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What do we look for when we choose an Artist of the Year?

The program is called ARTIST OF THE YEAR -- not Singer of the Year, or Musician of the Year, or Painter of the Year -- but Artist of the Year. Students nominated for Artist of the Year represent the top high school ARTISTS in Orange County.

Talent is a part of being an artist, but talent is not the only thing


Along with TALENT, we are looking to learn about an artist's VISION, PURPOSE, and HEART.  It is a combination of all of these attributes that judges look for when selecting the ARTIST OF THE YEAR.



  • The artist demonstrates talent.

  • The artist has talent that has been developed through training which translates into strong technique.

  • The artist has shown complexity in her/his/their technique.

  • The artist has aptitude in a variety of styles and abilities.



  • The artist has a unique vision and voice that is expressed through her/his/their art form.

  • The artist has a strong sense of imagination and creative expression in her/his/their art form.

  • The artist is exploring ideas through her/his their art form.

  • The artist demonstrates an understanding of the intellectual content in her/his/their work created.



  • The artist creates with a broader sense of purpose, seeking to express inner thoughts beyond the basic utility of her/his/their work.

  • The artist has demonstrated growth in her/his/their art form and has an understanding of her/his/their personal artistic growth.

  • The artist's work seeks to impact others through her/his/their work.

  • The artist has a sense what she/he/they want to explore and contribute to the world via her/his/their art form.


the intangibles

  • There is something undefinable about this artist that makes you root for her/him/them.

  • The artist is passionate about her/his/their art form.

  • The artist has eloquence/insight when speaking about her/his/their art form.

How It Works



TEACHERS nominate their top students in seven areas: Theater, Dance, Instrumental Music, Vocal Musc, Film and TV, Media Arts, & Fine Arts.

STUDENTS complete a nomination application.



High school teachers evaluate the applications and choose semifinalists.


Approx. 16 students from each discipline are chosen as semifinalists from the Round 1 judging.



A panel of pro artists, college arts faculty, and high school arts teachers evaluate semifinalists after in-person interviews.


Round 2 judges select  finalists for each discipline.


One Artist of the Year will be named in each discipline



After all applications from nominees have been received, they are passed on to judges for review online.

Who are the JUDGES?

  • All high school arts teachers in Orange County are invited to evaluate the applications from nominees in Round 1. Any teacher, whether they have nominated or not, may be a part of the evaluation process.

  • They are sent links to review the materials submitted in the student applications including all written statements, resumes, and links to student performances / portfolios and they are asked to review all of the student's material.  

  • Typically, 15 to 20 teachers volunteer to review and rank the applications.

  • Teachers do NOT review and rank their own students.

  • All evaluators are invited to join a Zoom meeting to discuss the nominees and choose the semifinalists. Typically, 5 to 10 teachers have the time to join us for this conversation. 

How does the RANKING work?

  • ​The judges receive the following instructions:

:: Please rank each student on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being "definitely an Artist of the Year." 

:: Each student should be considered on her/his/their own merit.

:: When the panel meets, we use a student's average rank as a starting point for the discussion, so the more nuanced you are with your rank, the truer the scores will be. 

:: Judges do NOT rank any student they nominated and/or have taught.

  • We ask judges to take into consideration all of the attributes of an artist as outlined in the JUDGING CRITERIA section above when ranking. 

  • In this first round, due to the volume of applications being reviewed, most teachers base their rankings off of the video/portofolio.

  • A student's high school is not listed with the students' applications that are shared with the judges.  However, if a student mentions her/his/their school in their video, portfolio, statements, or resume, we are unable to omit that information.

How are semifinalists CHOSEN?

  • The 5 to 10 teachers who are available to attend the Zoom meeting are given a list of students, sorted by their average ranking.

  • Again, the rankings are used as a STARTING POINT for a conversation about the nominees. (Due the the volume of nominations we cannot discuss them all; the rankings help us identify the top tier.)

  • We start the discussioon by looking at the students who have an average rank of 3.5 and above (usually about 30 students per discipline.) Any teacher present may request to review any student on the list, regardless of their ranking. 

  • We whittle the list down to a max of 16 nominees.  Usually the top 10 are obvious choices. To round out the group, we take a deeper look at ALL of the materials submitted and we use our time together to discuss the merits of each nominee under consideration. 



The semifinalists are invited to perform/present their work during an in-person interview at the end of March.

Who are the JUDGES?

  • The judges for this panel include:

:: arts faculty from local colleges and universities

:: arts leaders from Southern California arts organizations

:: professional artists

:: high school arts teachers

  • See the list of PAST JUDGES to see who has participated in previous years.

  • Any high school teacher invited to be on this panel cannot have a student who was named a semifinalist in the current year.

  • All judges receive the students’ application materials in advance of the panel.  The judges review the students’ original submissions before we meet with them.

How does the INTERVIEW work?


​Every semifinalist is invited to present their art form in person to the judging panel. We email the semifinalists with specifics of what is required based on their discipline/specialty. 

  • They are given 5 minutes to perform and/or present their art. (10 minutes for Film and TV.)

  • The remaining 10 minutes are used to have a conversation with the student. We use their written statements to help guide this coversation. Questions are not the same for every student but are tailored for each student based on their background, the statements they originally submitted, and the direction the student leads us during the conversation.

  • As always, we ask judges to take into consideration all of the attributes of an artist as outlined in the JUDGING CRITERIA section above when ranking. Again, talent is only one piece of that puzzle.​

  • We aren't looking for perfect perfomances, perfect portfolios, or perfect answers. We are looking for students who are able to share their authentic selves. We use the conversation to learn about why these artists create and what their creative impusles are. In other words, what makes this student an ARTIST beyond being just a singer / painter / actor / musician / filmmaker / dancer / etc.

How are finalists and

Artists of the Year CHOSEN?

  • After all of the interviews are complete, the judges stay to discuss the semifinalists.

  • We take in ALL of the information at our disposal include the original applications and performance/portfolio links as well as the performances/presentations and interviews from the day.

  • Through the discussion, we discuss the merits of each student and we choose the finalists.  

  • We also choose the Artist of the Year.  The Artist of the Year is not one of the finalists but is an additional student.

  • Again, the Artist of the Year is not simply the most "talented," but is someone who has revealed their vision, purpose, and heart throughout all stages of the process.

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