Call For Auditions!

High school students (grades 9-12) who are interested in the performing arts are invited to audition for the 2020-2021 year for the Ritz School of Performing Arts! This year’s classes will all be online through Zoom. Students will spend the year working with industry professionals in acting, vocal performance, and/or dance, culminating in a showcase performance at the end of the school year. All students interested in the performing arts are invited to audition. We are looking for motivated students willing to try new things. We are not looking for perfectionjust show us your passion!

At the Ritz School of Performing Arts, our mission is to create holistic embodiment of self-expression through encountering, experiencing, and exploring the performing arts.

When are auditions?

The next round of auditions will be Saturday, September 12 via Zoom. Applicants will receive a Zoom link invitation to their email on Friday, September 11. See below for information on preparing your audition. If you cannot make this day, please contact Stephanie Vickers to arrange an alternative at stephanie.vickers@tennesseevalleyarts.org or 256-383-0533.

When will classes be held?

Classes will be held on Monday evenings (5:30-8:30 pm) via Zoom. Each of the three classes (Acting, Vocal Performance, and Dance) will last one hour, and you will attend whichever classes you are enrolled in. Classes will begin on Monday, September 14 and will continue into May 2021. Students must commit to the full year. District school holidays will be observed.

How do I apply?

  • First, fill out the contact form below to schedule your audition. We will contact you to set up your audition time!

  • Apply for the Ritz School by completing the following forms. All three forms must be completed and turned in by Monday, September 14.
    • Teacher Recommendation Form – Have your principal, teacher, or guidance counselor contact us to fill out our online Teacher Recommendation form. Your teacher will email stephanie.vickers@tennesseevalleyarts.org or call 256-383-0533 to request the form.
    • Student Information Form – Fill out this form to tell us about yourself and let us know which classes you’re interested in. You and a parent or guardian will both sign this form. Download the PDF (2 pages) here.
    • Parental Permission Form – You parent or guardian will sign this form giving permission for you to audition. Download the PDF here.

The Student Information and Parent Permission forms must be filled out completely, signed, and emailed to stephanie.vickers@tennesseevalleyarts.org. We will also accept emailed phone photos of the completed paperwork. If you don’t have access to a printer or scanner, forms can be picked up and dropped off at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) at 511 N. Water St, Tuscumbia AL 35674.

Sign Up to Audition!

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How Do I Prepare for Auditions?

You will prepare auditions for any of the classes (Acting, Vocal Performance, and Dance) that you wish to take with the Ritz School. You can audition for one, two, or all three disciplines. For your audition, please find a quiet location by yourself, so we can all concentrate fully on your pieces without extra noise or distractions. Join the meeting 10 minutes before your audition time. You will enter the Waiting Room and be admitted at your appropriate time. The instructors will lead you through your pieces, and when your audition is finished, leave the meeting.  You will be notified by email of your admittance by Friday, September 4th and will need to reply to the email to complete the acceptance process.

Prepare a monologue of 1-2 minutes (no more than 2). Your piece can be dramatic, comedic, classical, contemporary, or may be an original piece. Your monologue must be from a play or from internet sites that specialize in monologues for teens.

Vocal Performance
Prepare a song of 1-1:15 minutes (16 or 32 music measures, no longer). Choose a favorite piece from musical theatre/Broadway that shows off your strengths. There are internet sites where you can purchase instrumental, inexpensive mp3s. You may also record an accompanist (piano is the preferred instrument) and play the recording for your audition.

Prepare the choreography provided by our dance instructor created for the musical Drowsy Chaperone. Watch the video tutorial here.


What is the Cost?

The Ritz School finances the main tuition through grants and partnerships with school districts. The only cost for families is a $100 workshop fee, which can be paid online.


Email us at stephanie.vickers@tennesseevalleyarts.org or
Call us at 256-383-0533 (Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm)

Meet Our Instructors

Stephanie VickersStephanie Vickers

Stephanie Vickers has a B.A. in Theatre (Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI) and M.A. in Public History (University of North Alabama, Florence, AL) and has worked professionally in the entertainment industry (as cast and crew) for over twenty-five years in theatre, film, television, commercials, voice over, and video games.

She has performed with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, as well as the Nashville Repertory Theatre, People’s Branch Theatre, and improv group One Hand Clapping, in Nashville, TN. Also in Nashville she was featured as Peggy Eaton in the PBS documentary Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil, and the Presidency, guest starred in the film Clancy, participated in the 48-Hour Film Festival for three years, and taught a monologue/commercial class for children sponsored by Women in Film. She was also in many commercials, web series pilots, short films, and independent films.

In Los Angeles, she studied under David Dean Bottrell, Mark Atteberry, and the internationally renowned Judith Weston. She worked in casting/production with AAA video game director Tom Keegan on Syndicate, Need for Speed, Dead Rising 3, Battlefield 3, and Wolfenstein: The New Order. She performed improv with Westside Comedy Theater, was a background regular on How I Met Your Mother, and is best known for her major video game motion-capture roles as Major Greenland in Battlefield 4 and Professor Mary Sue Ellington in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

She is also an independent public historian and interpretation specialist, combining storytelling and performance techniques with academic research to transform museum/site programming into dynamic visitor experiences. She presents and performs on such subjects as women’s education in North Alabama, women on the home front in WWI, and the women’s suffrage movement. Her work concentrates on the intersection of performance, history, empathy, and our shared human connections.

She is currently the Arts Integration Program Director for the Tennessee Valley Art Association and the Ritz School for the Performing Arts.

Suzanne Reese-MillsSuzanne Reese-Mills

Suzanne Reese-Mills received her MFA in Musical Theater from The Boston Conservatory and her BS in Psychology from UNA, where she now teaches several Music courses. After finishing her Master’s degree and before coming back home to the Shoals in 2019, Suzanne worked with Boston area theaters as a performer and dialect coach. During her graduate study and in the years since, Suzanne has specialized in Voice and Speech work, guiding actors and singers to discover their natural voices and explore U.S. and world dialects. At The Ritz School, Suzanne will be teaching beginning classes in Acting and Voice, where she hopes to help students become more confident, skilled, and well-rounded performers.

Recent coaching credits: The Turn of the Screw, UNA Opera/Theatre; Ragtime, Barrington Stage Company; Billy Elliot, Wheelock Family Theatre; The Yeomen of the Guard, MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Recent performing credits: Clara in The Light in the Piazza, Arlington Friends of the Drama; Rona Peretti in The…Spelling Bee, Theater Co. of Saugus; Counsel for the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury, MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players.

Matthew KielMatthew Kiel

Matthew Kiel holds an MFA in Choreography from Jacksonville University, FL; a BA in Dance from Huntingdon College, AL; an AA in Vocal Performance from Northwest Shoals Community College, AL and is certified Ballroom Instructor.  He is currently the Director of Dance for Florence City Schools, the artistic director of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts Dance Company, and Adjunct Instructor at the University of North Alabama.  He is also the Resident Choreographer for Eastern Shore Repertory Theater of Fairhope, AL.   

Matthew’s dance and creative process has been mentored by Christina Teague-Mann, a graduate of Laban Center London, England and Diana F Green, UC Irvine graduate under Eugene Loring, and Antony Tudor.  He has also been educated through intensive dance labs by international dance artist Alonzo King, Juri Neil, Michael Klein, Mayra Morales, John-Paul Zaccarini and Ana Sanchez-Colberg anf Bill Evans.  

Matthew focuses mostly on the educational and creative process of theatrical contemporary works and musical theatre dance.  His recent research on character development through movement has led him to the beginning stages of creating a methodology for teaching and creating work based on traditional acting methods.  

Recently, Matthew choreographed “Helen” for the FAFA Dance Co. which is endorsed by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. His FAFA Dance Co. was also invited to attend the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2020. He has choreographed three world premier shows for Musical Theatre International’s Junior Theatre Festival and has been nominated for two IAPPA awards for shows he co-wrote and choreographed for Six Flags Theme Parks.

Gene Anne GiffordGene Anne Gifford

Gene Anne Gifford has had an eclectic musical career. She began her journey as a flautist, playing in a community symphony, touring Europe and Russia with a band sponsored by Purdue University, and, finally, performing in The Manhattan Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center. 

In graduate school, Ms. Gifford studied flute, harp, opera, and musical theater, even venturing into the area of vaudeville. More recently, she has worked as a music educator, musical theater director, choral director, and private vocal coach. Ms. Gifford received a BMusEd from the University of North Alabama; then continued her education at The University of Alabama and The University of Texas; finally earning her Master’s of Music in Vocal Performance from Pittsburg State University. 

While in Kansas, her most interesting performance experiences included: the roles of Cherubino in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; Celeste One in Sunday in the Park with George; the English girl in “English Girls”, a premier American version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance; Frasquita in the Carmen II Quintet for the Kansas Music Educators Conference; and as soloist in Scarlatti’s Christmas Cantata for the inaugural program on KRPS radio. 

Since returning to the Shoals, she has been an instructor at Northwest-Shoals Community College, UNA, Alabama A & M University, Faulkner University, Muscle Shoals City Schools, and is the founding music director for The Summer Stock at the Ritz and The Ritz School of Performing Arts programs.

She has also had a voice studio, from which have come honorees in The National Association of Teachers of Singing State and Regional competitions, AMEA Outstanding Choral Student auditions, and the Trombauer, SETC, and the Alabama State Thespian Competitions.

Her students have received full vocal scholarships to schools such as: Shenandoah Conservatory, LSU, Belmont University, and Indiana University, as well as in-state schools. 

Many of these students now have careers as choral directors or vocal coaches at Disney World, Opera Mississippi, the University of Kentucky, as well as many local schools. 

Some of her students now perform at venues such as Dollywood and Disney World; others have worked at regional venues in Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Virginia, and New Jersey. 

Ms. Gifford is married to David Gifford. They have three children and three grandchildren.

About the Ritz School of Performing Arts

At the Ritz School of Performing Arts, our classes create holistic embodiment of self-expression through encountering, experiencing, and exploring the performing arts.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Ritz School of Performing Arts is to provide opportunities for
9th – 12th grade students who have a strong personal interest in, and aptitude for, the performing arts to receive a high-level of training in acting, vocal performance and choreography that will:

  • develop their individual talents and prepare each to perform successfully in group productions or as solo artists.
  • enable them to successfully pursue entry into an institute of higher learning and/or careers in the performing arts.
  • provide the opportunity to participate in a quality program that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally compelling, aesthetically enriching and personally relevant to their talents.
  • promote a desire for, and the understanding of, excellence in the performing arts.
  • foster an appreciation for the performing arts that will last a lifetime.
  • build advocates for the performing arts for future generations.
  • initiate a journey that promotes lifelong learning, human interaction, creativity and social awareness.

Vision Statement

The Ritz School of Performing Arts is a high quality educational program for students in grades 9-12 that develops the whole person through a curriculum that enriches and provides practical application for the Alabama state standards for the performing arts. Our goal is to develop the talents and social skills of each student so that when they leave the program, they will be independent, cooperative, responsible and creative young adults with the performing arts skills and aesthetic understanding necessary to participate in and support the performing arts for a lifetime. We believe the skills and qualities learned in our program will prepare students to pursue further educational goals and allow them to contribute to the life and the well being of society as a whole.

Our Conviction

  • Participation in performing arts programs will unlock and support the artistic potential of our students.
  • The best discipline comes from a commitment to shared goals.
  • The performing arts encourage each individual to work in a creative, cooperative and collaborative manner while promoting independent thinking.
  • Students learn best in a participative and creative environment placed within a firm framework of high standards in teaching and learning.
  • Students need an understanding of, and access to, programs that encourage independence of thought and personal development in order to be successful in a technologically developing society.
  • Our program will prepare students to pursue further studies in performing arts at two-year or four-year institutions of higher learning.


TVMA Art Camp 2020

Summer Art Camp

offers a week of art education
for students grades 3-12

Traveling Trunks

Traveling Trunks

teach history and art learning through hands-on activities.

Acrylip Workshop

Adult Workshops

offer arts education for adults
of all skill levels.