Orange County High School 2024 Artist of the Year Winners Announced – Orange County Register

The 2024 Artists of the Year are (top row, from left): Grace Lin, media arts; Viveka Saravanan, vocal; Jadon Wu, instrumental music; Caroline Kim, fine art; (bottom row, from left) Sofia Aniceto, dance; Benjamin Weir, film and television; and Mackenzie Cahill, theatre. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

What does it mean to be an artist?

This question is posed to every high school student being considered for Artist of the Year honors, which recognize local talent in seven arts disciplines.

In their answers, they all talked about passion and the drive to inspire others. They hope to build connections, promote understanding, and cultivate empathy through personal creativity.

They may be misunderstood at times, but as artists they strive to stay true to themselves. They have the courage to be vulnerable.

They care about their community. They devote their time to nonprofit organizations.

They are storytellers, whether they are dancers, filmmakers, musicians, actors, visual artists or singers.

Now it’s time to tell the stories of seven Orange County high school students and a group of finalists who have been named 2024 Artists of the Year.

Meet the 2024 Artist of the Year. Click on a student’s name to read the profile and see the other finalists in that category.

dance: Sophia Aniceto, Huntington Beach School of the Performing Arts

Film and TV: Benjamin Ware, Huntington Beach Academy of the Performing Arts

theater: Mackenzie Cahill, Capistrano Valley High School

instrumental music: Jadon Wu, Orange County Art Institute

Vocal: Viveka Saravanan, Orange County Art Institute

Fine art: Carolyn King, Orange County School of the Arts

Media Arts: Grace Lin, Arnold O. Beckman High School

They were profiled in a report published in the Orange County Register on Sunday, April 28. They will be honored in person at next month’s awards ceremony. Outstanding students also have the opportunity to showcase their talents.

The Artist of the Year Award, which is in its 11th year in response to the Orange County Register’s recognition of student-athletes who excel in varsity sports. It is open to middle school and high school students.

This program is co-sponsored by The Register and Chapman University. Artist of the Year benefits again this year with Chapman University’s School of Performing Arts committing $25,000 toward operating expenses.

Additional help comes from UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, which offers awards to top students.

The first decade of the Artist of the Year Awards has seen a steady increase in participation from nominated students as well as schools and arts organizations.

The pandemic has slowed this growth, but this year the number of nominations in all categories exceeded pre-COVID levels.

Overall, there are 892 nominations in 2024, up from 113 in the first year in 2013: 60 nominations in film and television; media arts, 85; vocal music, 98; dance, 101; instrumental music, 138; fine arts, and theater, 233.

Teachers from local high schools, private tutors and arts organizations—this year there were 272 teachers from 85 entities—nominated. The semi-finalists then had 15 minutes each to showcase their artistic talents and answer the jury’s questions tailored to each project.

Judges are college and high school teachers, working professionals, and leaders of Orange County arts organizations.

Each year, the months-long Artist of the Year selection process improves. In 2024, zoning will be introduced in addition to making it easier for teachers to nominate students.

Students are assigned to Group 1 or Group 2, depending on the number of years of training in each discipline. At least two sophomores will be selected as semifinalists and one student as a finalist in each subject.

Artist of the Year producer Heide Janssen explains the aim: “We want to see more students who are just starting out on their journey but who show potential as artists.”

Of the students who completed the application, 586 were in Category 1 and 102 were in Category 2, Jensen said.

Numbers tell more than just body growth.

Consider what an excited dancer told Jansen in the hallway as he waited to perform for the jury that would select the best artist from among the semifinalists.

She said when she started attending the Orange County School of the Arts in seventh grade, she saw a photo of the school’s Artist of the Year on the wall and made it one of her goals to become a contender.

“I think it’s great,” Jensen said, “because a lot of students over the years have said I never knew about this program before I was nominated.”

Jensen added that displaying the Artist of the Year photo means the school is celebrating the honor.

“So, that’s something students should strive for. That’s what you want. Now they know it and they’re looking forward to it.

Of the semifinalists, 13 repeated performances.

The judges who come back year after year to select Artist of the Year also expressed their anticipation.

They were impressed by the increase in the number of participants and the level of talent on display. “I can’t believe how many students there are this year,” said Judy Scialpi, a dance teacher at Northwood High School in Owen, who helped conceive and develop the Artist of the Year program and serves as a dance judge.

The public will have a chance to see firsthand what the judges will see during the awards ceremony at Chapman University Memorial Hall, 1 University Avenue in Orange, on May 8 at 5:30 p.m. There is no charge to attend.

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