“Do you hear the people sing?” – Tahoma takes home musical achievement

The 5th Avenue Theater award Tahoma students for Les Miserable performance

The Tahoma High School Drama Club spent months preparing for its Les Miserables performances, which premiered on May 2.

The club’s hard work paid off in more ways than one, including on June 3 when the 5th Avenue Theatre presented the “Outstanding Music Direction” Award.

Ken Riggs, choir teacher and music director, said this award was under his name since he directed the music, but he credits the students and all the other staff members who helped make it all happen on and off stage.

“The recognition is nice for the program. It’s good for the kids because as much as my name is on Music Direction, and I guess officially I won the award, it’s really the work that we all put in. I have had a very good partnership with the director and we work together really well,” Riggs said.

To win this or any of the 21 awards nominators from 5th Avenue were sent to watch Tahoma preform and judge.

Bridget Morgan, associate director of branding and communications at the 5th Avenue Theatre, said there are two or three nominators that travel around Washington to observe different performances by high schools.

Each nominator has a rubric they take notes on during the show and then afterwards, they take detailed notes, along with “thoughtful” feedback and ideas for growth.

“All of those notes get shared with the schools. So each school has the opportunity to really improve their program,” Morgan explained.

To have nominators come to schools, Morgan said they must apply to be part of this judging process.

The 5th Avenue Theatre began hosting these awards back in 2003 and the intention was to recognize high school theatre students and programs in the same way high school athletics are recognized regularly.

In its first year there were a total 24 productions participating with a total of 3,100 students involved.

This year, 5th Avenue had a record breaking 128 productions participate in the awards.

“It’s really grown a lot and it’s really exciting,” Morgan said. “I have to say personally for me one of the most exciting things about it is while it began with this intention of recognizing high school theatre kids, the thing it has really grown into is sort creating an intentional community statewide for theatre programs.”

This isn’t the first time Tahoma has won an award through 5th Avenue though, Riggs said.

Last year they won “Best Overall Musical” for the production of Tarzan. And years before they won some others.Riggs explained he won “Outstanding Music Direction” once before, but that was 10 years ago.

After working as a music director since around 1997, Riggs said he thinks this is one of the strongest shows Tahoma has done from this cast and crew.

“It’s really is a team effort between Melissa Bean, the director, me and then a number of parent volunteers,” Riggs said.

Riggs said the recognition of receiving awards like these are nice because they help spread the word about the drama program to people who may not have heard much about it before.

He said this year he felt like there was a lot of support for the program from administrators, parents and audience members.

“We had sold out houses a couple of times and I think were over 3,000 people that came to the show. I think some programs it is a matter of getting the word out, but the word was kind of out already for us, which was helpful,” Riggs said.“It’s a very enjoyable experience. A lot of hard work, but the result is definitely worth it. We appreciate everyone who supports the program and who came to see it.”

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