Winners of the Young Artist Award have particularly bright futures ahead of them in the arts. The tale of what comes next for these Ellis County students can simply be told by last year’s vocal runner-up, Caleb Barnett.

It was this time last year that Barnett was amid his senior year at Waxahachie High School practicing for UIL One-Act Play and performing for a scholarship opportunity with the Waxahachie Symphony Association.

“The symphony association is all about celebrating the arts, especially in young people, which is what I love about it so much,” Barnett said over the phone before walking into ballet class at the University of Central Oklahoma.

It was Waxahachie ISD director of choral activities, Jeremiah Ieppert, who mentioned the experience that altered Barnett’s perception of his future.

Barnett shared that his personable and inspirational interactions with the WSA members and judges “was the reason I came here (UCO). I wanted to go to a place like that where they care about the people they work with. They made me feel as if I was important. The notes that they gave me were very uplifting.”

“I really would not be here if it weren’t for them,” Barnett emphasized.

In his first year of college, Barnett performed the musical, “Hair,” which was a co-production between the university and the local professional theater, The Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre. He also starred in “The Most Happy Fella" through the school. Barnett double booked the main stage shows as either the main character or as a supporting role.

Barnett said he improves his skills as an entertainer with every production and he noted working with different actors forces him to be more versatile.

Most days begin with classes from 9 a.m.—4 p.m. He then has about an hour break and rehearsals until 10 p.m. Barnett is enrolled into 19 hours of class that focus on grooming him to be an entertainer. His class schedule consists of a variety of dance, theater, vocal and instrumental courses.

“The thing I love about this school is that they strive for you to be well-rounded, and the most marketable to where you book things easier,” Barnett noted. “If you can do all three [dance, sing, act] then people are going to love to work with you.

Acting has always come first, and the vocal aspect of his talents started about three years ago. When it comes to dancing and playing musical instruments, Barnett said he picks them up quickly. He attributed his adaptable dance skills to his background in basketball since both incorporate intricate footwork.

In a previous interview with the Daily Light, Barnett expressed he was not the most confident with his voice in high school. He now meets with a vocal coach and has progressed tremendously. Barnett is less concerned with the sound of his voice and instead focuses on being comfortable.

“I’ve always been my worst critic, which is usual for a lot of people,” he admitted. “I just strive because I know I can be better than where I am.”

The university not only prepares the students for on stage but as well as the road to get there. Barnett is equipped with the tools to book his own shows.

“They have us do it all on our own because that’s how you are going to be doing it once you are in New York,” Barnett explained. “You have to figure out these auditions all by yourself, and it is a little bit easier if you have an agent.”

This audition season, Barnett tried out for 15 shows and secured three roles, turning down one.

Barnett will perform in “Mamma Mia,” as part of the ensemble at the Garland Summer Musicals from June 14—23. He will also play Tommy Ross in the production “Carrie” at Casa Manana on Aug. 2—4.


The Waxahachie Symphony Association has supported students in their future collegiate endeavors for over 30 years through scholarship.

The Young Artist Award recognizes outstanding musical talents and accomplishments and is presented in two categories, vocal and instrumental. First-place winners in each division earned a $1,500 scholarship, while the runner-ups received $1,000.

Navarro County Electric Co-Op, Pearman Oil & L.P. Gas and the Waxahachie Symphony Association underwrote the awards this year.

Ellis County seniors were required to be nominated by a music teacher to initially be considered. Auditions were held on March 5 at Central Presbyterian Church of Waxahachie, and the winners were announced at the concert April 6.

In the instrumental division, Logan Augustin of Midlothian High School received first place with his Marimba performance “Caleidoscopio,” composed by Gene Koshinski. Runner-up Kaily Cloud, of Maypearl High, played the Alto Saxophone.

In the vocal division, two Waxahachie High students placed with Kamerann Burney in first with her performance of “O mio babbino caro,” by Giacomo Puccini. Madison Zandt was recognized as the runner-up.

Following the awards ceremony, the first-place winners of each division joined on the stage in Performance Hall at the Hagee Communication Center on the campus of Southwestern Assemblies of God University to perform in front of a live symphony audience.

Logan Augustine

Augustine is an active member of the arts at Midlothian High School with the marching band, theatre orchestra, and percussion ensemble. He also performed with the all-region band and state solo and ensemble. Augustine also served as the percussion leader.

Percussion director Daniel Hawkins explained Augustine strongly influences his peers through his knowledge of music in hopes of leaving a legacy.

“His thirst for learning is unquenchable,” Hawkins said. “His zeal and passion for music cannot be surpassed. He was already a very knowledgeable student when I first met him, but now he simply needs an instrument and a room to push himself and his craft to levels that he has not yet attained.”

Augustine has always been fascinated by the drummers at church and shared his thoughts with his mother. Next thing Augustine knew, he was in lessons. The natural ability did not come easily.

“I’ve never been one to pick things up naturally,” Augustine explained. I’ve always really believed that working hard and practicing really hard is the most efficient way to do something. Drumming is something that I’ve put thousands and thousands of hours into.”

He plans to attend Texas A&M University to obtain a degree of engineering for aerospace engineering.

“I’ve always been a big fan of science and space in the aspect of airplanes and spaceships and Sci-Fi,” Augustine said. “I’m kind of good at math, science, and music and so it has been weird to try and figure out if I wanted to do music or science.”

Augustine assured he would maintain his passion for the drums by auditioning for the jazz bands offered at Texas A&M.

Kailey Cloud

Cloud performed this year with the Maypearl High School marching band, concert band and solo and ensemble. She is a member of the National Honors Society and received an excellent rating at UIL Solo and Ensemble three years in a row.

Cloud has worked tirelessly in her high school career to reach the top musically as she competed at the state level every year. Her success in and out of competitions has influenced her peers as well.

Dallas Dees, Maypearl High Band Director, attributed her achievements and dedication “is partly responsible for this year where we had the most students ever compete and advance to the state level competition of the solo and ensemble contest.”

The lead by example attitude inspired other students to realize their potential success.

Dees shared that Cloud continued private lessons and daily practice on her tryout music for college while maintaining “A” plus averages in all of her classes that include three college-level courses.

Cloud will attend Sam Houston State University to study music therapy.

“I’m very passionate about music and helping people, and my sister had a heart transplant back in 2015, and I saw the caretakers working around the hospital, and I was inspired by her to pursue that career,” Cloud explained.

Music was therapeutic to Cloud as well as she distracted herself from adversity with learning to play the ukulele. She even bought her sister one, and they played together.

Kamerann Burney

She is a member of the Waxahachie High Show Choir and is involved in musical theater. She recently played Mrs. Banks in the high school production of “Mary Poppins,” and will cast as Roxie in the upcoming show, “Chicago.”

She is currently competing in the UIL One-Act Play competition and has received several honorable mentions. She received a Class I rating in UIL solo and ensemble contests making her a state qualifier.

Burney aspires to obtain a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in musical theater.

“They are amazing young ladies with more talent in their little finger than I ever had at their age,” said WHS theater director Andy Reynolds about his students. “Not only are they talented but the excel academically and are strong leaders among their peers.”

Madison Zandt

Zandt has been a member of the varsity choir for three years at WHS and performed in show choir for the past year and musical theater for four.

Zandt has served in two executive positions for the theater as treasure and this year as vice president.

She was cast as Mary Poppins in the show, “Mary Poppins,” and is cast as Velma in the upcoming production of “Chicago.”

Zandt will attend the University of Central Oklahoma to obtain a degree in musical theater.

Reynolds has known Zandt since she was six years old and it is hard to imagine her leaving.

“I wish I had more time with them, but like all of my beloved seniors they always leave me for bigger and greener pastures,” Reynolds expressed.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450