Emma Gonzalez Selected Among Thousands as National YoungArts Finalist


Emma Gonzalez has been committed to singing jazz for years, but it all paid off this January. As YoungArts proclaims on its website, the “National YoungArts Foundation identifies the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary and performing arts, and provides them with creative and professional development opportunities throughout their careers.” This year, Emma Gonzalez was one of three jazz vocalists selected from over 8,000 YoungArts auditionees to participate in National YoungArts Week.

“It’s a great reward for hard work,” Emma says. “It was just an amazing experience to be with people who care so deeply for something I care so much about.” The daily schedule for jazz vocalists is crammed from breakfast until late at night with masterclasses, workshops, and performances, but according to Emma, being there with other teenagers between the ages of 15-18 who shared her love of jazz made it something more than a chance to hone her craft.  “Not a lot of people are very interested in jazz these days, and having other people to connect with and other people to hype you up, it’s really something special,” she says.

Emma wasn’t only there with the other two Jazz Voice finalists, but also with the finalists from the other YoungArts-recognized creative disciplines, including Theatre and Dance. “I met a lot of dancers, I met a lot of actors, and every single night we would go to a different performance. Voice was first, and then next was acting, and dance, so everyone would see each other’s performances every night. We would have a big party afterwards back at the hotel, congratulate everyone, get to talk to people who performed.” Other disciplines recognized by the YoungArts Foundation include Writing, Designs Arts, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts.

For jazz vocalists, YoungArts week revolves around a performance on Monday night (with an audience of YoungArts Finalists from other disciplines) and an audition on Thursday that pits the three vocalists in competition with one another for up to $10,000 in prize money. The money, according to Emma, is just a small sliver of what YoungArts offers its recipients. “We haven’t gotten any word about how much money we got yet, but honestly, just being there was the amazing part of it,” she explains.

To Emma, it all boils down to the friends she made and the guidance she received from masters in her craft. “The best part was the people,” she recalls. “Looking back, it’s like I’ve known them my entire life.”