(Orem, Utah) - Those who have made significant contributions to the arts in a variety of categories will be recognized for their achievements in enriching the communities and citizens of Utah at the 11th Annual Star Awards held Friday, March 11, 2016 at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.

Entertainer, impressionist, motivational speaker and funny man Jason Hewlett will receive the night's biggest award -- The 2016 Star Award. Sundance Mountain Resort will receive the Lifetime Achievement honor. Awards will also be given to Barta Heiner for theatre, Eric Dowdle for visual arts, Corey Fox of Velour Live Music Gallery for music, Alan Salazar for dance, Barbara Barrington Jones as Friend of the Arts, Utah COPA (Conservatory of Performing Arts) as Advocate of the Arts, and the Utah Valley Handbell Choir for volunteerism.

"We recognize that the scope of talent and commitment to the arts in Utah is tremendous, and the Star Awards are a way of calling attention to their achievements and applaud their talent and dedication," says Adam J. Robertson, SCERA President & CEO. "The challenge of the nominating committee is in choosing from an amazing array of people, which is the kind of challenge every arts organization should have."

Composer, Arranger and Performer Kurt Bestor will host the awards, and also present a special musical number. The awards are interspersed with live entertainment, and will follow an elegant dinner by the UVU Culinary Arts and a silent and live auction. 100% of the proceeds from the evening will support SCERA's non-profit charitable Endowment for the Arts.

Each honoree will be given a plaque and make a short acceptance speech. A video tribute for each will be shown at the award ceremony, featuring friends, family and associates speaking on the attributes of each honoree and their contributions to the arts.

The general public is invited to attend the Gala and Star Awards, and the following options are available: 1) Dinner, silent and live auctions, and VIP seating for awards and entertainment is $95/person or a table of ten for $950 2) Awards and entertainment only for $10. Reservations are required, and may be made by calling SCERA at (801) 225-ARTS or online at www.scera.org.

Bios on each award recipient follow:

People often ask, "When was your first show?" Jason responds, "3rd Grade." It was his reward for having been quiet the whole day. As he began impersonating Pee Wee Herman, as well as the teachers throughout the school, Jason's classmates and teachers laughed until they cried, and he knew he wanted to entertain people from the start.

In the year 2000, Jason was officially "discovered" by NCAA Basketball Coach of the Year, and former BYU Basketball Coach, Tony Ingle, who suggested Jason work on his talents and introduced him to Chris Poulos, former manager of the successful folk singing group, The 3D's. Chris helped Jason hone his impressions into a show and Jason began working throughout Utah. It wasn't long before Jason's father, John Hewlett, facilitated the contact to land an audition for the Godfather of Impersonators, Johnny Stuart, founder of the world famous Las Vegas "Legends In Concert."

Jason began work for "Legends In Concert" in 2001, one week after marrying his beautiful bride, Tami, where he performed on stage impersonating Ricky Martin and Elton John for the touring show. In 2002 Jason began focusing on his one-man show for Corporate America, catering to the family-friendly entertainment need with his combination of parodies and silly, bizarre, spot-on music impressions.

He is the multi-year winner of Utah's prestigious "Best of State in Entertainment Award," has performed in every major casino in Las Vegas, and has headlined theaters, amphitheaters, and cruise ships throughout the world. Having performed for over 2,000 events and more than one million audience members, Jason's show and speaking is requested time and again by his loyal clientele.

He is the author of "Signature Moves: How To Stand Out in a Sit Down World," and his album of original music, "Good To Me," can be found on iTunes, while families worldwide enjoy his more than 100 YouTube videos and DVD's "Live in Las Vegas" and "Father Time."

Jason is a member of the National Speaker's Association, and was awarded the Certified Speaking Professional in 2014, of which only 5% of speakers receive, for his hilarious, entertaining and inspiring keynote speaking. He also acts as Master of Ceremonies for the most important events in America.

Jason has presented to over 250,000 youth in the past decade and changed many young lives in the process. In 2016 he was awarded the "The Outstanding Eagle Award" by the Boy Scouts of America. Jason's proudest accomplishment can be found within the walls of his home, with his wife and children, and his family's shared faith in God. Jason's goal is to fill the world with joy, humor, music, inspiration and entertainment the whole family can enjoy together.

In 1969, Robert Redford bought the land now known as Sundance and envisioned the careful growth of a community committed to the balance of art, nature and culture. Redford wanted "to develop a little and to preserve a great deal." Rejecting advice from New York investors to fill the canyon with an explosion of lucrative hotels and condominiums, Redford saw his newly acquired land as an ideal locale for environmental conservation and artistic experimentation.

Today, visitors can find an abundance of unique programming events and activities to suit their artistic and creative desires during all four seasons. A favorite tradition since 1972 is the Summer Theatre that takes place each year in the scenic outdoor amphitheater; it has previously featured many favorites such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof.

Storytelling is a unique mission at Sundance. The Sundance Mountain Resort Author Series, now in its 14th year, strives to highlight authors whose books convey a meaningful message or tell a story that impacts the lives of others. Through the years the Resort has featured notable authors, Resort has featured notable authors including Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Eric Schlosser, Susan Cain, Kathryn Stockett and Jane Hawking.

Inspirational music is another way stories are told at Sundance. The Bluebird Cafe Concert Series features Nashville's renowned singers, songwriters and musicians. The original Bluebird Cafe is located in Nashville and is credited with starting the careers of virtually every major artist in the country music business today. Guests are captivated by the musicians as they present background stories and moving performances of many songs they love. The Utah Symphony also performs a concert each summer. These sell-out shows prove to be favored yearly traditions of locals and travelers alike.

Each day the Sundance Art Studio guests can unleash their creative potential by enjoying various art classes. Pottery, painting, photography and jewelry making are just to name a few of the two-hour courses offered several times per day. All classes are tailored to each individual's ability and skill level, with expert instruction and materials.

Sundance Mountain Resort offers many more opportunities for fostering meaningful experiences, and we hope that all who are seeking a welcoming atmosphere will come enjoy it for themselves.

"This place in the mountains, amid nature's casualness toward death and birth, is the perfect host for the inspiration of ideas: harsh at times, life threatening in its winters of destruction, but tender in attention to the details of every petal of every wildflower resurrected in the spring. Nature and creativity obey the same laws, to the same end: life."
- Robert Redford

Barta's theatrical interests began at an early age when her mother used to have her memorize poems. From there, she found herself on stage in several LDS road shows, and she remembers being a green moon man in one entitled "Ponce de Leon Finds the Fountain of Youth on the Moon." She was good with accents, and in high school her friends encouraged the shy Barta to audition for the part of a Swedish nurse - she landed the role and began drama classes at Ben Lomond High in Ogden, going on to win Best Actress at the Utah State Drama Competition.

Mention superior acting at Brigham Young University and the odds are excellent that the name at the top of the list is Barta Heiner, who has headed the acting program for the College of Fine Arts and Communications since it began in 1993.

Mention superior teaching at Brigham Young University and the name Barta Heiner again has a dominant position. She has received the prestigious Karl G. Maeser Award for teaching and is considered an exceptional mentor with impeccable acting, coaching and consulting instincts. She has helped shape the bachelor of fine arts major into a nationally-recognized program whose students are regularly selected to appear in theater and film productions locally, regionally and nationally.

After receiving a bachelor's degree from BYU, Barta earned a master's degree in acting from the prestigious American Conservatory Theatre before pursuing a professional acting career with the Denver Centre Theatre while also teaching and directing for the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver.

She has said she felt inspired to return to her alma mater to share her talents with and to collaborate with students as a member of the theater faculty. But also, she says Dr. Charles Whitman threatened to break both of her legs if she didn't! Barta is a prolific actor and director, appearing in more than 100 roles and directing more than 40 productions, as well as a respected teacher with a bit of a Pied Piper quality as students flocked to her classes.

"Whenever I reviewed a play and saw that Barta Heiner was in the cast, I was thrilled, because I knew that any production that featured Barta would be top-quality," says Charlene Winters, who reviewed theatrical productions in Utah Valley for nearly a decade. "Barta transforms herself fully into the characters she portrays."

Heiner's favorite leading roles include "Lettice and Lovage," "King Lear," "Sweeney Todd," "Souvenir," "The Fourth Witness" and "Diantha's Crossing" (a film project inspired by her great, great aunt, Mormon pioneer Diantha Farr Clayton which aired on BYU Television). Wider audiences have been able to see her in the recent box office hits "The Cokeville Miracle" and "Once I Was a Beehive." Recent directing credits include Pride and Prejudice and Misalliance for BYU and Mary, Mary for Provo's Covey Center for the Arts. Barta also served as an acting and dialogue coach and consultant on films: The Testaments Of One Fold and One Shepherd and Emma Smith, My Story.

Eric Fielding, who also received a Star Award for his contributions to lighting and set design, has known Barta for more than 40 years, and says her gifts have always been evident. They participated in the first BYU High School theater workshop several decades ago. "She was wonderful," Eric says. "And she just got better. She is a terrific actress, even the premiere LDS actress of her generation. She is probably the best acting teacher and coach that BYU has ever had."

God - Family - Country: those are the three words often paired with folk artist Eric Dowdle. His whimsical and patriotic art create the nostalgic and cheery emotions of what makes our vast world intimate and extraordinary. Rich rural landscapes dotted with homes and farms, cityscapes featuring favorite customs and foods, playful nods to families and the traditions that keep them together. These are some of the textures you will find in the fabric called Dowdle Art. Fluffy "Dowdle Clouds" or sculpted "Dowdle Mountains" are signature icons that can be found in most pieces Eric paints. Great adventure can be found as each piece of art is explored in detail. Whether you place a framed piece of art in your home or assemble a puzzle for a family activity, it evokes the same wistful feeling that turns our hearts back to the values that have made our cultures and civilizations unique.

Eric has been creating art for over twenty years. He started painting in his early twenties, parting ways with college after one year, to "go make something happen." Making things happen is how Eric does things; painting, exploring, and working day and night to expand the business and his collection of over 250 paintings. Today, his work is distributed throughout the world. His research has taken him everywhere, from Kenya and China to the South Pacific and Europe. And yet, his favorite destination is still home in Utah.

Eric's upbringing started in rural Idaho on his family's farm. He is the tenth of twelve children-ten of which are sturdy boys. Many of the stories of his youth are reflected in his art-a chicken stuffed in a mailbox, a young boy surprising his mom with flowers from the neighbor's yard, children bravely walking a fence line, or Boy Scouts playing pranks on each other.

The Dowdle family moved from Idaho to Wyoming when he was ten years old. After his graduation, Eric's family moved to Massachusetts. It was here that he found a deep love for folk art. These early travels planted in Eric a love of culture and adventure. In 2010, Eric was commissioned to do a painting of his hometown. He was subsequently inducted into the Green River, Wyoming, Hall of Fame and presented the key to the city by the Mayor.

Today, most of Eric's art pieces have been manufactured into puzzles. In 2010, Eric sold his first millionth puzzle. One year later, he sold his second millionth puzzle. His puzzles are now distributed by the biggest name warehouse stores as well has hundreds of department stores and gift shops.

Being an artist is not only a job to Eric. Through his art and charitable ventures, he demonstrates daily his values, with great focus on his love of God, family and country.

For 25 years, Corey Fox has been a prominent figure in the local music and arts community. His journey began as a music fan in the early 90s and quickly escalated to experiences as a band manager, event promoter, venue manager, venue owner and art director. In terms of creating and cultivating Provo's nationally-recognized local music and arts scene, few, if any, have been as active and integral as Fox.

From 1996 to 2005, Fox managed three different local music venues in downtown Provo. In 2005, Fox decided that to properly realize his vision for an ideal music venue, he would need to both own and manage the operation. In January 2006, Fox opened Velour Live Music Gallery, a venue that immediately became a Mecca for local musicians and music lovers.

In its ten years of existence, Velour has been a popular stop for national touring artists, many of whom have named the venue one of their favorite destinations. Velour has always had a noticeable and iconic visual aesthetic, a natural extension of its owner's deliberate and unmistakable sense of style. That same eye for detail and style has also served Fox well in his role as art director on multiple projects, including music videos for Imagine Dragons and Joshua James and on the BYUtv series Audio-Files.

In addition to providing a great place to play, Velour essentially functions as a music school, record label and PR company for local artists. It's a structured environment where expectations and accountability are standard. As an all-ages venue, Velour's weekly open-mic nights and bi-annual Battle of the Bands have been launch pads for hundreds of budding artists. Fox has always had an eye for talent and has long had a focus on mentoring and developing new artists. Some of those budding artists, such as Neon Trees and Imagine Dragons, graduate from open-mic nights to sold-out local shows, national tours and Grammy awards. Other bands like The Moth & The Flame, Fictionist and Joshua James have also made the leap from Velour's relatively modest stage to large venues across the nation and even overseas. The success of Velour bands has also directly translated into the success of Provo's Rooftop Concert Series, which draws 8-10,000 people monthly throughout the summer with exclusively local lineups.

For Velour's 10th anniversary celebration, musicians and fans alike gathered to enjoy shows that spanned eight weeks and featured past and present bands that hold prominence in the venue's history. Several acts reunited members from around the country to pay homage to a place and a person that has had a significant impact on their musical and personal lives. The fact that bands jumped at the opportunity to reunite for the anniversary shows is a tribute to the unique and indelible atmosphere Fox has created at Velour. It is also representative of the respect that he has earned through his years of passionate work in the local music community.

Born in Mexico City and raised in Utah County with six sisters, Alan Salazar started dancing at the age of 13, when he enrolled in a ballroom dance class at his junior high school. At age fifteen, he started training at the nationally renowned Center Stage Performing Arts Studios right here in Orem, and his undeniable talent had him begin teaching at the ripe old age of sixteen. Within the next few years, Alan became faculty at several dance studios throughout the state. He has coached, directed, taught and choreographed at just about every studio in Utah.

A well-rounded dancer, Alan has trained extensively in the disciplines of Ballroom, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, Ballet and Hip-Hop. Alan has been part of national and international award winning competitive dance teams and has received individual recognition for solo performances.

Alan has been teaching and choreographing for 14 years, and has performed and/or choreographed for TV: Star Search, FOX's Really Awards, High School Musical 2, The Knicks City Dancers, Paula Abdul's Live to Dance on CBS, NBC's America's Got Talent, ABC's The Bachelor, PBS' A Capital Fourth (Mark Ballas & Chelsie Hightower), FOX's So You Think You Can Dance (Choreographer for Tanisha Belnap, Witney Carson, Brittany Cherry, and Jenna Johnson and Assistant Choreographer to Mark Ballas), ABC's Dancing With The Stars (Associate Choreographer for Witney Carson and Alfonso Ribeiro, Val Chmerkovskiy, Allison Holker, Lindsay Arnold, Sharna Burgess, Mark Ballas, Derek Hough and Emma Slater).

Alan has also performed and choreographed for international industrials for USANA, Alphagraphics, Nuskin, Landesk, and professional dance companies including Odyssey, Origins, Latin Revolution, VIBE and Divinity. This last spring he was part of Erica Sobol's all male company Collidedance for their show in Los Angeles called Runaway! He was also a 2015 company member with Justin Giles' SoulEscape. Alan currently teaches and choreographs nationwide and continues to train and grow his craft and career as a professional dancer and choreographer in Los Angeles.

A renowned author, motivational speaker, fashion designer and image consultant, Barbara Barrington Jones is dedicated to helping women throughout the world realize their potential and lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

For the past 30 years, Barbara's philanthropic efforts have helped girls and women improve their situations and have hope for their future. Her desire to help stems from surviving a 12-year abusive marriage, being a single mother for two years and then being blessed with a wonderful second marriage. A woman of abiding faith, her philosophy is, "there is no earthly force greater than the divine power within a woman determined to rise."

Each year, the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation sponsors a self-esteem camp for teenage girls, a women's retreat and a student-mentoring program. The foundation has also funded many scholarships for organizations around the world. The author of five books and participating author in ten others, Barbara, who is fluent in Spanish, has lectured in 15 countries and 30 states.

Barbara supports four preschools in Africa, provides assistance for Chinese and Cambodian orphanages and has contributed to the South Africa Homeless Peoples Federation. She also supports WELL Africa, which is currently building two schools and housing for teachers in a village on the Ivory Coast.

Barbara was a professional classical ballet dancer, and danced in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Montreal. She was a demi-soloist with the Atlanta Ballet Company, and a soloist and the assistant artistic director of the ballet company at the University of Texas. Recently, Barbara has formed a wonderful association with Utah's Ballet West. In fact, she just performed as the Queen in Ballet West's Swan Lake. Her foundation also supports the I CAN DO program, which gives children the opportunity to experience dance first-hand. Last August, Barbara opened the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation Ballet West Academy at Thanksgiving Point, which gives dancers in Utah Valley the opportunity to experience world-class training locally.

In 2013, Barbara continued her support of women by donating a major gift for the expansion of UVU's Wee Care Center, which provides reliable childcare for UVU students with children. In January 2014 she established the Barbara Barrington Jones Professorship in Ballroom Dance, the first Professorship to be established in the UVU School of the Arts. Utah Valley University recently awarded Barbara with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts and Humanities. Barbara has also donated to the construction of the Museum of Natural Curiosity and the Ballet West Academy at Thanksgiving Point. Last year, Barbara was named "Woman Making a Difference" by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, and was honored with the Utah Philanthropic Leadership Award of 2014.

Barbara continues to help all she meets, and touches the hearts of many. Through the stages of her life, she has learned that "Life is not just getting through the storms, it's learning to dance in the rain."

Conservatory of Performing Arts
Utah COPA began as On Broadway Academy in 2007. Its originator, Mindy Smoot Robbins, started with only a handful of students. Over the course of eight years, the student enrollment has climbed to 250 youth studying voice, dance, acting, songwriting, performance skills, contemporary music and musical theatre.

Before starting Utah COPA, Mindy, a Utah native, covered the role of Eponine in the Broadway National Tour of Les Misérables. Mindy most recently performed the role of Mary Poppins at Tuacahn. She graduated from BYU's Music Dance Theatre program where she performed as a Young Ambassador and has taught private voice lessons for more than 17 years.

As the Conservatory doubled in size, the need for more space and faculty became necessary. Mindy's husband, Conor, joined her and took over the business side of COPA. Only three years after its humble beginning, the demand for high quality musical theatre training landed COPA in a 14,000 square foot building in American Fork with more than 15 faculty members, and a myriad of well-known guest artists and working professionals who share their passion and expertise.

As COPA evolved, Mindy and Conor brought on new partners in 2012, Nathan and Suzie Balser. Also born and raised in Utah, they have spent the last eleven years performing in Broadway shows and tours. Some credits include 9 to 5: The Musical!, Promises Promises (with Kristen Chenoweth), Mamma Mia! (Las Vegas), and Peter Pan (with Cathy Rigby). Both hold degrees including a BFA in Music Dance Theatre and an MFA in Performing Arts.

Perhaps one of the organization's most significant accolades is that 100% of COPA students have been accepted to prestigious university music and theatre programs including Brigham Young University, University of Utah and Utah Valley University, and have had success in film and television, theatre and concert stages, dance and music videos, theme parks, competitions and festivals, and TV shows like American Idol, The Voice and America's Got Talent. Utah COPA students are receiving real world training that is preparing them for opportunities beyond high school in the collegiate world, Broadway, Hollywood and beyond. COPA also provides scholarships to students who are unable to pay.

One of the highlights of Utah COPA's year was the invitation for senior company members to perform alongside a star studded cast in Parade in Concert at NYC's Lincoln Center in NYC, conducted by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown. It was such a success, they were invited back this year to perform the concert version of The Secret Garden.

Together, Mindy, Conor, Suzie and Nathan have continued to develop Utah COPA into an all-inclusive educational and performing arts center, developing talent and confidence for students across multiple genres and disciplines.

The Utah Valley Handbell Choir was started by Karen Eskew-Wyllie as a humble three octave community handbell group in 1993. It has always been a group powered by volunteers that love learning and developing the art of handbell ringing. They perform this incredibly complex, fine-tuned instrument with flair and confidence, demonstrating and educating the public in the wide range of sounds that can be achieved only after hours of tireless rehearsal and dedication.

As the director since its inception, Karen has been honored to play along with many wonderful handbell musicians from all ages and all walks of life.

In 1992, Karen moved to Utah with her husband from the sunny climes of Florida. Using newspaper advertisements and simple word of mouth she began to gather her ringers. As Karen's educational background was primarily in medicine, learning to direct a handbell choir became her focus. She attended as many handbell educational programs as time allowed. She was entirely dedicated to learning so she could bring her best to the group, and demand the best from each of the ringers.

Starting with the simple desire to present to the community beautiful music done as artistically as possible, Karen and her group played at any and all venues. Each and every ringer gave of their time and resources to share their love of ringing. But just as life has unexpected twists and turns so does the Utah Valley Handbell Choir and its ringers. As ringers went off to college, to have children, to other states, or even other countries, they left a bit of themselves with Karen. She has felt the pleasure, through the shared love of handbells, to watch young ringers grow up, get married, have families, and watch them launch into their own lives. This group has shared the celebrations of birth, weddings, graduations, and shared the grief of loss from death.

Each person joins and becomes a part of this handbell community for different reasons. But no matter their reason, each ringer gives their time and talents to come together as a culturally diverse group and show the world that whatever our differences may be, it is our strengths that we share and make us strong.

Over the years, thanks to hard work and dedication, the group grew in strength and number of ringers. The Utah Valley Handbell Ringers have traveled to perform from Florida to California and across the state of Utah to deliver music played with the hearts of true musicians. They continue today as they started; a volunteer group that reflects the pioneer spirit that makes Utah unique. These fine people are the heart and soul of bringing people together through music.