The Music Center, one of the largest and most renowned performing
arts centers in the nation, has announced 124 talented Southern
Californian high school students as semifinalists of its 26th Annual
The awards highlight the Music Center’s highly acclaimed scholarship program.
The mission of the Spotlight Program is to help high school students
acquire the skills necessary to pursue their dreams in the performing
and visual arts.
Participants auditioned with an art piece that fell under one of
eight categories: ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice,
non-classical voice, classical instrumental music, jazz instrumental
music, two-dimensional art, and photography.
Out of the 124 semifinalists who were chosen from more than 2,500
participants, two hail from Santa Monica and were chosen for their
talent and work in the performing arts.
Both semifinalists have received the opportunity to attend special
master classes with experienced, acclaimed artists who share their
expertise and teach performance technique.
Ben Ross, a sophomore at Santa Monica High School, is one of the
local semifinalists. He auditioned in the category of non-classical
voice, as he specializes in musical theatre.
He is part of the drama and choir programs at Samohi.
Ross said he was grateful for the intensive audition process,
describing it as a “real-world experience” that he is glad to have
His favorite part of the audition was being able to work with former
performer Karen Morrow and to witness her individualized process with
each performer and experience her personalized attention and advice.
Ross started singing at the age of six, which is also when he began performing in shows.
This early entrance into stage life is unsurprising, however, as his
immediate family members are in one way or another part of the
He plans on pursuing a career in this field and majoring in musical theatre in college.
Ross said he wanted to share his art with other people and to exchange a mutual energy through music.
He said it was “something that can’t be created with any other means of communication.”
“There’s nothing else like it in the world,” he said.
The second local semifinalist is Ryan Roberts, a senior at Santa Monica High School.
He was selected based on his oboe audition in the classical instrumental category.
The oboe has been his instrument of choice since he was 12 years old.
At school, he said he was part of the Symphony Orchestra and the Wind
Ensemble, serving as the principal oboe player in both groups.
Roberts said he became enthralled by the sound of the oboe when he
was younger because of the instrument’s prominent role in the woodwind
section and solo melodies in orchestral literature.
He said his favorite part about performing was sharing his craft with the world by emoting through his instrument.
Roberts said the catharsis of self-expression was worth the journey
for him, “even though it may take a while to get to a level where
complete comfort with a musical instrument is reached.”
His influences include his current teacher at Samohi, David Weiss,
who was formerly the principal oboe player of the LA Philharmonic.
As far as future plans go, he has narrowed his college choices down
to music conservatories. He plans on pursuing a career as an oboist or
as a conductor.
Though Ross did not make the finals, he has still had the chance to
collaborate with a former Broadway performer in the offered master
Roberts is awaiting the results of the final rounds of his musical category, which will be revealed March 8.
The Music Center’s campus is home to four world-class resident
companies: the Center Theatre Group, the LA Opera, LA Philharmonic, and
the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
It also consists of four iconic venues: the Walt Disney Concert Hall,
the Dorothy Chandler, Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Ahmanson
The Center is nationally recognized as a leader in arts education,
providing resources for students and teachers in schools and community
Every year more than two million visitors enjoy performances and free arts events at the Music Center.
For more information, visit musiccenter.org.
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.