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Local high school artists have ‘Stars in their Eyes’

By Manny Lopez

Friday night, Feb. 1, the Rotary Club of La Jolla will present it sixth annual “Stars in Our Eyes” program at La Jolla High School’s (LJHS’s) Parker Auditorium.

The event brings together some of the most gifted students from all four La Jolla High schools to showcase their artistic talents in a range of formats which include music, dance, drama and graphic arts.

Patricia Lynch, organizer of the event, points out that this is not a competition, but rather a partnership in promoting the area as an arts-centered community. She sees this as essential to the health of the arts. “It’s important to experience art as a community. La Jolla is a prime example of a community that has embraced the arts. We are loaded with young creative talent,” Lynch said.

Russell King, formerly the director of the Mandeville Center, has been working with “Stars” for the past three years. He said, “It’s a celebration of the talent we have here in La Jolla. The best part is the surprise of what happens on the night of the performance. Some students just go out and play their hearts out on stage. The performance level they go to is just amazing.”

Money raised from this event is invested directly into scholarships to assist qualified seniors in their pursuit of a college or university education. Over the past five years the fund has provided more than $2 million in scholarships. Lynch said, “Although we raise the money for students who go to one of the four La Jolla high schools, the event benefits all of San Diego since many students are bussed in from other neighborhoods.”

This year’s performances will include internationally recognized Eugene Ugorski, considered to be one of the top young violinists in the United States and jazz saxophonist Chloe Feoranzo, who has established herself as a much-sought-after young musician.

At just 17, Ugorski has performed with famous orchestras and conductors all over the world. He began learning the violin at the age of 5 and made his orchestral debut with the San Diego Symphony when he was only 8 years old. Currently on tour in Europe, Ugorski said, “performing in ‘Stars’ is very different than what I’m used to. This program has a certain warm atmosphere, which I think attracts so many performers and viewers.”

Only 15 years old, Chloe Feoranzo has already compiled quite a list of accomplishments. Her smooth tone and mature playing style have caught the attention of some of jazz’s top names. Chloe will be heading into the recording studio to record a CD of jazz standards later this month. “Come out and support the schools,” she said of the “Stars” fundraiser. “It’s an enjoyable program and everybody puts on a good show. It will be a really fun night out to see all of these talented kids perform.”

Ian Campbell, general director of San Diego Opera said, “I actually found the program quite astonishing. I had no idea there was that much talent in all these fields that could be pooled together. I would urge anyone to go and have a look. Be proud of what these people are doing and recognize that it’s in your own backyard. There is a real force in this region. San Diego is not just surf, sun and sand.”

The brainchild of Dick Woltman and Zeke Knight, both past presidents of the La Jolla Rotary Club, “Stars” was originally developed as a community project to provide a venue for high school students to demonstrate their unique talents publicly.

Woltman said, “It’s extremely rewarding to see the students supporting each other. It’s also impressive to see how hard the teachers work and how much they invest of themselves. The job they do is exemplary. The high point for my wife and I is to see the kids at their best.”

The students of LJHS have been preparing since the end of Christmas. They voluntarily show up at 6 a.m. to practice every day of the week. “It’s great to see everyone interacting. They get better every day, said Brenda Henderson, vocal music teacher at LJHS. “As the show approaches the energy level is increasing and the excitement level is rising. This event is the high point of the year.”

Past recipients of scholarships include Lily and Irys Kornbluth. Both sisters are graduates of The Bishop’s School and currently attend Stanford University. Lily is a talented harpist and pianist majoring in human biology. Irys is also a talented pianist and has been recognized for her strengths in graphic arts and tennis. The two sisters still come back and volunteer their time and efforts to make “Stars” a success.

“Being able to perform in ‘Stars’ was an incredible opportunity,” Lily said."I’m grateful that I had a chance to participate.”

For more information contact Patricia Lynch at www.rotarycluboflajolla.com, or call (858) 459-7773.