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28 High Schools Competing for the 2019 Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards

28 High Schools Competing for the 2019 Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards

Multi-talented young theater artists and technicians from 28 Tennessee high schools will put their skills on display this year in hopes of claiming their place in the spotlight as the sixth annual Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards - aka The Spotlight Awards - are presented in Nashville on May 11.

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 that competed in 2018 return 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.

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, to look for outstanding performances and to provide valuable feedback.

The program culminates on May 11 with a full day of workshops on the Lipscomb University 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," explains 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 open to the public, and general admission tickets are on sale at, by phone at (615) 782-4040, and at the TPAC Box Office at 505 Deaderick Street.

"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 ( 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.

28 High Schools Competing for the 2019 Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards
Sevon Askew and Tiyanna Gentry

Last year's outstanding leads were Tiyanna Gentry of Hillsboro High School and Sevon Askew of Central Magnet School, both of whom competed in the Jimmy Awards program.

Belmont University graduate and American Idol alum Piper Jones, who has performed with Studio Tenn and Nashville Children's Theatre, Street Theatre Company 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 has appeared in Studio Tenn's The Ray Legacy, Big River, A Studio Tenn Christmas and One Night Only Gala and most recently won raves as Ursula in Nashville Children's Theatre's production of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Jones is currently a contemporary Christian artist who recently debuted her first EP, Conqueror.

The complete list of schools and their productions includes:

Davidson County: 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; and Overton High School - Bonnie & Clyde

Hamilton County: Chattanooga Christian School - West Side Story

Knox County: Grace Christian Academy - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Maury County: Columbia Academy - Oliver!; and Mt. Pleasant High School - Hello, Dolly!

Putnam County: Monterey High School - Tarzan; and Upperman High School - West Side Story

Rutherford County: Central Magnet School - The Drowsy Chaperone; and Siegel High School - Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Sumner County: Hendersonville High School - Mary Poppins; and Station Camp High School - Heathers the Musical: High School Edition

Williamson County: 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!; and Ravenwood High School - Anything Goes

Wilson County: Lebanon High School - Little Shop of Horrors; and Mt. Juliet Christian Academy - Guys and Dolls

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