Austin Young Artist Spotlight: Christian Brown
FINDING MY PASSION FOR THE ARTS AT HOME
Like many celebrities, Christian Brown has “it” — a huge personality, he’s adored by students and faculty, a great student, positive, athletic, genuine and loyal. However, as a rising senior it’s the theater that has his heart. Every day his mother drives him from Killeen to the St. Andrew’s Upper School campus in Southwest Austin, starting early to beat traffic. Based on school and rehearsal schedules, Christian may not get home until 11:00pm or midnight. But it’s all worth it.
Christian joined cheer as a freshman and then tech theater the next year when all the art classes were full. After that year’s musical closed, Rick Garcia, the St. Andrew’s Upper School Theater Director, asked Christian if he could sing. He auditioned on the spot, igniting his passion for the performing arts.
Christian was accepted into Zach’s prestigious Pre-Professional Company for aspiring musical theater students and at the end of his sophomore year received his first Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Award nomination for Best supporting Actor in Jesus Christ Superstar. At the time, he didn’t know what ‘GAHSMTA’ was but knew he wanted to be a part of it.
After his first vocal rehearsal with Ginger Morris, Director of Long Center Education and Outreach (Edu), and Adam Roberts, Musical Director for Long Center Edu, he cried on the drive back home to Killeen that night. “I knew from that moment on that I could perform,” said Christian.
Performing on stage at the Long Center in front of a sold-out, extremely passionate crowd of almost 2,500 was what he called a ‘life-affirming moment’ that he will never forget. That sense of purpose and presence also confirmed all his feelings about his future.
Last fall, he auditioned for Select Ensemble, an intensive GAHSMTA program that begins in October with regular rehearsals, professional training, special performances, and public relations. It culminates in the Awards show each April that sells out in minutes — an event as big as prom and graduation that’s called ‘Austin’s version of the Tony Awards,’ complete with its own red carpet.
It was devastating when the Awards were cancelled this year. “When the pandemic first struck, I thought we were just going to be out a couple of weeks. We were all born after 9/11. We’ve never had to experience anything like this. This has been the biggest uncertainty of our lifetime. It was the first time we had to be adults,” said Christian.
Early on when shelter in place was just beginning, his mom asked him if the pandemic made him question if theater was his calling. But after some lengthy Zoom calls, plans were made for the official launch of the virtual GAHSMTA!
“They gave us the run down from the costumes to the choreography. It was nerve-wracking trying to film and learn everything from home, but then it became the reason I started getting out of bed. The show quickly turned into something that excited me and something to look forward to.”
Working on the Awards has been a haven for kids like Christian, who has remained in Killeen since March. “Art gave us an outlet and a chance to calm down and breathe. To be able to get on Zoom and see my friends and crack jokes and work on this program has been a stress reliever and motivator,” he said.
“The arts give me purpose at a time when everything is on pause. People I didn’t even know a year ago have become some of my best friends. We all come from different backgrounds and schools and different areas of Central Texas, and not one of us is the same.”
“The dance training from Sara Burke, Long Center Edu Choreographer/Dance Instructor, is fantastic; Adam is so good at what he does and has the best ear. Ginger is such a strong leader and her presence is calming and motivating.”
“Through the Long Center, I’ve gained the best connections, friendships, and training. I’ve gained confidence from doing shows and networking with producers. I wouldn’t be where I am without the Long Center’s connections and training.”
“My dream is to work towards a scholarship and attend a musical theatre school, move to NYC and make it on Broadway, then head to Hollywood. Eventually I want to come back to Austin and give back to the community. I’d love to teach at one of our local high schools and be like my director Rick Garcia and all the people who have impacted me so much. I want to let other poor, black, gay kids know that they can do it too,” said Christian.
Christian just got a job at Sonic for the summer and will be taking online dance classes before heading back to St. Andrew’s for his Senior year.
Support GAHSMTA, a year-long, free program for thousands of Central Texas students by becoming a Long Center Member for $10 a month or donating the cost of a ticket. And don’t forget to watch the Awards at 7:30pm, May 31st! Join our mailing list to make sure you’re getting the latest details.