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Hannah Jones

Over 50 schools register for 15th annual Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards

The 2022-23 Shuler Awards will be held on Thursday, April 20, 2023. (Photo by Ben Rose/ArtsBridgeGA.org.)

By Hannah E. Jones

This upcoming spring, musical theatre aficionados in high schools all across Georgia will get the full movie star treatment at the 15th annual Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, presented by the ArtsBridge Foundation.

ArtsBridge released its list of Georgia schools signed up for the 2022-23 Shuler Awards on Monday, Nov. 14. State high schools across 22 counties will participate in the annual event that celebrates excellence in Georgia’s high school musical theatres.

The competition and award ceremony — named for Marietta-native actor and singer Shuler Hensley — is hosted each year by ArtsBridge, an Atlanta-based STEAM nonprofit that serves as the arts education arm of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The ceremony will be televised live from the Cobb Energy Centre on Georgia Public Broadcasting. 

Executive Director Jennifer Dobbs describes the night as “a glorious cacophony of events.”

Upon arrival at the April 20 ceremony, the student nominees will be treated to the glitz and glamor similar to the Tony Awards. Kia Motors will chauffeur the nominees to the purple carpet, where the students will be greeted by photographers and will give interviews. Throughout the night, the Shuler Ensemble and nominees will take the stage to showcase their craft.

Best actress winner Georgia Thomas at the 2022 Shuler Awards. (Photo by Ben Rose/ArtsBridgeGA.org.)

Since 2009, the Shuler Awards program has recognized over 60,000 students from 142 schools and 38 Georgia counties. Ten Fulton County schools are enrolled this year, along with six from Gwinnett and four in Cobb, among others. 

This is a highly anticipated event among local students and arts educators, with 50 schools enrolling within 10 minutes of registration opening this year. For Director of Arts Education Elizabeth Lenhart, the community’s warm reception is representative of ArtsBridge’s impact and the crucial role art plays.

“It’s a testament to what we know is true — the incredible impact of the arts,” Lenhart said. “[During the pandemic,] it was so needed and missing. We saw it firsthand in COVID, the first thing used as a comfort around the globe was people giving music and art to the world for free. [Art] matters.” 

Over the next few months, 70 volunteers will attend live performances by hopeful high school students, and the nominees will be announced in March. The competition features 18 categories, including best performances by a leading actress and actor, orchestra, lighting, choreography, costumes and more. The winners of leading actress and actor will travel to New York City’s Minskoff Theatre on Broadway for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards on June 26. 

To help uplift students from all schools and backgrounds, the productions are evaluated based on each school’s budget and capacity rather than being compared to nearby schools.

“The assessment is not based on a Broadway show or another high school production,” Lenhart said. “[The judges] aren’t going to suggest a new lighting system to a school struggling with resources because that’s not feasible, tangible or helpful. Instead, they may suggest ways to better utilize what they have.”

Best actor winner Eli Talley performs as Frank Abagnale Jr. in “Catch Me If You Can” during the 2022 awards. (Photo by Ben Rose/ArtsBridgeGA.org.)

In addition to an equitable evaluation process, ArtsBridge seeks to provide inclusive categories to ensure that each student feels welcome. To do this, the nonprofit combined two categories — best-supporting actress and actor — into a non-gendered category titled “supporting performer.”

“We want everyone to know that all are welcome to participate,” Dobbs said. “Our mission is to expand our programming throughout the state, but our vision is to ensure that everyone has access to art experiences. That means everyone has a seat at our table.”

She added: “You can’t put every individual into a box. They are who they are, and we celebrate and appreciate that.”

As part of the Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, students can also apply for a scholarship. This evaluation is separate from the musical theatre awards, giving all students the chance to offset the cost of their education.

Last year, with the help of donors, the organization gave $25,000 in scholarships to Georgia students. One of Dobbs’ goals is to see this number grow each year.

Now in its 15th year, the ArtsBridge team hopes the Shuler Awards will give Georgia students the chance to showcase their talents, celebrate local musical theatre and explore opportunities for their futures. To learn more about the other programs ArtsBridge offers, click here.

The complete list of the participating public and private schools is as follows: 

  • Adairsville High School in Adairsville, Ga. (Bartow Co.)
  • Alan C. Pope High School in Marietta, Ga. (Cobb Co.)
  • Allatoona High School in Acworth, Ga. (Cobb Co.)
  • Baldwin High School in Milledgeville, Ga. (Baldwin Co.)
  • Calhoun High School in Calhoun, Ga. (Gordon Co.)
  • Cambridge High School in Milton, Ga, (Fulton Co.)
  • Chamblee High School in Chamblee, Ga. (DeKalb Co.)
  • Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek (Fulton Co.)
  • Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Ga. (Gwinnett Co.)
  • Dalton High School in Dalton, Ga. (Whitfield Co.)
  • Decatur High School in Decatur, Ga. (DeKalb Co.)
  • Denmark High School in Alpharetta, Ga. (Forsyth Co.)
  • East Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. (Paulding Co.)
  • Gordon Central High School in Calhoun, Ga. (Gordon Co.)
  • Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga. (Gwinnett Co.)
  • Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross (Gwinnett Co)
  • Greenbrier High School in Evans, Ga. (Columbia Co.)
  • Grovetown High School in Grovetown, Ga. (Columbia Co.)
  • Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga. (Rockdale Co.)
  • Heritage High School in Ringgold, Ga. (Catoosa Co.)
  • Hiram High School in Hiram, Ga. (Paulding Co.)
  • Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Ga.
  • Johns Creek High School in Johns Creek, Ga. (Fulton Co.)
  • Johnson High School in Gainesville, Ga. (Hall Co.)
  • Kennesaw Mountain High School in Kennesaw (Cobb Co.)
  • King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta (Fulton Co.)
  • Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Ga. (Hall Co.)
  • Lambert High School in Suwanee, Ga. (Forsyth Co.)
  • Landmark Christian School in Fairburn, Ga. (Fulton Co.)
  • Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, Ga. (Gwinnett Co.)
  • Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts, Jonesboro, Ga. (Clayton)
  • Midtown High School in Atlanta (Fulton Co.)
  • Milton High School in Milton, Ga. (Fulton Co.)
  • Morgan County High School in Madison, Ga. (Morgan Co.)
  • Mountain View High School in Lawrenceville (Gwinnett)
  • North Forsyth High School in Cumming, Ga. (Forsyth Co.)
  • North Hall High School in Gainesville, Ga. (Hall Co.)
  • North Springs High School in Atlanta (Fulton Co.)
  • Pepperell High School in Lindale, Ga. (Floyd Co.)
  • Prince Avenue Christian School in Bogart, Ga. (Oconee Co.)
  • Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn, Ga. (Gwinnett)
  • Rabun Gap Nacoochee School in Rabun Gap (Rabun Co.)
  • Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga. (Walker Co.)
  • Ringgold High School in Ringgold, Ga. (Catoosa Co.)
  • Roswell High School in Roswell, Ga. (Fulton Co.)
  • Sonoraville High School in Calhoun, Ga. (Gordon Co.)
  • South Forsyth High School in Cumming, Ga. (Forsyth Co.)
  • St. Pius X Catholic High School in Chamblee, Ga. (DeKalb)
  • Starr’s Mill High School in Fayetteville, Ga. (Fayette Co.)
  • Thomas High School in Fayetteville, Ga. (Fayette Co.)
  • West Forsyth High School in Cumming, Ga. (Fulton Co.)
  • Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Ga. (Cobb Co.)
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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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