Which show won the most nominations at the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards?

We haven’t counted how many nods each Austin area high school musical won. But thanks to alert theater teacher Joshua Denning, who posted quickly on Facebook, we do know that McCallum Fine Arts Academy‘s “Me and My Girl” nabbed nine nominations. The awards show — which is dynamite — is April 13 at the Long Center.


Best Production
Leander “Pippin”
Anderson “Curtains”
Cedar Ridge “Cats”
McNeil “Barnum”
Hendrickson “In the Heights”
James Bowie “The Who’s Tommy”
Rouse “In the Heights”
McCallum Fine Arts Academy “Me and My Girl”

Best Featured Performer
Quinn Skarnulis. Anderson High School
Indigo Raetz Austin High School
Sarah Cadena Bastrop High School
Kristyn Chambers Brentwood Christian
Dainique Jones Cedar Ridge High
Logan Dundon Dripping Springs High School
Campbell Duffy Georgetown High
Clara Cable Lake Travis High
Kye Brown Lehman High School
Ellie Kuykendall Dripping Springs High
Kali Thompson Marble Falls High
Niko Bermea Rouse High School
Halle Hill Vandegrift High School


Best Scenic Design
Cedar Ridge High School “ Cats”
Anderson High School “Curtains”
Rouse High School “ In the Heights”
Jack C. Hays High School “Into the Woods”
Elgin High School “Little Shop of Horrors”
Dripping Springs High School “My Fair Lady”
Katherine Anne Porter School “Pippin”
David Crockett High School “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Best Choreography
Cedar Ridge High School “Cats”
Dripping Springs High School “My Fair Lady”
Hendrickson High School “In the Heights”
James Bowie High School “The Who’s Tommy”
McCallum Fine Arts Academy “Me and My Girl”
McNeil High School “Barnum”
Rouse High School “In the Heights”
Vista Ridge High School “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Abigail Holtfort Cedar Park High
Brooke Silverstein St. Stephens
Gracee Street Lake Travis High
Kat Cruz Anderson High
Kiara Thomas Cedar Creek High
Lydia Emery Jack C. Hays High
Sophia Mullican McCallum Fine Arts Academy
Sydney Enos Georgetown High
Taylor Cooper Jack C. Hays High

Best Lighting Design
Lake Travis High School “Disney’s The Little Mermaid”
Hendrickson High School “In the Heights”
Rouse High School “In the Heights”
Jack C. Hays High School “Into the Woods”
Lehman High School “Our House”
Leander High School “Pippin”
St. Stephen’s Episcopal “Pippin”
James Bowie “The Who’s Tommy”


Best Musical Direction
Marble Falls High School “Cinderella” (Broadway Version)
McNeil High School “Barnum”
Rouse High “In the Heights”
Vista Ridge High School “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Anderson High School “Curtains”
Cedar Park High School “Cabaret”
James Bowie High School “The Who’s Tommy”
Lake Travis High School “Disney’s The Little Mermaid”

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Trey Moffett East View High School
Bryce Keesee-Lourigan Georgetown High
Brian Baker Hendrickson High
Clayt Aziz Jack C. Hays High
Max Corney McCallum Fine Arts
H. Crocker McCallum Fine Arts
Andrew De La Garza Rouse High School
Logan Caraway Vista Ridge High


Best Technical Execution
David Crockett High School “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
Anderson “Curtains”
LBJ/LASA “Nice Work if You Can Get It”
Del Valle “ Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”
McCallum Fine Arts Academy “Me and My Girl”
Marble Falls “Cinderella”
Rouse “In the Heights”
Round Rock “The Goodbye Girl”

Best Orchestra
Vista Ridge High School “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Akins High School “Rock of Ages”
Leander High School “Pippin”
Lehman High School “Our House”
LBJ/LASA High School “Nice Work if You Can Get It”
Georgetown High School “Into the Woods”
Hendrickson High School “In the Heights”
East View High School “Big Fish”

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Michael Morran Anderson High School
Bruno Maples David Crockett High
Chris Ayala Hendrickson High
Matthew Kennedy Leander High School
AJ Lawrence Lehman High School
Tristan Tierney McCallum Fine Arts
Keaton Brandt McNeil High School
Elliot Esquivel Rouse High School
Sam Oberle St. Stephen’s Episcopal

Best Costume Design
Westwood “Once Upon a Mattress”
Vista Ridge “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
McNeil “Barnum”
Marble Falls “Cinderella”
Georgetown “Into the Woods”
Dripping Springs “My Fair Lady”
Cedar Ridge “Cats”
Anderson “Curtains”

Best Direction
Anderson “Curtains”
Cedar Creek “You’re A Good Man, “Charlie Brown”
Cedar Ridge “Cats”
Hendrickson “In the Heights”
James “The Who’s Tommy”
McCallum Fine Arts Academy “Me and My Girl”
McNeil “Barnum”
Rouse “In the Heights”

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sophie Niles McNeil
Maddie Reese Lake Travis
Erin Swearingen Jack C. Hays
Anna McGuire McCallum Fine Arts
Jessica Askey Lake Travis
Trinity Adams Dripping Springs
Isabelle Dickey LBJ/LASA
Olivia Vines Anderson
Chloe Byars James Bowie

Best Ensemble
Cedar Ridge “Cats”
Dripping Springs “My Fair Lady”
Hendrickson . “In the Heights”
James Bowie “The Who’s Tommy”
Leander “Pippin”
Rouse “In the Heights”
St. Stephen’s Episcopal “Pippin”
Vandegrift “Oliver!”

See ‘La La Land’ set to live music in Austin

What could be better than watching — or re-watching — Oscar runner-up “La La Land” on the big screen? Watching the musical on the big screen set to live music performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra.


The tuner won six Academy Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Original Song. On June 30, composer Justin Horowitz‘s music will provide the fodder for the symphony’s grand screening.

RELATED: Oscars 2017: ‘Moonlight’ wins Best Picture after ‘La La Land’ mistakenly announced.

Ticks go on sale March 10. They will be available online at TheLongCenter.org or by calling 512-474-5664.

For groups of 10 and more, call 512-457-5150 or email groupsales@thelongcenter.org.

Spotting the Blanton Museum’s cheeky Austin billboards

We like a museum with a sense of humor: Without warning these cheeky messages popped up on Austin billboards, courtesy of the Blanton Museum of Art, which recently unveiled a rehang of its permanent collection.

Ralph Barrera _1487958683
Blanton Museum of Art billboard on Duval and San Jacinto Blvd north of the UT campus. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

RELATED: A new museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton.

Ralph Barrera _1487957766
Blanton Museum of Art billboard on Interstate 35 near East Cesar Chavez St. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

We understand there are two more on view at 607 Anderson Lane — at Chevy Chase — 2418 South Lamar Boulevard at Bluebonnet Street.

IMG_4787 (1)
This one’s outside the UT museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.


Get ready for the roar of the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards

Last year, we attended the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards — gotta find a new name — ceremony for the first time. There are no words to describe them adequately.

The unavoidable excitement. The phenomenal talent. The unexpected good sportsmanship. I can still hear the roar of crowd.

The Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards 2014 - At the Long Center photogrpahed by James Goulden

Come 7 a.m. March 7 — you read that right, in the morning — students from 31 area high schools will gather in the Long Center’s Rollins Studio Theatre to hear for the first time the 2017 nominations.

J. Quinton Johnson, current cast member in Broadway smash “Hamilton,” will do the honors. A University of Texas theater alum, Johnson cut his theatrical teeth in Austin theater and film communities.

The awards ceremony returns to the Long Center’s Dell Hall on April 13 and, while I might not make the dawn announcement, you can pretty much guarantee I won’t be found anywhere else for the full ceremony. Ditto anybody who cares about the future of musical theater.


1932-2017: Austin artist and teacher Ishmael Soto dies

Ishmael Soto, longtime Austin ceramicist and teacher, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 84.

“Ishmael’s passing is a loss for us all in the community,” said Sylvia Orozco, director of Mexic-Arte Museum. “He was a great human being, teacher and artist. Ishmael was one of the first, if not the first Mexican-American Austinite to become a professional visual artist.”

Artist and teacher Ishmael Soto died Feb. 27 at age 84. Contributed by Tahila Mintz

Soto won many prizes and was exhibited frequently in group and solo shows.

A native Austinite, Soto earned his first degree from the University of Texas and his second from the famed Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. His 57th Annual Potters Show and Sale took place in December 2016. He taught ceramics at UT for seven years — one of the first Hispanics to teach in the art department — then at St. Edward’s University and Austin Community College for a total of more than 30 years..

“He was a modest, generous mentor and major inspiration to many artists,” said his widow, Cynthia Leigh. “He taught thousands of students over his lifetime. Many of his students decided to become artists from his encouragement and support. He did not try to mold his students to imitate his work; he encouraged them to follow their own artistic path and draw on their own talents”

The son of Benjamin Enriquez Soto, a factory worker and truck driver, and Herlinda Herrera Soto, a homemaker, the artist had three siblings, Sara Soto Zajicek, Benjamin Soto and Martha Soto Miller. All attended UT and all are deceased.

“They were pillars of the Mexican-American community in East Austin,” Leigh said of his family. “They helped establish Emmanuel United Methodist Church. His great-great-great-grandfather was noted surveyor, scout and Methodist preacher Jose Policarpo Rodriguez of Bandera, who built a small chapel known as ‘Polly’s Chapel’ along Privilege Creek that is still used and recognized as a Texas Historic Landmark.”

Soto attended Palm Elementary School and Austin High School, where he ran track. in 1944, he attended the Texas School of Fine Arts when it was located on 19th Street. He was the only Hispanic student enrolled at the time.

He married Helen Lopez in 1950. In 1953, Soto was drafted into the Army and sent to Austria, where he was assigned to paint signs among other duties. In 1973, the couple was divorced. He later married Finn Alban from Fredericksburg. They lived off the land in the country as he continued to make and sell pottery. He married Leigh in 1990.

He leaves behind four children — Martha Soto (jeweler), Ishmael H. Soto, Jr. (clay artist), Pablo Roberto Policarpo Soto (glassblower) and Cynthia Leigh Soto — as well as five grandchildren.

Soto’s ashes will be spread by his family on the land where he resided near Lexington. A celebration of his life is expected in the spring.

“He was our native son,” Orozco said. “The colors of the earth and sky, the intertwining trees and shrubs of the woods — images embedded in his mind from his childhood and life in the country — influenced his  work as he transformed red, tan and yellow earth into shapes of beauty.  Ishmael has passed but he leaves us these gifts of art and the knowledge he shared with hundreds of students. In this way, the spirit of Ishmael Soto will live on.”

What to hear at the Austin Symphony next season

There’s no other way to present the 2017-2018 season of the Austin Symphony without publishing the list in its entirety. Or close to that.

There’s a lot on here to celebrate, including the return of Austin’s top concert pianist, Anton Nel, to the marquee; another stab at “Beyond the Score,” this time dramatizing the background behind Prokofiev‘s Symphony No. 5; and the beginnings of the Bernstein at 100 celebration.



September 8-9, 2017

Anton Nel, piano/harpsichord

FRANCIS POULENC – Suite from Les biches (The Does)
W. A. MOZART – Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-Flat Major, K. 450
FRANCIS POULENC – Concert champêtre for Harpsichord and Orchestra
W. A. MOZART – Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297 Paris

October 6-7, 2017

Bruce Williams, viola
Julia Taylor, soprano
Claudia Chapa, mezzo-soprano
Brian Yeakley, tenor
Charles Evans, baritone
Chorus Austin (Ryan Heller, director)

BEETHOVEN/BRUCKNER – Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 13, Pathétique
MAHLER/BRITTEN – What the Wild Flowers Tell Me

December 1-2, 2017

Beyond the Score®

SERGEI PROKOFIEV – Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

January 12-13, 2018

Bella Hristova, violin

GIOACHINO ROSSINI – Overture to Semiramide
J. S. BACH – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. in G Major, BWV 1048
IGOR STRAVINSKY – Violin Concerto in D Major
ALAN HOVHANESS – Celestial Fantasy, Op. 44
JOSEPH HAYDN – Symphony No. 94 in G Major, Surprise

February 23-24, 2018

Rick Rowley, piano

ROBERT SCHUMANN – Manfred Overture
EDWARD MACDOWELL – Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 23
ROBERT SCHUMANN – Symphony No. 2. in C Major, Op. 61

March 23-24, 2018
Cameron Carpenter, organ

JOSEPH JONGEN – Symphonie concertante for Organ and Orchestra
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS – Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 Organ

April 13-14, 2018
Vadim Gluzman, violin

MICHAEL TORKE – Bright Blue Music
LEONARD BERNSTEIN – Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

May 18-19, 2018
Olga Kern, piano

TCHAIKOVSKY/STRAVINSKY – Pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major, Op. 44
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF – Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 44

Friday, October 20, 2017

Disney FANTASIA: Live in Concert

Disney shares one of its crown jewels of feature animation with a live orchestra concert accompanying scenes from Walt Disney’s original FANTASIA (1940) and Disney FANTASIA 2000, highlighting a selection of the magnificent repertoire from both films including Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite.

December 29-30, 2017

I Heart the 80’s

Come have the time of your life with music from The Police, George Michael, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and so much more! Bring your favorite food dish and enjoy this concert in a cabaret style setting.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Jurassic Park – Film with Orchestra

One of the most thrilling science fiction adventures ever made, and featuring one of John Williams’ most iconic and beloved musical scores, Jurassic Park transformed the movie-going experience for an entire generation and became the highest-grossing film of all time in 1993, winning three Academy Awards®. Now audiences can experience this ground-breaking film as never before: projected in HD with a full symphony orchestra performing Williams’ magnificent score live to picture. Welcome… to Jurassic Park!

June 1-2, 2018

The Rat Pack! 100 Years of Frank!

It’s hot! It’s cool! These performances celebrate the classic songs of Sinatra, Davis, and Martin, like “That’s Amore,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “My Way,” and of course, “New York, New York” with brand new orchestrations. Choreographed and scripted with original Rat Pack routines, you’ll think you’re swingin’ at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. Bring your favorite food dish and enjoy this concert in a cabaret style setting.


  • Halloween Children’s Concert – October 29, 2017
  • Christmas in the Community – TBD
  • Texas Young Composers Concert – TBD


  • Handel’s Messiah – December 12, 2017

NEA, NEH, PBS on the chopping block once again

Since my first day at the newspaper 28 years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts — its sibling National Endowment for the Humanities and Corporation for Public Broadcasting — have been under fire.

The only mildly surprising thing about the new administration’s proposed federal budget, which would eliminate these agencies, is that we haven’t seen many public cases made against these entities in quite some time.

During the 1980s and ’90s, there was plenty to brawl about while a generation of self-avowedly subversive artists began to receive federal funds, especially from the NEA. We must have written hundreds of stories on the controversies.

Yet recently, all has been relatively quiet on the federal front. So it’s hard to see the rationale, especially given the amount of money that would be saved.

Here’s a snip of the New York Times story that ran in the American-Statesman today.

Former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, was confirmed as White House budget director on Thursday. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.

Work on the first Trump administration budget has been delayed as the budget office awaited Senate confirmation of former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, as budget director. Now that he is in place, his office is ready to move ahead with a list of nine programs to eliminate, an opening salvo in the Trump administration’s effort to reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure.

Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. And a few are surprising, even though most if not all have been perennial targets for conservatives. …”

Texas Medal of Arts honorees testify

You’ve read the statistics.

The arts have grown into a $5.5 billion industry in Texas, according to a 2017 State of the Arts Report released recently by the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group. The industry generates, too, nearly $343.7 million in state sales tax revenue annually.


Additionally, you know by now how the arts affect education, tourism and the economy, especially in this town, where all varieties of creative efforts thrive from the grassroots up.

Those kinds of arguments make reasonably persuasive cases when lobbying the Texas Legislature for support. Yet much more can be said directly — from one Texan to another — about the value of the arts.

Before the Texas Medal of Arts awards — given to Texans by the Texas Cultural Trust — arrive with parties and grand ceremonies Tuesday and Wednesday, we asked the honorees what the arts have meant to them personally.

We’re updating the Austin Arts blog with recent and relevant material from other Statesman and Austin360 pages. See the rest of this story on Texas Medal of Arts here.

Big Data makes the Austin dance scene

Turns out that the same charitable foundation that backed Austin Opera‘s general manager Annie Burridge when she supervised a segmented audience study earlier at Opera Philadelphia is underwriting a similar look at Ballet Austin.

RELATED: Austin Opera leader turns to Big Data to engage audiences.

The Wallace Foundation’s $52 million “Building Audiences for Sustainability” initiative intends to expand and deepen each arts group’s audience engagement by asking layered questions about why people are motivated to attend.

On Thursday, the foundation released an article and a video that upend long-held assumptions about how audiences behave. Ballet Austin is two years into the rigorous study, which so far shows that the assumed evolutionary continuum of audience tastes from story ballets to more abstract works is not supported by the data, but rather that people need more information on ballet altogether to feel more assured that they will fell comfortable with the experience.

They also found that people respond to videos that they discover digitally and that they also want to make social, intellectual and emotional connections. (Hey, that’s what we do, too!)


Here’s a snippet from the fascinating article:

“Every December, Ballet Austin puts on “The Nutcracker,” choreographed by the company’s artistic director, Stephen Mills. Virtually all of the 14 performances at the 2,442-seat Long Center for the Performing Arts are filled to capacity. “We could sell out more shows,” says Cookie Ruiz, executive director of the Texas company, “but it would wear our dancers out.”

“Packed houses are the case for other classics, too. But a different picture emerges for more abstract works, which don’t attract the crowds that flock to “Swan Lake,” “Sleeping Beauty” and the like. That reality is frustrating for the dance company – and not just because unsold tickets mean unrealized revenue.

It also runs counter to Ballet Austin’s mission: to create new work and develop talent, thereby extending the ballet repertoire and advancing the art form. Ruiz sums up the problem with a simple question:

“How do we go about developing larger audiences for entirely new work?”

Revealed: Free Fusebox Festival events

Austin can make many claims to singularity. But there really isn’t anything anywhere else like the Fusebox Festival.

‘Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance’ is one of the marquee shows in the 2017 Fusebox Festival.

Each year, more than 100 events are presented at 19 venues in Central and East Austin. More than 40 artists and companies from six continents participate.

It’s a little bit like FronteraFest, only global.

And it’s all free. This year, the carnival runs April 12-16. Advance reservations are now available online. Tickets will be offered at the door as well.

Before the festival proper, one can attend a fundraising party known as Fusebox Eve on April 11.

There’s lots to relish this year, but at the top of our list is the Austin premiere of a chamber opera, “Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance,” from composer Graham Reynolds, Rude Mechs’ Shawn Sides and Mexico-based artists Lagartijas Tiradas del Sol.