NSAL Star Maker Awards spotlight rising performers, two ‘achievers’

The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum recently hosted the 2022 Star Maker Awards for the National Society of Arts & Letters (NSAL) of Florida, which raised more than $47,000 to support the Boca Raton-based nonprofit’s mission of supporting local emerging performing and visual artists. 

The event showcased an array of brilliant young musicians and visual artisans who were recipients of the organization’s scholarships or competition winners. 

From left, Arlene Herson, Dr. N’Quavah Velasquez and Mary Stern at 2022 Star Maker Awards. (Courtesy NSAL)

Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards to Broadway star Avery Sommers and piano virtuoso Lisa Leonard. 

“The theme of the evening, ‘Alive with the Sound of Music,’ was certainly befitting,” said Dr. Ron Rubin, event co-chair. “Our guests were truly transported by the rapturous performances of our scholarship and competition winners.”

This year’s performers included Eliza Willet, scholarship winner in the strings category, from Lynn Conservatory of Music; Yance Zhang, first place piano competition winner from Lynn Conservatory of Music; Marnel Jean, scholarship winner in brass from the New World School of the Arts; Katherine Riley, scholarship winner in woodwinds from Lynn Conservatory of Music and Emily Finke, voice scholarship winner from the Frost School of Music; Sergei Skobin, scholarship winner in piano from Lynn Conservatory of Music and Yherzon Chura Ruiz, scholarship winner in guitar from Florida Atlantic University. 

From left, Yasa Poletaeva, Lifetime Achievement Award winner Lisa Leonard and Darren Mathias at 2022 Star Maker Awards. (Courtesy NSAL)

Other students who are awaiting national competition results were also in attendance, including visual artists Jennifer Turner from Dillard High School and Caroline Josephine Crawford, from the University of Florida. Their dramatic paintings were on display and drew much praise.

The Lifetime Achievement Award presentations this year were double honors because the Star Makers event last year was postponed due to COVID-19.  

From left, Sung Knowles, Kendra Erika and Kim Champion at 2022 Star Maker Awards. (Courtesy NSAL)

“Both Avery Sommers and Lisa Leonard are icons in their respective disciplines,” said event co-chair Shari Upbin. “NSAL was honored to be able to recognize their immeasurable contributions to the arts during this event.”

Lisa Leonard is an acclaimed piano soloist, chamber musician and educator, who is currently the head of the Graduate Instrumental Collaborative Piano Program at Lynn University. Avery Sommers has starred on Broadway in critically acclaimed musicals including Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Showboat. She also has an extensive following of jazz and blues fans who flock to her shows and performances in New York City cabarets.

Marilynn Wick, owner and managing executive producer at the Wick Theatre, speaks at 2022 Star Maker Awards. (Courtesy NSAL)

“NSAL of Florida could not fulfill its mission of supporting emerging visual and performing artists without the generous support of its donors,” said Judi Asselta, president. “We are grateful to all who have helped our students ascend to the next level of success.” 

The locally based society aims to discover talented young people at the beginning of their careers and provide scholarships and competitions in art, dance, drama, literature, music and musical theatre. It also works to advance their careers and creative opportunities. 

Attending the 2022 Star Maker Awards are, from left, Marc Reese, Carina Inove, Lifetime Achievement Award winner Lisa Leonard and Roberto Henriquez. (Courtesy NSAL)

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