Spotlight on Talent celebrated its 40th year in a big way, with a record number of contestants, a tribute featuring video memories through the years, and a standing ovation for Sally Blackwood, the founder of the talent competition and of the Heritage Arts Association.
Dancer Lauren Scotch won the Pasco Heritage Scholarship, a $1,000 prize that goes to the contestant achieving the highest score from the competition’s professional judges.
While receiving the top prize, the dancer was far from the only talented performer who entertained the crowd during matinee and evening performances at the Wesley Chapel Center for the Arts, on the campus of Wesley Chapel High School.
Barbara Friedman, the show’s producer and publicity chair, provided details about this year’s celebration, as well as the list of winners. (Please see the accompanying box.)
The Spotlight on Talent tradition dates back to 1983, when Sally Blackwood assembled a group of arts lovers to form a nonprofit organization to promote performing and visual arts opportunities, according to information provided by Friedman.
The original Spotlight on Talent contest featured 30 acts and took place at the Pasco County Fair.
Over the decades, the event has grown into a showcase for young singers, dancers and musicians, and gives them a chance to compete for prizes.
This year’s audition broke a record, with 200 performers seeking a chance to compete in the finals. Of those auditioning, 150 advanced to the final matinee and evening shows.
This year’s festivities also included a tribute to “Miss Sally,” who was cheered by the crowd, as scenes from her long teaching career and early Spotlight competitions played out on a big screen.
The performers are rated by professional judges. Contestants include solo acts, duets and groups — in such categories as vocals, instrumentals and dance.
The annual tradition is so deeply rooted that even during the COVID-19 pandemic it lived up to the motto — “The show must go on.”
Of course, that year the venue was smaller, there was no audience and precautions were taken — but the show did go on.
Beyond the work that the performers, their teachers and coaches put into preparing for the competition, a considerable amount of work goes on behind the scenes, as well.
A 15-member board of directors worked for three months, in the lead up to the show. Plus, the final production team included 14 additional community friends who donated their time.
Helping Friedman with the production were Lauretta Brown, Michael Roberts, Michelle Twitmyer and Laurel Weightman, the show’s assistant producers.
Twenty-eight corporate and community sponsors contributed toward $4,000 in cash prizes, trophies and ribbons.
Former Pasco County School Board chairman Allen Altman and attorney Charles Spinner, also stepped in, serving as the masters of ceremony.
And the winners are ….
- Category 1: Amber Luu, first place, piano; Lainey Hammen, second place, dance; Akshath Anand, third place, piano; Marley Bromber, fourth place, jazz dance
- Category 2: Savanna Nelson, first place, ballet dance; Layla Ford, second place, vocal; Tenley Ryman, third place, acro/jazz dance; Naomi Reed, fourth place, piano; Srihitha Neralla, vocal
- Category 3: Elyana Coriano, first place, vocal; Rio Ricardo, second place, vocal; Nikki Lang, third place, piano; Kat Baudoin, fourth place, vocal and electric guitar
- Younger groups: Kat Baudoin and Nate Leavitt, first place, musical theater; Amber Luee and Dylan Pham, second place, violin and piano; Akshath Anand and Naomi Reed, third place, vocal, dance and piano; Sax 4 Phone Quarter, fourth place, saxophone quarter
- Category 1: Sofia Acosta, first place, vocal; Max D’Anna, second place, vocal; Wisdom Teng, third place, piano; Maelee Scaglione, fourth place, contemporary dance; Parker Bowes, fifth place, vocal
- Category 2: Kasey Lang, piano; Brooke Tudor, ballet dance; Jan Melia, third place, piano; Reagan Ricardo, fourth place, vocal; Larkin Mainwaring, fifth place, vocal; Shreyashi Bodaka, sixth place, piano
- Category 3: Lauren Scotch, first, dance; Isabel Ramos, second, vocal; Ezekiel Richards, third, lyrical dance
- Older groups: Star Company, first, acrobatic dance; Kasey Lang and Conner Harrie, second, piano duet; Showstoppers, third, Broadway vocal
Pasco Heritage Scholarship
Published April 05, 2023