Don’t know if you’ve heard, but Heller Awards alum Langston Lee won big at this year’s Jimmy Awards! This was Austin’s first time participating in the Jimmys, and we’re pretty dang proud Langston brought home Best Performance by an Actor our first year. He’s headed to The Juilliard School this fall, but we got to sit down with him before he heads to the big apple to get the scoop on where he comes from, where he’s going, and what he hopes for the future of arts education. Buckle up, y’all, this one’s gonna be inspiring.

Langston Lee performing at The Jimmy Awards 2023. Picture DLC Photography / The Jimmy Awards.
Hey, I’m Langston!
Rouse High School alumnus and future Broadway performer 🤞
Where he comes from

Tell us how you got started in musical theatre.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved performing. I used to play pretend with my parents and I loved watching movies in theaters. During my freshman year of high school, my theatre director encouraged me to audition for the school production of Les Miserables. At first I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic – I was not confident in my singing at all – but in the eleventh hour, my dad gave me the push I needed and I submitted an audition tape. Low and behold, I got a call back! After an unforgettable experience with my first musical, I continued to pursue it, performing in school production as well as a few professional ones. That’s actually how I got started with the Heller Awards for Young Artists. My school has always been involved in the HAYAs. We were fortunate to be nominated for Best Production multiple times, so we’ve been able to attend the awards shows, which has always been such a fun experience.

Are there any family members, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. who helped you along the way?

Oh, where to start?! Flan, Painter, Rhodes, and Mel were the best crew of directors I could ever have wished for. All of my Rouse buddies in Troupe 7679 constantly supported me – and were so talented themselves! The folks at Impact Arts, Texas Performing Arts, and the Heller Awards made this whole experience even possible. And of course my incredible parents! Everyone along my journey that gave me a push or a nudge to keep going, thank you.

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Langston Lee Performing in Rouse High School’s production of Anastasia.

The Jimmy Awards

What are The Jimmy Awards? How did you go from the HAYAs to the Jimmys?

The Jimmy Awards is the national high school musical theater awards program – basically the Tony Awards, but for high school musical theatre programs across the nation. They have 48 regional award programs, or RAPs. They host two of the most talented winners from each RAP and put together a fantastic award show full of character medleys, group numbers, and awards! The HAYAs are Austin’s regional award program. Kyra Carr from Hendrickson High School and myself were selected by winning at the HAYAs and sent to New York City.

Langston Lee rehearsing for The Jimmy Awards. Picture DLC Photography / The Jimmy Awards

Besides compete, what did you get to do as part of The Jimmy Awards?

Like with any performing art, we put in lots of work behind-the-scenes. The audience saw the end product onstage, but before that, we logged tons of hours of rigorous rehearsals. It was also an opportunity hosted by incredible sponsors and organizations for us to learn and experience what it means to be on Broadway and in professional musical theater world. For example, one of the sponsors, MJ the Musical, gave us tickets to go watch their full show, which was incredible! Plus we got to meet Broadway stars like Ben Platt, Corbin Bleu, and Andrew Barth Feldman. All of the activities, rehearsals, and learning experiences were incredibly rewarding.

What was it like to perform on a Broadway stage?

In a word, reaffirming, Not only reaffirming how amazing this whole experience has been, but also of how much I love performing. That Broadway stage was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. The concept that I was in the performing capital of the world and I got to share my art with that many people was so meaningful and an experience I could never ever forget.

How did it feel when they announced you’d won Best Performance by an Actor?

Well, I’m pretty sure I had a complete blackout. Not only was I not expecting it, I was fully content with any of the other nominees’ names being called, a testament to the talent that was present at the awards. That’s why when they called my name I was in utter shock – of course I was overjoyed, but it was also humbling to know that I was chosen, and that I got to share that moment with such a beautiful group of young artists who are equally as talented as I am.

Langston Lee at The Jimmy Awards. Picture DLC Photography / The Jimmy Awards
The future of high school musical theatre and arts education

What advice would you give to a student who’s participating in their first musical this year?

Have fun, enjoy the moment, and most importantly, constantly learn – make the most of the experience by creating invaluable friends and memories. It’s only as good as you make it and only fulfilling if you put in the work. I’m so excited for you and I hope you have the best show that you will remember forever! I know mine was.

What’s your biggest wish for the future of arts education?

Theater education, funding, teachers, and facilities are so important, and I can’t stress enough the fact that without youth programs and high school theater programs, I wouldn’t even be doing musical theater. The arts are more than invaluable, but unfortunately they are less than appreciated and supported. I’m just hoping that will be different here in Austin where the young talent is overflowing and the passion for the arts is so palpable

We’re willing to bet Langston’s got more where that came from. Give him a follow on Instagram @langstondlee to keep up with all his Juilliard adventures.

SUPPORT THE HELLER AWARDS

Help us help the artists of tomorrow (like Langston) access high quality arts education. All HAYA donations go directly to subsidize program costs so that we can continue to keep this program FREE for all participating schools.

What’s that bubbly, glittery, electro-feeling in the Austin air? That’s right, it’s local duo Flora & Fawna. Hear from them in this Mid-Week Intermission before their Drop-In debut later this summer, and keep your ear to the ground for more sparks from Austin’s burgeoning pop scene.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DROP-IN 👉 With free music every Thursday, you might want a reminder or two. We can help with that.

1️⃣ Make sure you’re following us @longcenter wherever you get your news to see who’s playing next.

2️⃣ Sign up for weekly notifications so you know when RSVPs open.

3️⃣ Grab your lawn chairs and your buddies and prepare to Drop-In.

MEET FLORA & FAWNA

Long Center: First off, just for fun — what song do you want folks to listen to while they read the rest of this interview?

Lili & Mason: Our newest single, “Costume Party!”

Long Center: We heard that you met at Spider House (RIP 😭). How did you first start making music together and how important are venues like these for Austin creatives?

Lili & Mason: So we’ve known about each other for years before actually meeting face to face. We operated in similar spheres and in similar scenes, and finally came together to collaborate on songs for commercials. We found that we wrote songs really well together by bringing together our production and writing skills, and decided to form Flora & Fawna. The rest is history.

We dropped our first single, “Slow Burn,” in May of 2019. It was heard by a producer at KUTX while they were on a “trip” and they fell in love with the song. Because of this we were chosen to be KUTX Artist of the Month in September 2019. We were slated to be SXSW artists in 2020, but then the pandemic happened and we had to put our music on pause. The isolation led us to do a lot of introspection and our new EP is the product of many years of perseverance.

Local venues are the body and soul of the scene. We’re so glad that so many of our favorite venues to perform in stayed afloat!

Long Center: Being native Austinites — and Lili, the child of Sara Hickman, a big austin name — do you feel any hometown pressure to make music here?

How has that affected your sound, your outlook, and your musical trajectory?

Lili & Mason: Since we’re not making music typical of the Austin scene, we don’t really feel the hometown pressure. Instead, it feels like we are a part of a brand new phase of Austin music as more and more bands embrace a pop-centric and electronic-focused sound. 

As a second-generation musician, there is definitely a high bar that sometimes feels impossible to reach since Austin has changed so much, but we try to just look past it and focus on creating the kind of music we want to hear.

We’ve really just tried to create a very energetic and engaging live show that will keep people coming back!

Long Center:  What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the Austin music scene? What does that future look like to you?

Lili & Mason: Definitely more pop-centric, more electronic, and more experimental. We feel like the new crowd of bands and musicians are making less of your typical Austin psych/bluegrass/rock/indie (although there will always be a crowd for those genres here).

The DJ and club scene has grown significantly, which is bringing more and more people into the music scene and out to our favorite venues. While some with closed-minded views might scoff at these changes, a diverse music scene is one that will last. Especially with how fast Austin is changing every day.

Long Center: Your EP “Monarchs of the Ice Age” is releasing soon — what’s the story behind it? Any favorite tracks?

Lili & Mason: “Monarchs” is an EP that is setting a new standard for our sound, and blends bubbling pop with sultry undertones. Its topics all verge on power, and the power you allow yourself to wield with yourself and in your relationships. It will take you from the sweet sounds of “Long Shot” to the heavily layered vocals and crashing drums of our next single, “Major Menace.”

Our main goal is to create authentically while also proving Austin’s pop scene can compete.

Long Center: We’re super pumped to have you at The Drop-In later this summer. What can folks expect from your set? Any teasers you can leave with us?

Lili & Mason: We know that it will be a hot one, but we love to get everyone on their feet! Expect high energy, high tempo, and fun bubbly songs we hope will get stuck in your head. We also love to throw in a few covers that we think everyone will love! 🙂 

KEEP IN TOUCH

At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

Year-End Gift 2023 | Long Center
Your Support Today, Transforms Tomorrow

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