With so much attention focused on funding for teacher salaries and our public schools, attention must be paid to one area where our tax dollars are reaping an unprecedented return on investment: performing arts education.
Last week, Northwest School of the Arts grad Abby Corrigan graced the stage of the Knight Theatre in the first national tour of “Fun Home.” Corrigan was a 2014 winner of the “Blumey” awards, the regional level of The Broadway League’s National High School Musical Theatre Awards, better known as the “Jimmys” after the late theatre owner/producer James M. Nederlander. Sponsored locally by Blumenthal Performing Arts, the Blumeys have built an impressive track record.
Eva Noblezada was a NWSA junior when she won the 2013 Blumey and was “discovered” at the Jimmys by casting director Tara Rubin. At age 17, she made her West End debut in the revival of “Miss Saigon,” before fulfilling her dream of opening a Broadway show. At the 2017 Tony awards last month, newcomer Noblezada was a nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, losing to 50-year veteran Bette Midler.
2016 Blumey recipient Amina Faye from Central Academy of Technology and the Arts in Monroe was the first national winner of the Jimmys from our region, with her portrayal of Sarah in “Ragtime.”
Our local success streak continued this year. 2017 Blumey-winner Anna Hertel from Ardrey Kell High received the “Best Dancer” award presented last week at the Jimmys.
It is the educators, however, who nurture our local students to their fullest potential.
Jay Everette, Senior Vice President and Officer of the Wells Fargo Foundation, said it best at the Jimmys. “Behind every great student performance you experience this evening in New York City is an outstanding teacher from back home. These incredibly committed theater educators do more than just teach. They mentor. They motivate. They challenge and inspire our next generation of performers.”
One such teacher is Larry Robinson from CATA, who taught Faye in addition to 2014 Blumey-winner T. J. Schmidt. Robinson is receiving well-deserved and long-overdue recognition, including the first “Inspiring Teaching” award at the Jimmys and many others.
While we celebrate our students as they take to the national stage, let us also applaud their teachers who make us equally proud. Thank you Larry, Corey, Bonnie, Brian, Terry, Barbara, Paula, Stacey, and dozens of other performing arts educators in our region.
To you we say… BRAVO!
Martin is the John M. Blackburn Distinguished Professor of Theatre at Appalachian State University and a former head of Charlotte Repertory Theatre.