Following two rounds of virtual auditions, The Music Center has selected Cielo Valenzuela-Lara as one of the semi-finalists in their 33rd annual Spotlight program, a free nationally acclaimed arts training and scholarship program for teens. A TMC Arts program, Spotlight offers valuable performance opportunities, audition experiences and mentorship, plus technical and artistic insights taught by professional artists and arts administrators, and awards more than $100,000 in scholarships each year. The Music Center named 16 semifinalists in each of seven categories—acting, ballet, dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental. This year, nearly 1,500 teens representing more than 275 schools, 194 cities and 8 counties auditioned for the prestigious program.
Valenzuela-Lara, a junior at California School of the Arts-San Gabriel Valley in the Integrated Arts Conservatory, has been chosen in the acting category. This is her third year auditioning for the program and she says that becoming a semi-finalist this year is one step closer to reaching her dreams. “Performing and my artistry are parts of my life that I’m truly passionate about,” says Valenzuela-Lara, “I sing, act, dance, write and perform poetry, and I am fascinated with history. My dreams are to be on Broadway / Film & TV and to continue using my artistry to inspire others to find and use their voices.”
Valenzuela-Lara identifies as an artivist (artist and activist) and has received various honors recognizing her passion for performance, history, justice, and writing including having several poems featured in The Los Angeles Press, publishing her own chapbook Inside Looking Out, and being named a 2021 National YoungArts Foundation Merit Award Winner in Writing: Spoken Word.
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. An important part of The Music Center’s fundamental support for arts learning, the program 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.
“ I’m always learning something new whether that’s from the personalized feedback letters students receive after the first video submission or from the master classes all participants can access,” explains Valenzuela-Lara. “This year as a Semi-Finalist, I was able to receive feedback on my performance as part of the second audition and also during a Mastery Class to prepare us to submit our final videos for consideration as program finalists. I always take the lessons to heart and I want to apply them to my work as best as I can. The program staff and the Mastery Class professionals are so kind, helpful, and supportive. They prepare us with technical skills in the arts, help us understand the importance of working to improve our craft, and comfort us by teaching us that not landing a role is not a reflection of our talent or capacity.”
Notable Spotlight alumni include Tony Award winner Lindsay Mendez, American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer Misty Copeland, Emmy award-winning composer Kris Bowers and major recording artists Josh Groban and Adam Lambert, among many others.
“This program means so much to me, and I am extremely proud of how far I’ve come. I can see my progress from when I first started and I am so grateful to be a part of this program,” says Valenzuela-Lara, “Music and acting are my passions. Spotlight makes me feel like I’m on the right path to pursue a career that I’m proud of and that fulfills me. I want to pursue the things that make me happy, so that I can inspire others, especially young girls and people of color who may identify with me, to pursue their dreams and not be ashamed to do it.”
Each semifinalist will audition virtually 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 in The Music Center’s Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale Performance on May 22, 2021, premiering on The Music Center Offstage digital platform at 7:00 p.m.