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Sammys 'Roll Out The Orange Carpet' For Bearkat Best

March 21, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Sara Thompson

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The eveningwear, the spotlight, the entertainment—it’s a Bearkat gathering like no other.

Perhaps the pinnacle of student events taking place on the Sam Houston State University campus, one event honors the university’s top-tier students, faculty and staff, while showcasing the university’s finest performances.

The envelope, please: The Sammy Awards.

On April 11, the stage will be set for the 18th event, where student emcees guide guests through a memorable night featuring the SHSU’s “best of the best.”

Though the event only lasts a couple of hours, months of preparation go into assuring the night provides the same flair and prestige of Hollywood’s best.

It’s an effort that this year’s emcees, senior SuZanne Kelley and sophomore Risa Mitchell, as well as announcer, freshman Tyler Finzel, know first-hand after more than 130 hours of rehearsal for the event.

The three SHSU students were selected after auditioning for their parts last December during the annual emcee tryouts hosted by SHSU Student Activities Department.

“Each year we look for students who are not only a great representation of SHSU, but also have great stage presence and are really able to engage the audience,” said Brandon Cooper, associate director for Student Activities and “The Sammy’s” coordinator.

For Kelley, the choice to audition was inspired by a pact she made with herself.

“Because I love being involved, I have always wanted to do something really big for my university before I graduated and that’s why I always promised I would try out one year,” she said.

In January, the trio begins the task of turning a 50-page script into a polished performance before their springtime debut. The following months are filled with countless rehearsals, under the guidance of Cooper, as well as additional obligations to promote the event.

After Spring Break, their three-day-a-week practices increase to five days a week, with eight-to-nine hour-long rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday, in order to perfect the act in the remaining month’s time.

Meanwhile, Student Activities works just as hard to find another set of Bearkats that will grace the presence of The Sammy’s stage—the award winners.

After all nomination forms have been submitted by the beginning of February, the selection process begins. Individual nominations are read by a committee consisting of 13 SHSU faculty members, including representatives from the deans’ offices of each college.

Student Activities withholds names of the persons or organizations nominated during the review by the selection committee. After their selections have been made, the office must then decode votes to determine the award recipient.

According to Cooper, this process assures the selection is fair and gives all nominees an equal chance through their anonymity.

The day of the event will begin early for Student Activities, with last-minute preparations such as sound checks and other technical measures.

“We are using the lighting visuals company that sets up for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo so we’re really excited about that,” said Cooper. “We are really excited about them. They always do a great job.”

Mitchell, Kelley and Finzel will also get an early start to prepare for the night’s event. At 9 a.m. the trio will begin a seven-hour run-through, followed by a three-hour process of hair and makeup before stepping onto the stage in their eveningwear.

Despite the long hours of practice, the three students agree that being a part of the Sammy’s has been a great experience.

“You never fully realize how hard some of these students are working,” said Kelley. “It has been an eye-opening and inspirational experience to be apart of honoring those people.”

“I never knew how much a student could gain by really being involved in their college, but this has been a great experience for me,” said Finzel.

Mitchell stays especially humble about their efforts.

“The people we are honoring during the ceremony have given above and beyond their fair share of time to the university,” said Mitchell. “I’m just glad I’ve been able to play this small part in honoring them.”

Cooper also agrees the leaps and bounds involved in the long process are more than justified.

“Through all the preparation, we want to make sure that we are rightfully honoring these students, faculty and staff that work so hard for these awards,” he said. “We want to host the event in such a manner to really honor and respect them.”

The 18th annual Sammy Awards will be held April 11 at 6 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center’s Payne Concert Hall. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend. Throughout the night, 26 awards will be presented to SHSU students, faculty, staff and organizations.

This year’s event will feature two new awards, including an award for “Outstanding Recreational Organization” and an “Excellence in Service Award” for the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communications.

In addition, the 2012 Sammy Awards will feature three performance acts by SHSU's School of Music and theatre and dance department, including a number from the theatre program’s coming production “Once Upon a Mattress,” which opens April 25.

For more information on the Sammy Awards, call Cooper at 936.294.3465 or visit the Sammy Awards website at http://www.shsu.edu/~slo_sad/sammys.



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