The awards were initiated March 22, 2010, by Music Theatre International CEO Freddie Gershon and his wife Myrna, who fund the grant. MTI represents the licensing rights to the entire Sondheim catalogue.
The ten winning teachers are Christi Davis of Fayetteville, NC; Rafe Esquith of Los Angeles, CA; Paul Fry of New Haven, CT; Rembert Herbert of New York, NY; Bridget Lambright of Cleveland, OH; Melanie Mann of North Miami Beach, FL; Steven Miller of Rialto, CA; Tom Porton, of Bronx, NY; Evelys Ubiera of Miami, FL; and Jacque Wheeler of Valdosta, GA.
Each of the educators receive a $10,000 grant and are showcased along with the student he or she inspired on the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards website.
The honors are open to all teachers, not only those within the realm of arts education. Educators from kindergarten through college can be nominated by one of their students. A national panel of judges reviewed the nominations, which were narrowed down from hundreds of applicants.
Among those nominating students were Tony Award-winning In the Heights writer Lin-Manuel Miranda (who nominated Rembert Herbert), author David Pogue (who nominated Paul Fry), Emmy-nominated writer Deb Fordham (who nominated Jacque Wheeler) and performance artist David Gonzalez (who nominated Tom Porton). "Teachers define us," Sondheim said in a previous statement. "In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more even than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into what we ultimately become. Good teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone."
Stephen Sondheim, who began his Broadway career as a lyricist for West Side Storyand Gypsy, made his debut as a composer/lyricist in 1962 with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Along with collaborators including Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, James Goldman, George Furth, James Lapine, John Weidman and Harold Prince, Sondheim revolutionized the face of musical theatre with Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Anyone Can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins, Into the Woods and Passion. His latest musical, Road Show, debuted at the Public Theater in 2009.
Nominations for the 2012 Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will be accepted starting September 6, 2011.
To apply, visit Kennedy-Center.org/SondheimTeacherAwards.