HHS "Student of the Year" leaves great advice for younger students!

HHS "Student of the Year" leaves great advice for younger students!
Posted on 07/07/2019
student of the year

Dream big – and strive for good work

Before the close of the school year, the Hickory High graduating class of 2019, selected their Student of the Year, Marcus Phillips. The surprise announcement was made during the high school’s annual awards ceremony.

“The awards had been going on for a couple of hours, so frankly, I started to drift off a bit,” said Phillips. “Then I heard the mention of the winner soon leaving for Los Angeles, and that quickly grabbed my attention. I didn’t know of any other classmates who would head to LA for college.”  Phillips received a standing ovation from his classmates and guests. The recognition also gave him the opportunity to address his classmates at graduation and ring the school’s historic bell.

Indeed, Phillips, 17, will leave this August for Los Angeles to attend Studio School, where he will pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts (BFA) with a focus on Contemporary Musical Theatre and Film. Phillips was awarded full tuition to attend the performing arts college based on his successful audition combined with his strong high school career and theatrical training.

Already a true triple-threat, Phillips jump-started his dancing, singing and acting journey when he was eleven years old. “My first show was Winnie the Pooh, Jr. at the Hickory Community Theatre, followed by Willy Wonka. But the transition with my first large-scale musical on the big stage at HCT was performing in the musical, Les Miserables,” said Phillips.

Phillips was cast as Gavroche—and he quickly became an audience favorite. Moving about the stage with total control and agility, Phillips beautifully belted his voice to the Broadway tunes including Do You Hear the People Sing, Look Down, Drink with Me, and Little People.

Les Miserables was just the beginning of the projects that would consume his life. Phillips went on to performing in show after show; and soon, he discovered another passion, choreography. He recently finished the choreography for HCT’s production of Mamma Mia, and he choreographed other shows including Ragtime and Dream Girls.

The son of Richie and Betty Phillips, Marcus is a product of Hickory Public Schools having attended Longview Elementary and Grandview Middle before Hickory High. He is the second oldest of four boys and in addition to his family, Phillips shares that several community members have offered valuable support for his academic and theatrical endeavors.

“At Hickory High, I really appreciate choral director, Dr. Steve Clarke, helping me with my voice. And I appreciate my history teacher, Mr. Nathan Fredericks, who pushed me to do my best with everything,” said Phillips.

“In the community, the artistic director at HCT, Pamela Livingstone, was my strongest theatre supporter. She gave me the best notes to help with my acting—and frankly, she is the one who gave me a chance. She always reminded me that I will face 10,000 rejections—but if this is my passion, to never give up,” said Phillips.

“I also want to thank Sonya Briggs, who helped me grow as a dancer; Molly Bass, for her direction with several Hickory High performances; and my pastor, Balinda Deitz, who has been an encourager to me – all my life,” said Phillips.

Determined to continually improve his professional craft, Phillips was recently cast in a leading role for summer stock theatre. Once that show is over, it’s off to the Pacific coast. “All of my life has been leading up to this moment. I will miss my family and friends, especially my best friend, Malik Hill, who is leaving to study divinity to become a minister. But through today’s technology, we can all stay in touch.”

Winning “Student of the Year” at Hickory High has given Phillips more reason to reflect. “I love the small-town atmosphere of Hickory with the big arts; and I am thankful for the fantastic memories of growing up here.

To those younger students coming up behind me, I want to leave this advice: Always be willing to learn more. Never get to a place where you think you know everything. Take any negative and change it to a positive. Never be ashamed of where you came from. Do not be ashamed of your skin color—take pride in who you are. Dream big and strive for good work—no matter if it’s something on the smaller scale or a larger project. Our experiences, the good and the bad, can help us to grow and move forward with something we love and enjoy.”




 (Article/photo by Beverly Snowden, HPS director of communications)



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