Newport Beach Teen Catherine Johnston is a Grand Prize Finalist for Spotlight Award

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Catherine Johnston, Spotlight studio session, April 13, 2021, in Monterey Park, Calif. (Photo/John McCoy)

The Los Angeles Music Center has named 14 Grand Prize finalists from nearly 1,500 applicants in The Music Center’s 33rd annual Spotlight program, a free nationally acclaimed arts training and scholarship program for Southern California teens.

Catherine Johnston, 17, of Newport Beach and a student at Orange County School of the Arts, is one of those finalists in the category of Classical Voice.

The Music Center re-imagined Spotlight’s offerings for the 2020–2021 year to be entirely digital and COVID safe. For the second year in a row, The Music Center’s Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance will take place as a virtual event, premiering on May 22, 2021, at 7 p.m. Pacific Time on via The Music Center Offstage digital platform as well as Facebook Live @musiccenterla.

Spotlight alum and major recording artist Josh Groban will host the hour-long program featuring the 14 finalists as the stars of the show.

In addition to showcasing their individual performances, the Grand Finale puts the “spotlight” on the talented teens with an inside look at each finalist’s Spotlight experience, including how they persevered through multiple rounds of virtual auditions, improved their technical skills based on detailed feedback by industry experts and learned about their craft by attending classes with world-renowned experts in their discipline.

The performance begins with the 14 finalists performing together in a show-stopping song-and-dance number, designed by film, television and music video choreographer Phillip Chbeeb. Directed by Nicole Alexander and produced in association with Hashtag, You’re It, The Music Center’s 33rd annual Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance will also be broadcast once again on KCET as part of its weekly arts and culture series, SOUTHLAND SESSIONS, and on its sister station PBS SoCal (KOCE) later this summer. Broadcast dates to be announced.

“Each year, we are astonished by the level of talent we see come through the Spotlight program, and this year is no exception. We truly believe these students are stars in the making and are proud to have contributed to the development of their artistry and confidence as aspiring performers and young adults,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. “The Spotlight Grand Finale is a chance for the finalists to shine before a large audience and we’re very grateful to all of the Spotlight sponsors and benefactors who believe as we do in providing the opportunity and access for students to explore their craft and cultivate their artistic abilities.”

“Spotlight is a tight knit family and community where the adults support the participants, and the kids themselves root and pull for each other. Performing in front of others and being critiqued, especially by highly recognized experts, is not an easy thing to do, but we create a nurturing and empowering environment for kids to believe in themselves, because we believe in them,” added Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. “Josh Groban made a special appearance in last year’s virtual Grand Finale performance, and we’re thrilled to have him host the show this year. We know it means a lot to the kids to see Spotlight alumni come back to support the program, and he sets the perfect example that dreams really can come true.”

An important part of The Music Center’s fundamental support for arts learning, Spotlight is a TMC Arts program that offers valuable performance opportunities, audition experiences and mentorship, plus technical and artistic insights taught by professional artists and arts administrators. Spotlight is completely free with no financial barriers for participants, which gives equal footing to all aspiring artists no matter their talent level. This year, nearly 1,500 teens auditioned for the prestigious program, representing more than 275 schools, 194 cities and eight counties. All Spotlight applicants receive written feedback from distinguished panels of judges following each audition round to help students improve and gain knowledge in their particular performance discipline.

Since its launch in 1988, Spotlight has transformed the lives of 51,000 high school students from Santa Barbara to San Diego by being more than just a competition.

Spotlight provides students the opportunity to develop their performance abilities, receive valuable college preparedness skills and gain confidence to pursue their dreams in the performing arts.

For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visit


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