5 SCV students bring home YoungArts honors

Celine Chen, 15, at the piano in her home in Santa Clartia. Dan Watson/The Signal

Five Santa Clarita Valley high school students receive the prestigious YoungArts award for excellence in performing arts for their artistic achievement.  

YoungArts winners are selected from ages 15 to 18, or 10th to 12th grade. Selection is made by a panel of prestigious artists specific to their judging field. Additionally, judging is conducted by a blind adjudication process. 

YoungArts was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to identify accomplished young artists in visual, literary and performing arts. The program helps develop the young artists with membership to exclusive organizations, professional development and networking opportunities. 

Kevin Cho, a student from West Ranch High School, received an award in piano performance. Celine Chen, also from West Ranch, won an award in classical piano.  

“It’s an honor to win such an award,” Chen said.  

Chen submitted four digital video recordings of her piano performances. She recorded Johann Sebastian Bach’s prelude and fugue, a classical sonata, a romantic piece, and a contemporary piece from the 1950s. 

The performances added up to 20 minutes, and Chen credits the program allowing her to explore different genres and showcase different styles not often performed. 

“As a YoungArts winner, I am given access to creative and professional development opportunities throughout my career, whether that be from the YoungArts community of distinguished artists, mentorship opportunities, or national recognition,” Chen said. “I’m thrilled to be included alongside these other exceptional artists and can’t wait for all of the opportunities ahead.” 

Emma Reed, who attends Canyon High School, won awards in theater and pop vocal performance. Francine Mae Peji, who attends Valencia High School, won for tap dance. 

Additionally, Canyon Country resident Andrew Bond, a student at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, won an award in theater.  

Bond said he was motivated by his school to participate in the competition and felt the process was exciting because of the encouragement he received to participate. Additionally, he has competed in other performing arts competitions and was a semifinalist last year.  

“I was so incredibly grateful and excited to win the award,” Bond said. “I know YoungArts is a very competitive process with so many unbelievably talented kids, so to be chosen as one of the few to receive a merit award, out of so many outstanding actors, was truly an honor.” 

For Bond, the award symbolizes his growth, dedication and talent in performing arts.  

“It proved to me that I can learn to adjust — learning to film self-tapes from my home — and make an impact with the things I love to do,” Bond said. 

YoungArts Executive Director Jewel Malone is proud of the young artists who are at the beginning of their creative journey and looks forward to the organization becoming a resource as the artists develop further in their art. 

“We are thrilled to announce this year’s YoungArts award winners — an extraordinary group of promising, accomplished young artists — and congratulate each of them on this exciting milestone in their artistic careers,” Malone said in a prepared statement. “YoungArts empowers artists to pursue a life in the arts beginning at the critical time when many are faced with decisions about life after high school.“ 

In addition to the recognition, winners will receive support for fellowships, residencies, awards, grants and financial awards. In addition, presentations are given by industry leaders and the winners have access to a private online platform for artists to collaborate and discover new artistic opportunities. 

Additionally, finalists will be eligible to be nominated to become U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, one of the highest honors given to high school seniors, bestowed by the president of the United States.  

Past YoungArts award winners artists include Daniel Arsham, Terence Blanchard, Camille Brown, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis, Amanda Gorman, Judith Hill, Jennifer Koh, Tarell McCraney, Andrew Rannells, Desmond Richardson and Hunter Schafer. 

SCV YoungArts Winners  

Kevin Cho | Piano 

West Ranch High School 

Emma Reed | Theater 

Canyon High School 

Emma Reed | Popular (Pop) Voice 

Canyon High School 

Celine Chen | Piano Classical 

West Ranch High School 

Francine Mae Peji | Tap Dance 

Valencia High School 

Andrew Bond | Theater 

Los Angeles County High School for the Arts 

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