The Music Center Names Arcadia Student Semifinalist in The Music Center’s 31st Annual Spotlight Program

Classical instrumentalist Shengyu Meng. – Courtesy photo / The Music Center

The Music Center named 110 of Southern California’s most talented high school students as semifinalists in The Music Center’s 31st annual Spotlight (Spotlight) program, a free nationally-acclaimed scholarship and arts training program for teens. Spotlight has transformed the lives of more than 47,000 students across Southern California since its launch in 1988.

One of those students is Arcadia’s Shengyu Meng, a classical instrumentalist. The Music Center named semifinalists in each of seven categories, including acting, ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental.

An important part of The Music Center’s fundamental support for arts education, Spotlight is more than a competition. The program provides Southern California high school students the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to pursue their dreams in the performing arts. Students work on the development of their performance abilities in numerous genres, learn about careers in arts management and receive valuable college preparedness and workforce readiness skills.

According to Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center, The Music Center’s Spotlight program exemplifies how the arts transform lives. “Spotlight guides students on a journey where they can explore their aptitudes and interests and a possible career in the performing arts” Moore said. “Every year, we look forward to discovering the vast talent of L.A.’s youth and, through the Spotlight program, help these young people hone their craft, enhance their skills and pursue their dreams. With Spotlight, we aim to empower the future of Los Angeles County, by offering the youth in our communities the tools for success whether they are in college, on stage or starting a career.”

“Spotlight engages aspiring young artists and provides the tools and training that allow them to pursue a meaningful future,” said Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. “The program provides access to personalized training that, together with mentorship opportunities, builds self-confidence and prepares students for success no matter the path they chose to follow.”

Approximately 1,600 participants auditioned for Spotlight this year, with students representing more than 253 schools, 195 cities and eight counties.

Semifinalists receive a rare opportunity to attend a special master class in their genre with highly regarded artists, who share their expertise on performance technique, training and professional life. Experts provide students with highly valuable feedback on their performances, offering them a rich learning experience. Each semifinalist will audition again before a new panel of judges, who will then select the top two finalist performers in each category for a total of 14 Grand Prize Finalists. Judges will also name an Honorable Mention in each category. The Grand Prize Finalists will perform at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in the Spotlight Grand Finale Performance on June 4, 2019.

The Music Center’s Spotlight program awards more than $100,000 in cash scholarships annually. Both Grand Prize Finalists in each category receive $5,000 scholarships, with one Honorable Mention in each category receiving $1,000. Semifinalists each receive $300. The Music Center also celebrates five students in each category with the Merit Award, which acknowledges students who inspire the judges by their commitment and dedication to their art form. Spotlight Merit Award recipients each receive $100.

Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers. Twenty finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others. They include Misty Copeland, who made history in the dance world as the first African American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre; Adam Lambert and Josh Groban, pop recording artists; Kris Bowers, Emmy Award-winning composer whose work includes Green Book and Dear White People; Lindsay Mendez, Tony Award winner for her role in the Broadway revival of Carousel; Erin Mackey, star of Broadway’s Wicked, Sondheim on Sondheim, Anything Goes, Chaplin and Amazing Grace; Yao Guang Zhai, associate principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony; Gerald Clayton, Grammy Award winning jazz recording artist; and many others.

For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visit or join the conversation on

March 12, 2019

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