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Canyon Crest Academy student dancer wins top honors in prestigious Spotlight Program

Zack Sommer
Zack Sommer The Music Center

Canyon Crest Academy junior Zack Sommer was born to dance. He started dancing lessons at age 4, and now all that hard work and dedication has paid off. Sommer has been named one of 14 Grand Prize Finalists in Los Angeles-based The Music Center’s 31st Annual Spotlight Program, joining the ranks of such big names as Misty Copeland, Josh Groban and Adam Lambert.

Zack was one of 1,600 participants throughout California, representing more than 250 high schools. Only two Grand Prize Finalists were chosen in each of seven categories. But The Music Center’s Spotlight Program is more than a competition. It provides Southern California high school students the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to pursue their dreams in the performing arts. Each Grand Prize Finalist receives a $5,000 scholarship and will appear in a ticketed Grand Finale Performance at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall on June 4.

In addition, each gets to attend a free, day-long series of seminars and workshops led by outstanding professionals and arts educators to learn what it takes to pursue higher education and careers in the arts.

Dance routine
Zack Sommer performing a dance routine. The Music Center

According to Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center, the program nurtures nascent talent into blossoming performers or even future arts administrators by preparing them for the road ahead. “High school is the ultimate crossroad of life, and the Spotlight program offers a vital step forward for those students dreaming of a performing arts career,” said Moore. “Beyond providing invaluable mentorship and performance feedback on their artistry, Spotlight also primes participants with the intangibles such as how to afford and pay for college, what an instrumentalist might actually major in, how to employ the best audition and application strategies, and how to deal with both acceptance and rejection. Having a ‘what’s next’ toolbox builds a foundation of confidence and self-assurance these young adults can use in realizing a high school dream.”

The Music Center’s Spotlight program has transformed the lives of more than 47,000 students across Southern California, distributing more than $2 million in scholarships and cash awards to aspiring performers and artists since the program’s launch in 1988. Sommer won in the category of Non-Classical Dance. “I was so surprised when my name was announced as a Grand Prize Finalist,” recalls Sommer. “I couldn’t believe my ears, it was surreal! Once the reality set in a minute later, I felt extremely honored. I never thought I could actually achieve this level of recognition for my dance, especially my own choreographed piece.”

The Non-Classical Dance category is one of seven categories in the program and represents any dance style that’s not classical ballet. Sommer’s dance style is primarily contemporary which incorporates ballet and modern techniques. This type of dance style is primarily seen in concert dance – not the commercial dance that you typically see on TV dance competition shows or back-up dance to pop stars.

Zack’s mom, Nancy, remembers the moment when she heard the news. “I had to pinch myself to know that this is for real. But most importantly, I was so proud of Zack. He has worked so hard and focused on his dance training, in addition to keeping up with his grades and school. When his school friends were going to the beach, hanging out or doing fun things, he was at dance, intensively training. So I know he has made many personal sacrifices to get to this point and this journey will continue throughout college and beyond. I am so happy that he gets to do what he loves and his hard work has been recognized.”

Sommer says he plans to major in dance in college, and the two top schools he would like to attend are The Juilliard School and USC’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. “I want to further develop my dance training, learning more about choreography and performance. I hope to join a professional contemporary dance company after college. From there, I will see where the journey takes me.”

Tickets to the June 4 Spotlight Grand Finale Performance are $20 and are on sale now at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Call (213) 972-0711 or visit musiccenter.org/spotlightfinale. For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visit musiccenter.org/spotlight.