CRESTVIEW — If you put graduating seniors Alex Andrews and Ryan Vance on a stage and hit the spotlight, a performance is bound to happen.
It may be a song.
It could be a play.
Whatever the case, it'll be fun.
However, both teenagers said that without their supportive families and Crestview High School's performing arts teachers’ nurturing influence, it wouldn't have happened at all.
Ryan — whom peers sometimes call "the theater kid" — has appeared in multiple plays and musicals while at CHS.
Alex — who has performed in plays and led the Crestview High chorus’ bass section this year — has sung in school choruses since middle school.
"I wanted to go into something and I thought I'd try the band, but the only opening they had was for a tuba player," Alex said.
Before they discovered life in the spotlight, the teens played sports. Ryan was a varsity football player for the Bulldogs.
"But I gave it up for acting," he said.
On the stage
While Alex appeared in the 130-voice chorus winter and spring concerts, Ryan was on stage in the fall play and spring musicals.
Between performances, the students would compete in district and state choral or Thespian competitions.
"I think the coolest thing about the performing arts is it's so open to anybody," Ryan said. "It's not cliquish. It's a big melting pot."
When Chanticleer, the elite mixed chorus ensemble, takes to the stage in the fall, Alex said watching them perform will be a different experience for him.
"It's going to be strange just sitting in the auditorium and not being up on the risers," he said.
"It's tough not being up there on stage, isn't it?" Ryan said. "It's really weird sitting out there in the audience."
Ryan plans to head to Troy University this fall. He auditioned for the theatre department's upcoming season a couple weeks ago.
"They have an amazing program," he said. "I can't wait to get up there and continue to the next level. If I get cast, even in one show, I'll be happy."
Alex's plans include Northwest Florida State College for two years, during which he will focus on singing in the choir at Live Oak Baptist Church, his church home, and conducting its children's choir.
He credits Crestview High choral music director Kevin Lusk for teaching him how to sight-read music and for inspiring a potential career.
"I would like to major in choral music education and take Mr. Lusk's place when he retires," Alex said. "Anytime anything ever happened, even if it wasn't chorus-related, I could come talk to him."
Ryan also praised his teachers — including present and past drama instructors Annette Gebhardt and Allison Wilkes, respectively — who helped hone his theatrical arts skills.
"They're incredible," he said. "They've been behind me in everything I do."
The duo encourage underclassmen, especially incoming freshmen, to get involved with Crestview High's performing arts programs.
"Chase your dreams," Ryan said. "If you don't get the role you want, keep your head up and keep working. The arts kind of shape who you are."
Perseverance is crucial, Alex said.
"Never give up,” he said. "It took me three tries before I got into Chanticleer. If it hadn't been for theatre and chorus, I wouldn't be as outgoing as I am now. The performing arts build your self-confidence."
Ryan was optimistic about fine arts’ future here.
"The arts are not dead in Crestview, especially at Crestview High School," he said. "If I could leave anything as our legacy, it's that."
Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.