By Thomas Sellers Jr.
It’s finally time to drop the curtain on Shelbi Sellers’ fine arts career at Tipton-Rosemark Academy.
For 10 years, Sellers has dedicated part of her school experience to the TRA Fine Arts department developing and enhancing her talents. By the time she walked across the stage this past May 16 graduating from TRA, Sellers was a decorated singer and actress.
Sellers said Fine Arts Director Lalania Vaughn and her peers helped her in all her awards, achievements and recognitions.
“The biggest thing, especially here at Rosemark, it has been the family sense,” she said. “Wherever I go, I want to take that with me. Just knowing a production is a team effort. I was saying ‘we’ earlier because ‘we’ won those awards.
“If someone wasn’t there one night, it was a tremendous difference,” Sellers added. “It would be so hard because everyone has his job. Just moving the couch in or out. If that couch isn’t there, then the scene doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t look right. So it’s all about working cohesively. No one part is more important than the other.”
From the stage crew to the lead actress, the highlight of the year for the TRA Fine Arts Department was the world premiere production of Pride and Prejudice in April. Sellers’ performance got her nominated by the Orpheum as Best Lead Actress for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennett.
“It was just a such a sense of relief,” Sellers said. “It was so hard. The music was so hard, the long rehearsals. I wasn’t getting home until about 11:30 or midnight. It was all so frustrating because it was like we could never quite get it right.
“Then opening night was such a success,” she continued. “Before the Orpheum and all of those awards, we really wanted to put on a good show for the writers because they actually gave us permission to do this show. We wanted to do them justice. After the awards, it was nice to know someone sees all the effort we put into this and it wasn’t done in vain.”
Always having dreams of becoming an actress, her solid performance in Pride and Prejudice boosted Sellers’ aspirations of hitting the big time.
“I would love, anybody who is in theater, would love to perform on a Broadway stage,” she said. “That would be the ultimate dream. Anything in musical theater is so important to me. It teaches you how to contact with people, different personalities.
“And you get to see life through someone else’s eyes,” Sellers added. “You get to live life and see who they are. Like with Elizabeth Bennett, I would have never known what it was like to live a life with a mother who just wants to get me married off just for convenience sake. Now I get to know that and connect on a deeper level.”
Sellers has allowed the arts to touch her soul. And being a lifelong student at TRA has benefited her spiritual side overall.
“I’m thankful for the gift God has given me,” she said. “I use my gifts to bring glory to Him. It’s not just glory to Him, He’s been so good to me that He allows me to enjoy the gifts he’s bestowed on me.
“I feel that God has blessed me so much through my talents,” Sellers continued. “The fact I give it all to Him, I don’t sit there and say, ‘Well, I’m the best.’ I always give thanks to God because as many recognitions I’ve been getting lately, before I step out on stage I pray, ‘Oh, God I need you to help me.’ It’s not just me stepping out on this stage.”
Another encouraging force for Sellers to take the stage over the years was Vaughn. The instructor has groomed Sellers’ talents and pushed her toward greatness.
“Ms. Vaughn has been there since day one,” Sellers recalled. “She’s always been that encouragement for me and pushed me to go far. She’s pushed me further than I could ever think about going. She’s always been there cheering me on and pushing me to my next level even when I thought I couldn’t do anymore.”
Vaughn helped Sellers realize she could be a self-taught dancer. Now Sellers has added tap dancing to her resume’. Sellers said Vaughn’s character makes it easier to listen to her instructions.
“Her sense of encouragement and the fact that she is so loyal to God wanting do what He wants,” she noted. “But it’s not only doing what He wants. It’s taking it and making it a reality and this wonderful thing.”
Sellers wants to encourage others in the art like Vaughn. She has aspirations to provide theater education to children who don’t have access to it.
With Sellers’ talents the theater might come calling or Hollywood and television.
“I would probably accept it,” she acknowledged. “It would be a career experience and I love performing anyway.
“I will be my best so I can give my best to someone else,” Sellers concluded. “If a little kid comes to me and says, ‘I want to be on Broadway.’ I can show them and tell them what it takes to get there.”