Press Release re 2021 Scholarship Winners

Performing Arts Scholarships Awarded

Elgin, IL, May 12, 2021 – The Dennis Taylor Scholarship Foundation for the Performing Arts proudly announces the recipients of its scholarship awards for the 2021-22 school year. These scholarships benefit post-secondary students from Chicago’s western suburbs who have demonstrated a passion for performance and declared a major in the performing arts. This year’s winners include Danika Dortch from Lindenhurst, Chloe LaBine of Mokena, Olivia Lesniewski from South Elgin and Ava Rittgers of Yorkville.


Danika Dortch is graduating from Lakes Community High School. She will pursue a double major in French Horn Performance and Journalism at Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York. She has played with the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, Wind Quintet and Brass Quintet. Danika was a member of the Lakes Community High School Brass Ensemble and Wind Ensemble and the District 7 Honors Band and Orchestra. She also gives lessons to elementary students. Her dream is to play with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Chloe LaBine is graduating from Providence Catholic High School where she appears on the high honor roll. She will major in Musical Theatre at Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the fall. Chloe participated in the ArtsBridge Summer Musical Theater and Refresh NYC programs as well as the Broadway Evolved Student Summer Intensive, Disney Performing Arts Workshop and Sierra Boggess Master Class. She has taken private lessons in voice, acting, dance and piano. Chloe was inducted into the Tri-M Music Honor Society and the International Thespian Society and was a Broadway in Chicago IHSMTA 2021 Best Actress Nominee. She credits a chance meeting with Christopher Jackson before a performance of Hamilton in NYC in 2015 with her realization that a career in the theatre is feasible and attainable.

Olivia Lesniewski is graduating from South Elgin High School where she participated in plays and musicals throughout her high school career: She Kills Monsters, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Sweet Charity, Little Shop of Horrors, Matilda and Shrek the Musical in which she played Fiona, the female lead. Olivia also performed in Madrigal Dinners and sang in the Chamber, Concert and Treble Choirs. Theatre director Jessica Smith advised that Olivia is a student leader who richly deserved the Above and Beyond Award. Olivia also appeared in the U-46 summer musical Hairspray and sings a cappella with the Storm Sistaz. In the fall she will study Music Education at Northern Illinois University.

Ava Rittgers will graduate from Yorkville High School. In the fall she will major in Music at the University of Missouri and participate in its marching band program. Ava plays clarinet, saxophone and piano. During her high school career, she was active in marching band, pep band, wind ensemble, clarinet choir, pit orchestras, jazz ensemble, jazz band, wind symphony and served as drum major for two years. She also played with the Elgin Youth Philharmonia Orchestra, Southwest Prairie Concert Honors Band, Community Band, and the NIB Big 12 Honors Band. Ava believes that music is essential to school curriculum and all students should have the opportunity to participate. She hopes to teach at the middle school level and build her own program as band director. She is keenly interested in the traditional music of other cultures and wishes to play in or conduct a symphony orchestra.

The Dennis Taylor Scholarship Foundation for the Performing Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2018. Dennis Taylor, an Elgin resident for more than 20 year, served as a dancer, choreographer, costumer, makeup artist, set dresser and wig designer for dozens of suburban theaters for more than 50 years. Donations to the Scholarship Foundation in his memory can be made on its Facebook page or on our website.

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