Four reach semifinals of the Spotlight Awards

Jensen Pak

Four students have reached the semifinal round of the Music Center Spotlight Awards, which recognize high school students for artistic excellence. Andy Arditi ’14 and drummer Daniel Sunshine ’13 have qualified as jazz musicians, Megan Ward ’13 has qualified in the Classical Voice category and Maria Gonzalez ’13 qualified for photography.

“To win, you need to be very strong at your instrument, but even more so you must be a strong musician and auditioner, as you are competing against kids of all other instruments, not just your own,” Sunshine said. “Getting to the semifinals is a true honor. This is really the first jazz competition I have ever done, and seeing my efforts rewarded is a great feeling.”

The Music Center Spotlight program awards over $100,000 in scholarships to finalists, semifinalists, and honorable mentions.

The 15 semifinalists from each category attend a class with prominent musicians and teachers who provide feedback about their performance before their semifinal audition. Sunshine had his master class with Ndugu Chancler, who played the drums in Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller.” Arditi played with Bob Sheppard, an assistant professor of jazz studies at the USC Thornton School of Music.

Ward has been participating in the Music Center Spotlight Awards for four years. This year, she has reached the semifinals in the Classical Voice category and placed in the top 60 in the Non-Classical Voice category.

Ward had her master class at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with Cynthia Munzer, an associate professor of vocal arts and opera at the USC Thornton School of Music.

“This environment is nothing like a typical audition in ‘the real world,’ where you walk into a silent room and the atmosphere is very cut throat and competitive. The Spotlight Awards provide an opportunity to get positive and specific feedback every year from judges who genuinely want to see you succeed,” Ward said.