Giving it all for their art

Jackie Conley

Scattered around the Hilton Burbank Airport and Convention Center on

Tuesday morning, vocal competitors and aspiring actors patiently sat

waiting for their turn to represent their country and impress the

judges in the second day of the competition at the World

Championships of Performing Arts.

"The primary thing to do is to develop competitive material," said

CSM Words and Music producer Shele Sondheim, a judge for the

competition. "The highest high is to come prepared and be really on

top of your game."

Sondheim said he hopes this competition will spark international

interest in the arts and encourage people to embrace performers like

they do the athletes in the Olympics.

"Music and art is an international language," Sondheim said.

Ilhama Gulkiyeva has participated in more than 200 competitions

internationally and is a popular singer in her native Azerbaijan,

located between Iran and Russia. But for her, the World Championships

of Performing Arts could bring a significant change in the way the

arts are perceived in her country.

"My president said if we do well here, he will have big prizes

waiting for us when we return," she said.

Gulkiyeva said the president of her country encourages the

performing arts, and she hopes this will reflect a positive change in

the way artists are viewed around the world.

"It seems like everything is done for athletes and not enough for

performers," said Griff O'Neil, founder and director of the World

Championships of Performing Arts.

Gospel rap artist Emmanuel Edili, of Nigeria, said out of all the

competitions he's been in, this one is important because it's global.

"It helps you to appreciate different artistic styles," he said.

Edili, 29, said the hardest thing for him in competition is the

few moments before going on stage.

"Because it's in that moment there that you make a decision

whether or not you're going to go out there and get through it," he

said. "But you realize this is the opportunity to show them what

you're made of."

Singer Andrey Hovnanyan knows all about these types of

opportunities. At 25, he said he has already performed in several

international competitions in Germany, Japan and Belgium, and has

performed in front of crowds of 8,000 people.

This is the first time the Armenian singer will compete in the

World Championships, and he said he hopes to break into the American


"There's something special about America," Hovnanyan said. "It has

a strong influence around the world."

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