The Howard County Arts Council is pleased to announce Howard County’s signature arts event! The 24th annual Celebration of the Arts in Howard County, marking the Arts Council’s 40th year (1981-2021), will be held on Saturday, October 2, 2021 from 7:00-9:00pm at the Jim Rouse Theatre for Performing Arts in Columbia. Liz Bobo and Lloyd Knowles will act as honorary co-chairs for the Celebration. Joseph W. Ritsch, producing artistic director for Rep Stage, will serve as event emcee.

The Celebration is a multi-faceted event showcasing and promoting the arts and raising funds in support of the arts, artists, and arts organizations in Howard County. A highlight of the Celebration each year is the Rising Star Performing Arts Competition, in which emerging performing artists compete for a cash prize of $5,000. In June, individual performing artists and small ensembles — aged 18 to 35 years and currently or recently living, working, performing regularly, or receiving training in Howard County — auditioned before a panel of professionals in their discipline. Review criteria included artistic merit, demonstrated experience in the arts, and commitment to a career in the arts.

The selected Rising Star finalists, listed below, will perform at the Celebration before an audience of artists, arts patrons, business and political representatives, and community members who will select the winner by popular vote. The award will be presented on stage that evening!

Lizzi Albert, Theatre

Lizzi Albert is a Maryland-born actor, director, and teaching artist. She is a company member and former associate artistic director with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, where favorite roles include Lady Anne (Richard III), Celia (As You Like It), and Anne Boleyn (Anne of the Thousand Days). Directing work includes The Tempest at the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City and an all-female Macbeth at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Lizzi holds a BFA in Theatre from NYU/Stella Adler and an MA in Acting from the University of Essex/East 15.

MaryKate Brouillet, Musical Theatre

MaryKate Brouillet is an actor/singer in the Washington, DC area and has performed with Toby’s Dinner Theatre regularly for the past decade. She was born and raised in Howard County and as a lifelong student of Toby Orenstein has been heavily influenced by Toby’s love and passion for arts education. In addition to performing, MaryKate teaches after-school drama programs for Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA) and recently traveled to Thailand to do volunteer work.


Alyssa Cox, Classical Voice

Alyssa Cox, a soprano, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and post-graduate study at Indiana University. She has been seen as Ariadne in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, First Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and recently debuted as soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem with the FMMC Arioso Chorale, and as soprano soloist for Paul Mealor’s world premiere Silent Night with the National Cathedral Choral Society.

Amanda Cunningham, Singer-Songwriter

Amanda Cunningham grew up moving between rural Carroll County and urban Baltimore County, Maryland. Her childhood exposure to a diverse range of music resulted in a personal musical style she describes as “if Mariah Carey and The Chicks had a baby that grew up loving to over-share and sing.”  Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in History from McDaniel College. She currently divides her time between performing as a singer-songwriter in the Baltimore/Howard County area and creating her debut EP.

Teresa Deskur, Recorder

Teresa Deskur is a multi-instrumentalist and educator, pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance and Music Education with a minor in Historical Performance at Peabody Conservatory. With a strong belief that all children deserve a thoughtful and thorough education in music, Teresa worked virtually atLongfellow Elementary and Clarksville Elementary last year before beginning her fall semester student teaching at Centennial High School. Teresa is passionate about spreading awareness of the recorder’s often overlooked complexity and virtuosity.

Daisha Graf, Dance

Daisha hails from Howard County and started her career as a back-up dancer for some of the largest urban hip-hop, pop, and R&B acts, including Rihanna, Santigold, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Ariana Grande, and Beyonce. A dancer, singer, and actor, she appeared in VH1’s The Breaks; Step Up 2; Step up 3D; The High Note, starring Tracee Ellis Ross; and, most recently, Disney Plus’ Big Shot, starring John Stamos. Daisha is the co-founder of Daisha and Alicia Graf Arts Collective (aka D(n)A Arts), an initiative she co-created with her sister, Alicia Graf Mack, and is committed to enriching lives through the arts.

Eleanor Parks, Musical Theatre

Eleanor Parks moved to Maryland in 2012, immediately becoming an enthusiastic member of Howard County’s theatre community. With dreams of a career on Broadway, she has participated in over 20 local musicals with groups such as Theatre for Young Audiences at Marriotts Ridge High School, Drama Learning Center, and Columbia Center for the Theatrical Arts. A 2020 Arts Council scholarship recipient, she currently attends the University of Miami, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre and is a recipient of the President’s BFA Theatre Scholarship Award.

Madhulika C. Nallani, Dance

Madhulika C. Nallani is a Bharatanatyam dancer and a 16-year Howard County resident. In 2007, she began pursuing her dance education at the Jayamangala School of Dance in Laurel. Currently a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, Madhulika is now an experienced solo and ensemble performer, as well as a Bharatanatyam teacher at Jayamangala. Her goal is to share Bharatanatyam as an authentic form of expression that transcends regional and cultural boundaries, and she hopes to hone her skills with rigorous training from teachers in India and create meaningful work through dance.

Gabrielle Stanback, Violin

Gabrielle Stanback, a junior violin performance major at Towson University, has been playing violin since age five and studying in Ellicott City since 2015. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Music Center at Strathmore, and is the recipient of the 2020 Black Violin Foundation Music Innovation Award and 2019 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Performing Arts Award. Currently concertmaster and section leader of Towson University’s Chamber and Symphony Orchestra, Gabrielle aspires to be a professional chamber musician and professor of violin at the university level.

Tickets to the Celebration are $40 and may be purchased online at A virtual ticket option including a live-stream of the event is also available. For more information, visit or call 410.313.ARTS (2787). For photographs of the Rising Star finalists, email

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