In Today's Spotlight: Ravenwood High School's Raleigh Risser

Our Series of Interviews With Spotlight Award Nominees Continues

By: May. 20, 2024
In Today's Spotlight: Ravenwood High School's Raleigh Risser
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Second of Six Parts: 2024 marks the tenth anniversary of the very first Nashville Musical Theatre Awards, which were presented for the first time in 2014, when 12 Middle Tennessee high school theater programs took part in the fledgling program founded by Mike Fernandez and Lipscomb University’s College of Entertainment and the Arts. 

From that beginning, the program has grown into what is now known as The Spotlight Awards, an arts initiative of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, which – since 2017 – celebrates, supports and grows the artistry and diverse community of high school theatre programs in Tennessee while developing confidence, creativity, empathy and collaboration among schools. 

In Today's Spotlight: Ravenwood High School's Raleigh Risser Next Saturday night, May 25, the latest group of students from schools throughout the region will gather at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall – which is normally the site for the Broadway at TPAC series of touring shows (the most recent offering was Frozen, which closed May 18, and will be followed Hairspray, opening June 11) – for the presentation of the 2024 Spotlight Awards. 

The two winners of the Outstanding Lead Performer Spotlight Awards in Nashville will travel later this summer to New York City to take part The Jimmy Awards and to compete for top honors, which recognizes the nation’s leading high school musical theater performers. In addition to The Spotlight Awards, Tennessee will be represented by top theatre students from The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis’ High School Musical Theatre Awards, Knoxville’s Tennessee Theatre’s Marquee Awards and The Tivoli Theatres’ Jewel Awards in Chattanooga. 

Today we continue our six-part series of interviews with the Spotlight Awards’ nominees for Outstanding Lead Performer, shining the BroadwayWorld Nashville spotlight on the talented young actors who will compete for the opportunity to represent Nashville, Middle Tennessee and TPAC at The Jimmy Awards. 

In today’s spotlight is Raleigh Risser, a senior at Williamson County’s Ravenwood High School, who garnered Spotlight Award attention for her role as Fiona in Shrek: The Musical. She will pursue her BFA in Musical Theater at Ithaca College. 

Get to know more about Raleigh and her love of performing before she’s onstage this weekend at The Spotlight Awards.

In Today's Spotlight: Ravenwood High School's Raleigh Risser What has your SPOTLIGHT AWARDS experience been like so far? My Spotlight experience has been wonderful. I have met so many amazing teachers, directors, and incredibly talented students. I am so honored to be a part of this celebration of high school Musical Theater!

How did you become interested in theater and live performance? I have been surrounded by music since birth. My family has always been a part of the music industry here in Nashville. My dad has worked for UMG in Promotions for over 30 years, and my mom is a musician, and spent over 20 years as a backing musician for Trisha Yearwood, among other artists.  My older brothers and I were exposed to all genres of music. I began performing in productions at church, then followed the boys into school and local theater productions.

What, where and when was your first role and character? My very first musical was Annie at Centre Stage Productions/Jan Williams School of Music. I remember I did not want to audition for a particular role, then cried when I did not receive one…I was seven. One of my brothers was cast as Daddy Warbucks. The theater obsession had begun, for ALL three of us siblings!

What is your theatrical goal? I plan to study Musical Theater in college. Of course, performing on Broadway is a dream! I also love all genres of vocal music. I would ultimately just love to make a living exploring and doing something that I am truly passionate about.

If you could play any role, in any show, what would you choose? I would love to play “Cady” in Mean Girls.  I had the chance to play the role this past year – but only had two performances.  I didn’t want it to end.  I feel like this role is exactly who I am/have been in real life.

What’s been your most memorable theater experience so far I was so blessed to be cast as “Miss Honey” in Matilda my sophomore year at Ravenwood High School. This is also one of my dream roles. I loved everything about this show, and this character. I was young and had such great role models and mentors in the program.  Our “Matilda” went to the Jimmy Awards. This was my first experience with the Spotlights, as I was a Lead Actress Finalist, and awarded Outstanding Female Soloist. All of this was such a dream…I was very honored.

Who are your favorite actors? So many...  

What show that you’ve never seen would you most like to see live and onstage? My brothers, who are rising senior Musical Theater majors at Ithaca College, were just studying abroad, and saw Stranger Things on the West End in London.  I was so jealous! Their review was amazing!! I have seen every episode of every season…so I would say this currently tops my list!

What’s next for you theatrically speaking? I am excited about preparing for college to pursue my BFA.  After the Spotlights, I will be participating in Broadway Dreams in Nashville. I loved this foundation so much and hope to do some more work with them. I’ve also worked with Natalie Weiss, who is one of my vocal heroes.  Perhaps, there will be more opportunities to work with her again in the future as well.  

In Today's Spotlight: Ravenwood High School's Raleigh Risser About The Spotlight Awards: The Spotlight Awards are dedicated to supporting the talents, educational endeavors, and friendships of high school theatre students in Tennessee to build a strong and inclusive theatre community. 

Every year Tennessee high school theatre programs can apply to participate in the three-part program comprised of achievement recognition, exclusive learning opportunities, and community building. Events and opportunities offered throughout the year are designed to help students and directors hone their skills and advance their understanding of the craft. Schools can participate in the Adjudication Level to have a panel of arts professionals attend each school’s musical and provide feedback on the performance. Schools receive awards that honor achievements in performance, technical and creative categories. 

TPAC’s membership in The Broadway League allows the two Spotlight Award Outstanding Lead Performer winners to attend The Jimmy Awards in New York City, a national celebration of outstanding student achievement, recognizing individual artistry in vocal, dance, and acting performance and elevating the importance of theatre arts education in schools. 



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