyllan’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Tegan Chou, 15, is a sophomore at ASU Prep Digital and has been dancing since she was eight years old. Tegan trains at Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy in the Preprofessional Training Division and is a member of Westside Dance Project. Awards include: ADCIBC Primary Grand Prix (2018); The Dance Awards top ten (2018-2020); ICON Dance Awards first place (2019), Youth American Grand Prix top 3 at regionals in classical and contemporary and invitations to finals (2017-2022). Summer training programs include Royal Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet Academy and Ballet West. She has been a brand ambassador and model and dreams of becoming a professional dancer. She would like to thank her family, friends and mentors for their love and support. This is Tegan’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Oscar Yum, 17, is a junior at Flintridge Preparatory School. He studies voice with Eric Lifland. Oscar is a tenor in the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus’ Young Men's Ensemble and Chorale. Honors include: Spotlight Classical Voice Semifinalist (2021); Classical Singer Fall Competition Finalist (2021); Schmidt Vocal Competition Most Promising Sophomore Award (2021) and Finalist (2022); and California All-State Honor Choir (2022). Oscar is an intern for Music Heals Minds, a non-profit that provides music sessions for those suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia, and traumatic brain injury, which was founded by mezzo-soprano, Nandani Sinha. He would like to thank all his music teachers and choral conductors, past and current, for their unwavering support and inspiration, especially Eric Lifland. This is Oscar’s second year participating in Spotlight.
Lia Zheng, 17, is a junior at Canyon Crest Academy. She has studied voice with Zeping Cai for the past 7 years. Lia also works with Kathleen Martin, Vera Calabria, and Bruce Stasyna. She performs regularly at local cultural events including the annual Voice of Yucai galas. Awards include: San Diego’s Got Talent Finalist (2019); Celebration of Music Southern California Finalist (2019); Hong Kong International Music Festival, 2nd place (2020); Hal Leonard North America Vocal Competition, Finalist (2020) and 2nd place (2021). In 2020, Lia co-founded remember20.net, an online virtual gallery of literature, art, and music to highlight the works by young artists during the pandemic. Lia hopes to study some combination of philosophy, music, and artificial intelligence in college. This is Lia’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Bella Aboulhosn, 17, is a junior at Chaminade High School. She studies voice with Julia Gregory and Sarah Salazar and acting with Yvette Bishop. One of her most memorable and cherished experiences was spending the summer at Interlochen performing in Cinderella. She has appeared in various plays, dance productions, and musicals. Her recent roles include: Mrs. Bumbrake in Peter and the Starcatcher, Joy in Cinderella, Mary in Mary Poppins, Maria in Sound of Music, and Josie on Dreamworks’ Spirit Riding Free. Awards include: Drama Teachers Association of Southern California (DTASC) Audition Monologue, first place (2021) and Highest Achievement in Dramatic Arts at Chaminade College Preparatory. She thanks her family, teachers, and friends for their constant love and support. This is Bella’s third year participating in Spotlight.
Elias Robles, 17, is a senior at Los Altos High School, where he is in the show choir LA Dynamix. He studies voice with Dr. James Lent and has trained with the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the Musical Theatre Acting Intensive. Elias’ passion for musical theatre started at Biola Youth Theatre where he performed starting at seven years old. Roles include: Horton in Seussical, Pumbaa in The Lion King, Bert Healy in Annie, and Rusty Charlie in Guys and Dolls. Elias also serves as co-Editor-in-Chief of his school’s publication, The Conqueror, and as President of Renaissance, a student leadership group. He plans on pursuing musical theatre in college and professionally. Elias thanks his entire family for the endless love and support. This is Elias’ first year in Spotlight.
Andrew Shi, 17, is a senior at Diamond Bar High School. He studies piano with Rufus Choi and Ning An. Awards include: YoungArts winner (2022, 2021 & 2020); NPR’s From the Top finalist (2021); Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC) Young Artist Guild (2021-26); Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition Discretionary Award (2021); MTAC State Piano Solo Competition, 2nd place (2021), 1st place (2020 & 2017); State Concerto Competition, 1st place (2018); ENKOR International Music Competition, 1st place (2020); Spotlight Classical Instrumental Semifinalist (2020 & 2019); and San Jose International Piano Competition Gold Medal (2017). He was a featured piano soloist with the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra, the Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra, and the Diamond Bar High School Symphony Orchestra. This is Andrew’s fourth year participating in Spotlight.
Ashley Tsai, 16, is a senior at Colburn Music Academy, where she studies violin with Henry Gronnier. Awards include: Pasadena Showcase House Competition, strings category winner (2022); Music Teacher’s National Association, state winner (2021); Rotary Calgary Concerto Competition, first place (2020); Alberta String Association Competition, first place (2019); Provincial and National Gold Medals from Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music (2021, 2020, 2018); Kohl Scholar Award (2021-2022); the Harold Saklofske Scholarship (2020); and the Taras Gabora Prize for Outstanding Performances (2019). She has appeared on NPR’s From the Top as a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award Recipient (2021-2022). Ashley appreciates her family, teachers, and mentors for all the support and encouragement they have given her throughout her musical journey. This is Ashley’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Evan Dexter, 16, is a junior at the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (LACHSA) where he plays trombone in the Big Band and Blue Note “A” Combo. He studies jazz with Alex Hahn, Daniel Rotem, Edwin Livingston, and Scott Whitfield. Evan is lead trombone in the 2022 California All-State High School Jazz Ensemble and in the Colburn Big Band, under Lee Secard, where he also writes and arranges. He is a Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Bill Green Mentorship program alum. Awards in include: YoungArts Finalist in Jazz Instrumental and Merit Winner in Jazz Composition (2022); and Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Shelly Manne New Talent Award (2021). Evan aspires to write, arrange, and perform with his own big band. This is Evan’s first year participating in Spotlight.
Sophia Papouchado, 17, is a junior at Vistamar School where she plays in the orchestra and jazz band. She studies drums with Taylor Kennedy and Julian Allen. Sophia plays in the El Camino College Big Band and other bands in the south bay, including Pier Pressure and 30 Fuel. She has played for musical theatre productions at school including Mamma Mia, Dogfight and Fun Home. Awards include: YoungArts Jazz/Percussion Merit award (2022) and Spotlight Jazz Instrumental Semifinalist (2021). Some of her main inspirations are Steve Gadd, Mark Guliana, Philly Joe Jones, Yussef Dayes, and Tony Williams. Sophia would like to wholeheartedly thank whoever has taught her anything about music, her family, and her neighbors for not complaining about hearing drums all the time. This is Sophia’s second year participating in Spotlight.