CINCINNATI – Some of Ohio’s most talented high school artists and performers are competing for scholarships and recognition in the final round of the 27th annual Overture Awards in Cincinnati.
What You Need To Know
- More than 600 students from 69 schools competed this year
- Students compete in dance, creative writing, visual art, theater, instrumental music and vocal music
- Winners in each discipline receive $3,000 while all finalists take home $1,000
Four finalists competed in each of six disciplines: dance, creative writing, visual art, instrumental music, vocal music and theater.
“Students wait for this all year long,” said Van Ackerman, vice-president of marketing for the Cincinnati Arts Association, the nonprofit that organizes and presents the awards at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. “It’s a great feeder into their futures, into their scholarships and they work the entire year to hone their craft to come here and do the best they can.”
Ackerman has been a big part of the awards for more than two decades and he’s particularly impressed with this year’s entrants.
“We have a wonderful diversity this year and they’re better than ever,” he said.
This year, nearly 700 students entered from 68 schools in southern Ohio and parts of Kentucky and Indiana. Ackerman says competitions like this are more important than ever, as schools continue to tighten budgets and cut arts programs.
“The funding for arts in schools is waning so I’m so glad we have programs like this to nurture all the great young talent in the region,” Ackerman said.
In the past, students had to be nominated by their teachers, but this year, organizers allowed teenagers to enter on their own.
“One of our goals is to continue to diversify the talent we see and to allow our students to self-nominate was a way to do that,” Ackerman said.
The Overture Awards are also one of the few competitions that feature singers and dancers in many genres, said Sela Foster, a homeschooled student who was a finalist in the vocal music competition.
“The Overture Awards has been really great,” Foster said. “There aren’t many competitions that let both classical and jazz come in so I’ve been really grateful for everything they’ve done.”
Singers, dancers and actors aren’t the only ones who take the stage during the finals. Creative writing and visual arts students speak about their work in front of the audience.
“This is a pretty high honor for all of the prospective arts students in the region,” said Edward Li, a junior at Seven Hills school who was a finalist in creative writing.
“I would encourage anyone passionate in their field of arts to apply because I’ve seen a lot of stuff today that’s really cool.”
While Edward and Sela didn’t win their disciplines, every finalist gets a $1,000 scholarship and winners walk away with $3,000. Since the competition began, about $820,000 has been awarded.
Organizers say that while the money is nice, students are gaining something more.
“Beyond the winning is being around other students who are doing the same thing they are,” Acerman said. “The bonding and the camaraderie that comes from that is equally important.”
“It’s such a massive diversity,” Li said. “It just makes you go, ‘Wow!’”