Giving Voice to a Dream


Gasping and squealing as she recounted her triumph in a prestigious performing arts scholarship competition for high school students, 18-year-old Laurie Rubin was no less thrilled the next afternoon than she had been Tuesday night at the ninth annual Music Center Spotlight Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

With a smile that rarely left her face, the singer, who is blind, remembered how she felt when she heard her opponent’s name called as the runner-up in their classical voice category, realizing then that she’d won.

“I really wasn’t expecting to win,” Encino resident Rubin said Wednesday. “Jeffrey [Kim] has a beautiful voice.”


After three years of participating in the Spotlight competition, the senior at Oakwood School in North Hollywood finally won $5,000, what she called “the whole enchilada,” in her final attempt--a grand finale to her high school years and a fine beginning to a promising career.

“She has a beautiful voice,” said Marvellee Cariaga, a vocal teacher and a longtime Spotlight judge. “What I felt were these incredible heartfelt emotions.

“She is able to completely take self away and add to the piece a beautiful soul. She showed emotions with her music and with the tone of her voice. And this is very rare, at any age, with any performer.”

Sponsored since 1988 by the Music Center, the Spotlight Awards are designed to encourage high school students who excel in the performing and visual arts.

The competition, which is open to all Southern California students, requires several auditions and weeks of classes with performing professionals. It culminates in a grand concert before judges for the 12 finalists, two in each of six categories.

“It was pandemonium backstage,” Rubin said of the final round of competition Tuesday night in which she was the only Valley resident competing. “We were giddy and laughing. It was so fabulous. I thought to myself ‘I really am with the best people I’ve ever been with.’


“I had the feeling that I didn’t care what happens [in the competition], these people are so beautiful.”

She said that although a friend had told her she would feel at home when she stepped on stage, she was still surprised to find she wasn’t nervous before her performance.

Next year, the soprano will attend Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in Ohio to prepare for a career as a recitalist. Because of her blindness, she says she’s not sure she can fulfill her dream of being an opera singer.

But Rich Brunner, director of choral activities at Oakwood, said she should not limit herself in any way. What she needs, he said, is someone to teach her how to move on stage and have more confidence in her body, more freedom.

“She’s going to learn that,” he said confidently. “She’s going to see those possibilities in college.”