One of the most exciting and inspiring events in Los Angeles is the annual YoungArts week, which features performances, workshops and art exhibitions by award-winning high school students from Southern California. The National YoungArts Foundation has been providing young artists with life-changing experiences for thirty-five years. It offers scholarships, mentorship from renowned artists and national recognition to a group of very talented young people.
YoungArts is the nominating agency for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, the country's highest honor for young artists. Presidential Scholars in the Arts receive a Presidential Medal at the White House and perform at the Kennedy Center and exhibit at the Smithsonian. YoungArts alumni included leaders in many artistic fields, including actors Viola Davis, Vanessa Williams and Kerry Washington, singers Nicki Minaj and Chris Young, along with prominent dancers, musicians, choreographers, writers and visual artists. Each year, 800 winners are selected from thousands of high school applicants.
Southern California boasts a gifted crop of young people among the winners and their talents were on display for a week in mid-February, including a sold-out showcase performance directed by choreographer John Heginbotham. While it is difficult to single out the standouts in such a gifted an diverse cast, special kudos go to Taylor Kurtz, a lithe and athletic dancer from Temecula, marvelous tap dancer Alaman Diadhiou, the gorgeous operatic solos by Alexandra Prat and Oliver Berliner, a sizzling monologue by Daniel Zolghadri, virtuouso ballet solos by Anabelle Gunderson and Isabella Franco, and stunning pop and jazz riffs by Maggie Valdman and Abigail Berry.
YoungArts, which is based on Miami, has long had an East Coast focus. But with so much the talent coming out of the West Coast, it has plans to expand its presence here. If this year's group of artists is any indication, we look forward to seeing lots more YoungArts performers in LA.