Students named Spotlight semifinalists

Two upper school students were named semifinalists for the Los Angeles County Spotlight Awards, both in the Jazz Instrumental category.

Roughly 1,500 high school students auditioned for the awards this year in a broad range of categories including Jazz.

Of these students, 108 entrants were selected as semifinalists this year, with 15 semifinalists in the Jazz Instrumental category.

Semifinalists win a cash prize of $300 each.

Despite preparing for college auditions, Jason Oberman ’15, a guitarist in Jazz band, was able to achieve one of the select semifinalist spots for the Jazz Instrumental category.

“It is hard to say how much I practiced for this competition, because I have really been preparing for college auditions all year, as well as simply practicing for the sake of improving,” Oberman said. “I try to practice at least two hours a day, c and some of the material I played I also played in my college auditions, so I did spend a good amount of time preparing the tunes I played.”

The competition for musical categories, such as Jazz, is not sectioned off by instrument or skill.

“All instruments compete against each other, it is not broken down into trumpet, piano, etcetera,” Oberman said. “I play jazz guitar, but the competition is simply the Jazz Instrumental competition rather than just jazz guitar.”

For the Jazz category, students auditioned with accompaniment from both students and professionals.

“I had a choice of any two songs,” Oberman said. “I played ‘Donna Lee’ by Charlie Parker and ‘Next Time,’ which is a tune I wrote earlier on in the year.”

With out-of-school and in-school teaching, Oberman was able to become an improved player and was able to successfully audition for the award.

“I did not really prepare specifically for this audition,” Oberman said. “I was practicing more for colleges and just to become a better player, and Andrew Synoweic, my current private teacher, along with performing arts teacher Shawn Costantino, have helped me greatly in those regards.”

Vincent Le ’17, a jazz saxophonist, also auditioned for the Spotlight Awards but was not named semifinalist.

“From my experience, Jason is a very accomplished soloist and he has nice and fluent ideas which are very harmonically pleasing,” Le said.

Nick Steele ’16 also achieved semi-finalist in the Jazz instrumental category on piano.

“I practiced each of [the songs] individually for 45 minutes to an hour a day,” Steele said. “I also had a couple rehearsals with the other musicians I was playing with.”

Steele’s bandmates say that he deserved to be named semifinalist.

“I have played with Nick many times in the past and he still is an amazingly creative pianist with very thoughtful ideas,” Le said. “I was not surprised at all to hear that they both won spotlight.”

 

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