Tony Nominee Benj Pasek and Cast of Annie Inspire High School Jimmy Award Nominees

By Michael Gioia
30 Jun 2013

Benj Pasek
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Until then, they continue to learn from artists in the industry and were visited by 2013 Tony Award nominee Benj Pasek, who wrote the scores — along with his writing partner Justin Paul — to Off-Broadway's Dogfight and Broadway's A Christmas Story, the Musical. Pasek chatted with the students in between rehearsals, on their lunch break, June 28 at Tisch. Kent Gash, founding director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts' New Studio on Broadway, moderated the conversation.

"When you are in this room, and you see all of these high school students getting so excited about musical theatre, it's the most inspiring thing in the world because you're realizing that this is an art form that young people are excited about," Pasek told following his Q&A with the students. "I am a young person, and to see people who are ten years younger than me excited over trivia questions about Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe and Stephen Sondheim, it's [evident] that musical theatre is alive and well. They're all being rewarded for their work in musical theatre, and they're coming to a place where they get to meet and know the other people who are excited about the art form — what an inspirational [event]!"

"One of my college audition pieces was from [Pasek and Paul's song cycle] Edges, 'Monticello,' so when I found out he was the guest speaker, I was floored," said Connor Fallon, who represents Spotlight on Stars in Beverly, MA, for his performance as the title character in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. "I think the most important thing I learned from Benj was that the difference between being a singer and being a singer for a musical is the story behind it and really finding that emotion and portraying that through, not just your voice, but [through] discovering the words and letting those marinate in the meaning of what they really are."

Sarah Lynn Marion, who represents the John Raitt Awards for Youth (JRAY) in California for her performance as the title role in Hello, Dolly!, was especially pleased that Pasek, a predominant lyricist, was the guest speaker. "I love writing — I love writing lyrics — and I really want to be a lyricist," she said, "so it was really inspiring for me to see someone so young who made it because he didn't give up."

She added, "He's this really sweet guy — this unassuming guy in a baseball hat. You wouldn't think that he's like this amazing genius in his head, so I think that was the most important thing [I took away from today]. Your personality and who you are is more important than how famous you are because he's incredible, and he's just like one of us... He was a real person." will continue to blog from the Jimmy Awards events in anticipation of this year's ceremony.

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)