Talented high school actors, singers, dancers and technicians from 28 Tennessee schools are putting their skills on display this year and seeking recognition and important feedback as part of the sixth annual Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards, or Spotlight Awards.
Founded in 2013 by Mike Fernandez, dean of Lipscomb’s George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts, the awards program is presented now in partnership with the nonprofit Tennessee Performing Arts Center as one of its six arts education programs.
Twenty-five high schools from last year are returning to the program, joining three new schools. While the majority are in Middle Tennessee, two East Tennessee schools – Chattanooga Christian School in Hamilton County and Grace Christian Academy in Knox County – are participating again.
Though many of the performances are scheduled for this month, participating schools began last fall submitting their productions and planning for a diverse group of adjudicators – comprised of Lipscomb faculty, TPAC staff and local theater professionals – to attend and review the shows, look for outstanding performances and provide valuable feedback.
The program culminates on May 11 with a full day of workshops on the Lipscomb campus on subjects like improv acting, dance, audition techniques and more, followed by an evening Tony Awards-style ceremony in TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall. The ceremony is filled with performances, and students are presented with a variety of awards including Outstanding Lead Actor, Outstanding Lead Actress, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Musical Direction, Outstanding Design Concept, all-star cast and crew and more.
“The program seeks to recognize exemplary work from all participating schools,” said Fernandez. “It is also a great opportunity to encourage and to further develop young people who have a passion and talent for acting and performing. In Middle Tennessee, we have many high schools with outstanding theater programs. The rapid growth of this program in just the first five years, indicates there is a great desire by students and teachers to produce top-quality shows while improving their skills.”
The Spotlight Awards ceremony on May 11 is available to the public, and general admission tickets go on sale March 1 at TPAC.org, by phone at 615-782-4040, and at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick St.
“Now in our third year, we are so pleased with our partnership with Lipscomb University. By combining resources and efforts, we provide Tennessee high school students a solid opportunity to further develop and hone their artistic skills,” says Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC President and Chief Executive Officer. “For some, this could become a career. For others, it’s a way to build collaborative skills and self-confidence. Anything we can do to support that growth in a meaningful way is important.”
TPAC contributes additional resources to the program, including staff support, presenting the awards ceremony, and its connection to The Broadway League, through which students chosen as Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress travel to New York and participate in The Jimmy Awards® (www.JimmyAwards.com) in June. Named in honor of legendary Broadway theater owner and producer, James M. Nederlander, the 10-day program celebrates the most talented high school actors from across the nation.
Last year’s outstanding leads were Tiyanna Gentry of Hillsboro High School and Sevon Askew of Central Magnet School.
“American Idol” alum Piper Jones, who has performed with Studio Tenn, Nashville Children’s Theatre, and more, will lead a day of student workshops on May 11 and host the Spotlight Awards ceremony.
Jones is an artist whose message encourages and inspires others through her formidable and unmatched voice. She first discovered her voice when she started singing in her church choir at the age of four, and she began recording professionally at the age of 15. Piper studied Commercial Voice at Belmont University and, in 2014, appeared on the 14th season of “American Idol.” She now works as a teacher, session singer, worship leader and thespian in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. She has appeared in Studio Tenn’s “The Ray Legacy,” “Big River,” “A Studio Tenn Christmas,” “One Night Only Gala” and most recently as Ursula in Nashville Children’s Theatre’s production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Jones is currently an independent contemporary Christian artist who recently debuted her first EP, “Conqueror.”
The complete list of schools and their productions includes:
Christ Presbyterian Academy – “Singin’ in the Rain”
Davidson Academy – “Freaky Friday”
Father Ryan High School – “Cinderella”
Goodpasture High School – “Cinderella”
Hillsboro High School – “Rock of Ages: High School Edition”
Hume-Fogg Academic High School – Disney’s “Newsies”
Lipscomb Academy – “Big Fish”
McGavock High School – “Hairspray”
Nashville School of the Arts – “Urinetown”
Overton High School – “Bonnie & Clyde”
Chattanooga Christian School – “West Side Story”
Grace Christian Academy – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
Columbia Academy – “Oliver!”
Mt. Pleasant High School – “Hello, Dolly!”
Monterey High School – “Tarzan”
Upperman High School – “West Side Story”
Central Magnet School – “The Drowsy Chaperone”
Siegel High School – Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”
Hendersonville High School – “Mary Poppins”
Station Camp High School – “Heathers The Musical: High School Edition”
Battle Ground Academy – Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”
Brentwood High School – “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Franklin High School – “Bring It On The Musical”
Independence High School – “Bring It On The Musical”
Page High School – “Mamma Mia!”
Ravenwood High School – “Anything Goes”
Lebanon High School – “Little Shop of Horrors”
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy – “Guys and Dolls”