Rixey Terry seemed destined more for sports than for theater until he started sixth grade at Northwest School of the Arts. The Davidson native grew up in a sports-minded family, performed gymnastics and did street tumbling on a hip-hop team.
"It kind of took over my entire life," said Rixey, who is now a junior at Northwest. "When I was in third grade, someone said I should try theater because I loved performance. I had always wanted to be in theater but didn't think I had what it took. Northwest told me otherwise."
Rixey's first performance at Northwest was in the school's production of "The Little Mermaid." He recalled that he "winged it," because he wasn't sure what to do. A lot has changed since then. On May 20, he took home a Blumey Award – Charlotte's version of the Tony Awards for high school musical theater – for best supporting actor in "Big Fish."
"The award was such an honor," Rixey said. "Working with all of these high school students, learning from artists like David Dabbon and Linda Booth, and celebrating theater with a cast and crew I was so thankful to be a part of ... it all made for quite an exciting week."
Tony Award-winning Theater Arts teacher Corey Mitchell said Rixey's kindness has made him one of the most beloved and sought-after performers in Charlotte. He said Rixey's work has gotten rave reviews from companies such as Children's Theatre, Theatre Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College and Davidson Community Players, and that he has a tireless work ethic.
"He is constantly trying to improve some aspect of his performance canon, whether it is tapping, tumbling or singing," Mitchell said. "As a result, his talent is simply undeniable."
Rixey also won a National YoungArts Foundation award for merit in theater this year. The application-based awards are for artistic achievement by artists ages 15 to 18. Rixey was invited to participate in the regional YoungArts Week, an intensive, all-expense-paid program in New York City, to work with winners at all levels, led by accomplished artists and mentors.
Some of Rixey's role models are Northwest alumni, such as Abby Corrigan, who was in NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert" at Easter. Corrigan helped him with his YoungArts submission tape, which included a song and two monologues. He said he also has been inspired by the success of Tony-nominated Eva Noblezada, who used to ride his bus, as well as his Northwest instructors.
"All of my teachers at school have truly made an impact on my passion for the arts," Rixey said. "Not only is it the training that they have implemented, but also their respect for the art and the industry that has been so impactful."
Mitchell said his biggest goal for Rixey is for him to show his heart. Rixey credits Mitchell with helping him reach the level of confidence he needed to be vulnerable in "Big Fish."
"I have dozens of students who are beautiful singers," Mitchell said. "However, the students who are able to perform from a vulnerable and personal place are on a completely different level."
Rixey fine-tunes his skills by studying with a voice coach outside school and immersing himself in arts activities. He is currently assistant choreographer for a production of "Hairspray" in Davidson and will perform in the upcoming CPCC production of "Newsies." He also will spend the summer preparing for auditions for college programs in musical theater.
"When I started [at Northwest], I didn't know if this was possible, but by freshman year, it was not as much of a choice," he said. "I knew that I have to do this for the rest of my life."
According to Mitchell, that's not some far-fetched dream.
"Rixey is right on the precipice of being there," Mitchell said. "His vocals are uplifting and seraphic, his sincerity is genuine, and his work ethic is so solid that there isn't a single doubt in my mind that Rixey will be working professionally in the very near future and for a VERY long time."