Shooting for the stars

Two students from BVNW’s Performing Arts department received nominations for the Shooting Stars Awards Program.

Earlier this year, seniors in the Performing and Visual Arts departments were nominated for Shooting Stars awards; this program aims to recognize students who have put hours of work into perfecting their craft. 

The Shooting Stars Awards Program aims to recognize high school seniors in Johnson County for their excellence in the arts. Furthermore, BVNW theater teacher Sydney Kohart said Shooting Stars grants student artists and their art educators with a college scholarship and a teacher honorarium. 

“There’s a lot of different categories that students can be nominated for. There’s vocal performance, there’s theater design and technical elements,” Kohart said. 

Seniors Brett Oplotnik and Claire Doherty are two such students in BVNW’s performing arts department. Oplotnik said he has been participating in theater for nearly 15 years since he signed up for a “High School Musical” summer camp.

Senior Brett Oplotnik was cast in the leading role in BVNW’s latest musical production. He played Frank Abagnale Jr. in “Catch Me If You Can.” (Sydney Skelton)

“I’ve been doing theater since I was technically three years old, but I didn’t do my first mainstage production until I was five,” Oplotnik explained “After that [camp], I just fell in love with it.”

For Oplotnik, he said the theater acts as a second home. Over the years, it has become a way for him to express and feel fully himself. Outside of school, Oplotnik is a part of three different companies and has dedicated much of his time to his performing.  

As for Doherty, she said she has been singing since she was a kid but started choir in the fifth grade and afterwards started her voice lessons.

“I’ve been singing ever since I was a kid,” Doherty said. “I started in choir in fifth grade, then I started professional voice lessons in sixth grade when I was 12.” 

Doherty was nominated by BVNW choir teacher Beth Richey-Sullivan for the voice classical category.

“[Singing] is my main and only passion. It’s a great outlet for my emotions. I’ve been able to get really good at what I do.” Doherty said.  

According to Richey-Sullivan, Doherty’s commitment is one of the reasons she chose her as a nominee. 

“Claire is an exceptional singer. She’s worked extremely hard to develop her voice, and she takes private lessons. I knew she would represent Blue Valley Northwest really well,” Richey-Sullivan said. 

Oplotnik was nominated by Kohart for the Shooting Stars Awards program due to his own excellence in theater performance. Kohart and Richey-Sullivan both explained that the Shooting Stars Program is an award for outstanding artists, hosted by the Arts Council of Johnson County. 

“It aims to recognize their talents and hard work in their specific art discipline,” Kohart said. 

With nine different categories, Shooting Stars recognizes 18 scholarship recipients and nine teacher award winners. 

“They have a beautiful gala in the spring where they feature all of the [artists], and then they give first, second and third place,” Richey-Sullivan said.

I always just look for students who are exemplary within their individual disciplines in the performing arts, [as well as] students that are looking to study the performing arts post college.

— Sydney Kohart

Every year, Kohart said she looks for students who excel in her class, as well as those who are looking to further study the performing arts.

“I always just look for students who are exemplary within their individual disciplines in the performing arts, [as well as] students that are looking to study the performing arts post college,” Kohart said. 

Richey-Sullivan said that she looks into the overall characteristics of the students when choosing who to nominate for the awards. 

“I consider their character and their talent and their reputation in terms of following through with things,” Richey-Sullivan said.

For Kohart, Oplotnik was the perfect candidate for the Shooting Stars Awards. 

“He was the lead in our high school musical, ‘Catch Me If You Can,’” Kohart said. “He’s been dedicated to the performing arts and his musical theater training for quite some time now.” 

According to Kohart, Oplotnik consistently arrives to classes with his part prepared and takes direction well.

“As a director, you’re always looking for an actor that’s able to adapt and change how they perform to best serve the story,” Kohart said. 

When he first found out about his nomination for the award, Oplotnik said his initial feelings were of excitement and nervousness.

“I was really excited, but I was also very nervous, because it’s a lot of money that I’m going up for, and I’m going up against some of my closest friends for it.” Oplotnik said. 

Doherty said she began preparing pieces for the Shooting Stars auditions when she first found out of her nomination.

“I prepared two new pieces for the judges and I started preparing when I was nominated. One was a language piece, which was French, and the other was a song and that’s all I worked on in voice for a while,” Doherty said  “Once I actually perform it, I don’t have to worry about it until April,”

According to Doherty, she has known about the awards since last year, when two of her friends were nominated for the awards. She recounted that her initial interest was fostered by watching her friends become involved in the awards.

“I remember my friends going to the gala and it just seemed like a fun opportunity for them, because even if you don’t win, it’s still just a fun experience,” Doherty said. 

On the other hand, Doherty said it would be meaningful to her if she were to win since she plans to continue pursuing music after school. 

Nominated for a Shooting Stars award by choir teacher Beth Richey-Sullivan, senior Claire Doherty performed in the Northwest musical “Catch Me If You Can” as Paula Abagnale. (Sydney Skelton)

“In the moment I’ll be able to say ‘I won this,’ and it’ll be really great to share with my family, and then if I were to win I’ll definitely use that scholarship money when I go to college,” Doherty said. 

One of the main reasons for Richey-Sullivan’s participation in the awards is the scholarship money it offers, as well as the stature it comes with.

“It’s good scholarship money for the students, and it’s a lot of prestige. They get an opportunity to sing in front of collegiate conductors and music professors,” Richey-Sullivan said. 

Richey-Sullivan explained that winning the award would be helpful for Doherty in the future.

“It’d mean money, [it] would mean a nice scholarship. I think it would just be great for her to be able to put that on her resume for the rest of her life” Richey-Sullivan said. 

The program recognizes 18 scholarship recipients with the help of various donors. Nine of the scholarships go to first place winners in each category for $1,400. The other nine of the scholarships go to second place winners in each category for $700. Along with the 18 scholarships, the program awards the teachers that nominated the first place winners with $300. 

However, alongside the scholarship money, Doherty explained that being nominated for the awards also helped to reassure her of her abilities.

For me, it shows that what I love and what I work on, which is classical voice music, is paying off and I’m being recognized for that,” Doherty said

Oplotnik explained that being nominated for this award proves to him that he is capable of doing performing arts.

“It’ll help me feel more confident in my talents and it’ll let me know that I’m good at this, that I can actually do this,” Oplotnik said. 

Scholarship award recipients will be announced at the virtual Shooting Stars Gala, which will take place on April 2.