The Music Center's Spotlight: Alumni Q+A

Published August 26th, 2019

The Music Center’s Spotlight is a free scholarship and arts training program, which empowers students by emphasizing preparation, courage, critical thinking and perseverance while providing an invaluable opportunity for students to hone their skills! Open to all performing arts high school students in Southern California, the program offers written feedback from distinguished panels of judges, master classes with world-renowned artists, audition coaching and much more. Students of all skill levels are encouraged to apply. $100,000 in cash scholarships are awarded each year to students. Today, we are talking to some of the alumni from the program to see the impact it had on their lives.

Tell us about you!

Mark Beebe

My name is Mark Beebe, I am from Hemet, CA and currently studying at Idyllwild Arts Academy. I will be studying at the Conservatory of Amsterdam in the Fall.

Mark Beebe headshot

Daniel Velez

My name is Daniel Velez and I am an actor. I live in Los Angeles, CA and attended Grand Arts High. I’ll be a drama major at NYU in the fall of 2019. I’m so grateful for all Spotlight does, what they have done for artists before me, and what they will do for those to come

Daniel Velez headshot

Jaden Lewis

My name is Jaden Lewis, I'm 18 years old. I recently graduated from Valencia High School where I was heavily involved in drama and choir. In about two weeks I will be reporting to Texas Christian University where I will pursue a BFA in musical theatre.

Jaden Lewis headshot

Dario Bizio

My name is Dario Bizio. I’m 17 years old and I was born and raised in West Los Angeles, CA. I play the double bass, and this fall I will be attending the USC Thornton School of Music as a jazz major. I have been playing and listening to music since I could remember, but I started playing electric bass when I was 9 and double bass when I was 11. I recently graduated from the Academy of Music and Performing Arts at Hamilton High School.

What first got you interested in the arts?

Daniel Velez: Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” sparked a fire in me. At the time I was about 8 years old and didn’t know acting was a career someone could pursue. All I knew was that this character was the coolest character in the world, so I memorized all his lines and would re-enact them in the restroom. When I found out what acting was, it became a matter of how to get there and be the best I can be.

How have you grown as an artist since enrolling in The Music Center's Spotlight Program?

Daniel Velez: Spotlight has taught me about perseverance, patience, drive and living your life to your fullest capability. I have grown immensely through it. I have participated for two years now and each year has taught me so much. The first year, I didn’t advance past the first round and it only gave me more to work on. The second year, I was lucky enough to place as a Grand Prize finalist.

Jaden Lewis: Since Spotlight, I’ve truly been able to start representing myself as the artist I want to be. Just by having the feedback given from the judges through all of the rounds, you start to grow. But there are other things an artist needs to be successful, such as poise and discipline. Spotlight definitely puts these two into action. For instance, singing for the volunteer events, meeting the orchestra for the first time, and also getting prepared for the big show all take discipline and poise. Yes, an artist can be amazing but Spotlight makes sure that their students are able not only able to represent themselves, but to do it professionally.

Dario Bizio: I have grown a lot since enrolling in The Music Center’s Spotlight Program for many reasons. For one, I have been auditioning for the program for the past three years, meaning I got three years worth of helpful input, valuable tips, and insight from the amazing judges after every single audition. Additionally, I have made very strong musical and personal connections through the program that I would not have made otherwise. Overall being part of the program has brought me great positivity and inspiration.

Spotlight provides written feedback to its participants. How has that helped you in your studies?

Mark Beebe: Having notes from professional musicians has helped me gain perspective from professionals other than the teachers that I work with on a daily basis.

Daniel Velez: This is the biggest help that no other program I’ve participated in provides. The feedback from all the judges allows you to keep bettering yourself. That’s all any artists wants — to better themselves.

Jaden Lewis: Definitely, and the timing was excellent. In the midst of Spotlight I was also deep into college auditions, and it was super refreshing to hear new comments from people who had never heard me sing as opposed to my normal coaches.

Dario Bizio: Absolutely. The main reason I kept auditioning every year, even when I wasn’t a finalist, was for this reason. Every time I would receive a letter of feedback I would read and re-read everything with an open mind and really try to incorporate all they would write into my next audition and my overall playing.

What inspires you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Dario Bizio: I think what inspires me most is improvement. Although it is probably a really common answer, I strongly believe that improvement, whether is related to music or just improving as a person, is my daily goal. I just want to be the best son, brother, boyfriend, friend, teacher, and bassist I can possibly be. I always wake up with the idea that I want to make this new day better than the last, and at the same time always appreciate what I have.

What do you plan to do either in the arts or with your artistic talents in the future? And how has The Music Center's Spotlight Program helped you get there?

Mark Beebe: I plan to be a professional musician. Spotlight has given me once in a lifetime opportunities that have helped me grow and learn as an artist.

Daniel Velez: I plan to be an actor. For the rest of my life. However, I’m not closed off to taking other opportunities that may not be as a performer. I will follow and trust where my life takes me, but I’ll never fully stray from acting.

Jaden Lewis: I plan to have a career in musical theatre and also record my own music. With the money made from my career, I definitely want to open an arts school for inner-city kids. Spotlight has already helped with this plan by helping me make connections, especially the connections made with the other contestants. I could definitely see myself having them come in and teach a class for my students.

Dario Bizio: My final goal is to be a professor at a university or conservatory, but leading up to that I want to study and practice hard in college, be a session/freelance electric and upright bassist, play with touring musicians and groups around the world, arrange music, compose music for film, and teach privately.

My favorite thing about The Music Center's Spotlight Program is:

Mark Beebe: The great people I got to meet.

Daniel Velez: The dedication towards each and every student.

Jaden Lewis: Well, obviously performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall. But also the amazing people - between the staff and other contestants, I gained a new family.

Dario Bizio: The feedback from the judges.

What is one piece of advice you’d give aspiring creatives like yourself, who are taking a chance and applying to Spotlight?

Mark Beebe: DO IT! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Daniel Velez: Be true. To yourself. To the art. To the moment. Be true.

Jaden Lewis: “Believe in your craft.”

Dario Bizio: I would say no matter how much you doubt yourself and your art, apply. There is literally no downside to auditioning, the least you can get is great feedback and it’s also free, which is rare for these types of programs.

• • •

So, are you a SoCal high school student dedicated to improving your craft and paving your future in the arts? Apply for The Music Center’s Spotlight program today!

The Music Center’s Spotlight program is open to Southern California high school students of ALL skill levels in the following categories: acting, ballet, classical instrumental, classical voice, jazz instrumental, non-classical dance, and non-classical voice.

The deadline for the Music Center’s Spotlight program is October 14, 2019.

You can also attend “The Spotlight Academy” on September 15 at The Music Center for a FREE day of performing arts workshops to prepare students for a future in the arts. Hear from industry professionals on how to stand out in auditions, how to choose an agent, how to pay for schooling, how to market yourself, and many other useful skills for today’s artists. The Spotlight Academy is free, but requires registration, and is open to students, parents, and teachers. Unlike the Spotlight competition, you do not need to live in Southern California to attend. Register today!

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