By JOANNA SHEPHERD | Intern
Meet Valentina Shelton, a high school senior at Windward School and freshly crowned semi-finalist in the Music Center’s nationally recognized scholarship and performing arts training program, Spotlight.
Shelton’s singing journey began at home, where she said music was a centerpiece of family life.
“Music in our house was as important as English or science,” she explained to the Palisadian-Post. “I’ve been singing as long as I can remember, but I didn’t start any formal acting or voice training until I was 13.”
Shelton explained that her mom would not let her start training because she didn’t want it to make her self-conscious and interfere with her instincts.
“Because acting is simply about trusting yourself,” Shelton said. “And now that I’m 18, I’ve been able to take the last few years and turn my life into a conservatory of training and practicing nonstop. But I still have to take myself back to neutral and just trust that I am enough—something I will keep having to work on.”
When she turned 13, Shelton began her first singing lessons at the Colburn Music School downtown. It was here that she would build a strong foundation in classical singing and learn how to care for her instrument.
Today, Shelton studies jazz voice and piano and musical theater. She chose to attend Windward because of its premier jazz department, and is now on piano and vocals in the Advanced Jazz Combo.
Shelton also spent six weeks over the summer studying musical theater at Carnegie Mellon’s Pre College Drama Program.
But back when she was in eighth grade, Shelton found out about the Spotlight program, and began taking master classes in classical voice, non-classical voice and acting.
“The program is so wonderful because it’s the most supportive competition environment and a lot of that is thanks to [Palisadian] Jeri Gaile,” Shelton shared. “She is a godmother to all of the participants and even sends supportive calming emails to help prep the students for their auditions. She organizes the master classes—she is so enthusiastic and incredible.”
Shelton explained that its dedication to teaching and helping students to be their very best is what makes the program unique from other talent competitions.
The seven Spotlight categories include acting, ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental and jazz instrumental.
Participating students are given the opportunity to receive personalized training and mentorship, and semi-finalists get to experience a special master class with highly regarded artists from their genre.
These experts are able to share advice about the professional world and performance technique, as well as give feedback on their performances, giving students a rich learning experience.
This year approximately 1,450 participants auditioned for Spotlight, representing more than 300 schools, 200 cities and seven counties.
Out of all of these participants, 113 of Southern California’s most gifted high school students were named semi-finalists, including Shelton and Palisades Charter High School student Roberta Alaman for non-classical voice and Mirabelle Weinback for ballet.
Each semifinalist will audition 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 at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in the Spotlight Grand Finale Performance on June 5.
In addition to becoming a Spotlight semi-finalist, Shelton has won several other impressive awards for her extraordinary singing abilities, including two Outstanding Soloist Awards for Vocals from the Fullerton Jazz Festival, third place at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival competition as a Vocal Soloist and being named a National Young Arts Jazz Voice Finalist.