TPAC & Lipscomb University celebrate high school talent with 2019 Spotlight Awards

TPAC & Lipscomb University celebrate high school talent in 2019 Spotlight Awards

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.

Get tickets to the Spotlight Awards ceremony on May 11.

“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.”

“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.

Last year’s outstanding leads were Tiyanna Gentry of Hillsboro High School and Sevon Askew of Central Magnet School.

American Idol, Studio Tenn alum Piper Jones to lead workshops, host awards ceremony May 11

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:

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
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!
Mt. Pleasant High School – Hello, Dolly!

Putnam County
Monterey High School – Tarzan
Upperman High School – West Side Story

Rutherford Country
Central Magnet School – The Drowsy Chaperone
Siegel High School – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Sumner County
Hendersonville High School – Mary Poppins
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!
Ravenwood High School – Anything Goes

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

For more information, email or call 615-966-7111.

Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts is the fastest-growing college in the university, with a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The mission of the college is to be a Christ-centered, innovative, entrepreneurial arts community committed to rigorous artistic training, creative collaboration and professional growth that seeks to train the next generation of believer artists who seek to uplift, challenge and entertain. For more information, visit

The Jimmy Awards®/The National High School Musical Theatre Awards® (NHSMTA®) program impacts more than 100,000 students who participate in high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by presenters of Touring Broadway productions throughout the United States. Presented by the Broadway League Foundation, the program sends a Best Actress and Best Actor winner from each of these competitions to New York for a week-long theatre intensive of coaching and rehearsals with industry professionals in preparation for a one-night-only talent showcase on Broadway. Named for Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander, the program has been the catalyst for more than $2,000,000 in educational scholarships. The eleventh annual Jimmy Awards will take place on Monday, June 24, 2019 at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. Coaching and rehearsals for this one-of-a-kind event will be held Monday, June 17, 2019 through Monday, June 24, 2019 in New York City. For more information, please visit

Institutional sponsors for TPAC include Nissan North America and Coca-Cola. TPAC is funded in part by support from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission.

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