Taylor Ricker’s mantra to others is always to be outgoing.
“Don’t wait to try something new,” he said. “If you wait, it might be too late.”
Ricker, 18, was one of 189 students who graduated from Harrisonville High School on May 19.
In a week, he will be moving to Los Angeles to attend the American Musical and Dramatics Academy, where he will be specializing in acting, musical theatre and dance.
He will be living in the heart of the entertainment district, just a block north from Hollywood Boulevard, taking dance, acting, vocal and film classes from professionals in the field.
But just two years ago, Ricker had never stepped foot on the stage of a high school theatrical performance.
During his junior year at Harrisonville, Ricker was given the lead role of Ren MacCormack in the school’s performance of “Footloose” after trying out for the production. From there, things began to change for the Harrisonville teen.
Ricker had become a familiar face in the school’s show choir – performing for four years, since his freshman year – but even that took some extra courage to step out of his comfort level. He had been a member of his elementary school’s honor choir in third through fifth grade, but throughout middle school, developed a disinterest for singing.
“My mom and choir teacher actually made me audition for the junior varsity show choir my freshman year against my will,” Ricker remembers.
But his mom and teacher knew better.
“I ended up loving it,” he said. “Show choir is the best thing I had ever done.”
As his confidence grew, Ricker got involved with theater, performed in “Footloose,” and three other performances this year. He also played football for the Wildcats for three years.
Throughout his last two years in high school, Ricker has relied on the support of his drama instructor, Annetta Snowden, who has performed on Broadway and in other professional shows.
“Mrs. Snowden is a genius,” he said. “She’s so supportive and has really helped me a lot through the last two years of my high school career.”
As the thought of college neared, Ricker considered going into music.
“My original plan for after college was to do the business side of music and I was going to minor in performance. But all the department heads I talked to said if you’re going to do performance, you have to go all out or nothing,” he said. “They said you’re not going to get anywhere if you just do a minor.”
Ricker made the decision that he was going to go for it and make performance his main focus of study.
“After last summer, when I participated in the All-State Show Choir, performing in ‘Footloose’ and getting a (Cappie) nomination for a lead role, I really thought that was a good decision and what I wanted to do,” he said.
Ricker was accepted to the two-year program after auditioning in St. Louis last fall, was invited to participate in the school’s summer semester, and is on target to complete the program in October 2014. About 1,000 students attend the academy.
Each week, Ricker will concentrate on about 60 hours of classroom and rehearsal time – all field preparation for what he wants to do.
“It’s going to help you get a job,” Ricker said. “I don’t really have a specific goal – whether it is to be on Broadway, be on a TV show, or be in a movie, but as long as I am performing and able to make a living off of it, that is exactly what I want to be able to do.”