Go Back in Time with Heller Awards Alum Dave Hawks

Have you ever found yourself lost in a whirlwind of memories, feeling grateful for the journey that led you to where you are today? Well, pull up a seat and get ready to reminisce, because we’re about to take a deep dive into the transformative power of the Heller Awards for Young Artists with Dave Hawks, one of our very own HAYA photographers and a proud alum of the program (fun fact: he was actually in the very first one!).

Hi! I’m Dave Hawks!!

Reflecting on my journey with the Heller Awards brings forth a rush of memories and gratitude for the impact it has had on my life and those around me. Growing up in Austin, my involvement in Cedar Park High School’s musical theater and UIL competitions laid the groundwork for my passion for the arts. But it was during my senior year that I truly found my place.

Dave Hawks
This is Dave! 📸

Though I wasn’t much of a singer, my decision to step up as a dancer for the Heller Awards’ Select Ensemble proved to be one of the best choices I’ve made, shaping not only my high school experience, but also my career trajectory. Today, as a brand manager, co-owner of a digital marketing firm, and a photographer, I owe much of my success to the relationships and skills nurtured during my time in the theatre. Not because I’m now performing on Broadway or anything, but because the relationships I developed during that time have proven to be some of the most impactful, and have opened doors for me I could have never imagined possible.

The arts have a way of bringing together the right people at the right time, and provide a means of connection with others that is hard to find anywhere else.

I keep coming back to be involved in the Heller Awards because I know how much the arts have done for me, and I want to be a part of giving that back to the generations coming next. You can’t escape the arts. They will always draw you back. The arts are really just life happening on stage under spotlights.

The theatre doesn’t just teach you how to act, and sing, and dance. It shows you how to contend with yourself, it holds up a mirror so you can learn about who you are. Scripts can give words to emotions you feel but could never articulate. The theatre teaches you how to listen, how to communicate on purpose, and how to speak without using your words. It mandates that you learn how to combine your mind, body, and heart to work together as one. It teaches you how to have empathy for those around you, even the ones playing the role of the villain. Taking on a role of any size requires a genuine attempt to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, which may be the most important skill you could ever learn.

Behind the scenes of the Heller Awards red carpet // Photo by Dave

The skills I learned in theatre are the skills most fundamental to my success in life today. Certainly more than anything I learned from my textbooks. I learned the value of words, which ones to use and when. I learned how loud silence can be. I learned that compelling communication only comes when I truly believe what I’m saying. I learned that being louder doesn’t necessarily mean being more effective. I learned that just because you have the most to say doesn’t mean your character means the most to the story. I learned that more often than not, it’s those behind the scenes that have the most important roles, and deserve the most praise.

To those just starting their arts or musical theatre journeys, I advise you to make sure the people around you are more important to you than the characters you play. When people talk about why they loved their theatre experience, it’s rarely because of the specific characters they were cast as. It’s because of those they got to play alongside. The relationships, the friendships, and the community that come from the stage is a bond like no other. Learn to love those around you, and you’ll love whatever it is you do.

As we wrap up Dave Hawks‘ inspiring journey through the transformative world of theater, get ready to spot him behind the lens on this year’s Heller Awards red carpet on April 17, capturing all the glitz, glamour, and his infectious energy! It’s going to be a night to remember.


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