For theatre instructors, the Freddie G Fellowship is a highly coveted honor. Created by Music Theatre International CEO and Tony Honors for Excellence recipient Freddie Gershon, the fellowship welcomes a select group of theatre instructors to be part of an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City each summer for the opportunity to work one-on-one with industry professionals in a weekend of seminars, master classes, and Broadway shows. In addition, each of the participating teachers receives $5,000 from Gershon and his wife Myrna to enhance their arts program.
“The four days will fully engage the winning teachers in the Broadway musical theatre world and provide one-of-a-kind learning opportunities for them to take back to their schools, students and communities,” Gershon said in a statement. “These teachers perform inspiring work with limited financial resources. We want to give them the opportunity to live the Broadway experience and interact with qualified professionals to reward them for all they do to introduce the next generations to live theatre and simultaneously enhance their knowledge, skills and experience.
Every year, dozens of educators attending the Junior Theatre Festival and the Junior Theatre Festival West apply to for one of the eight fellowship spots. The theatre instructors selected for the 2017 Freddie G Fellowship were Bridget Burrows (Porter Ridge Middle School; Monroe, North Carolina); Angelo Cerniglia (Hilton Head School for the Creative Arts; Hilton Head Island, South Carolina); Amber Dyson (Bay Area Children's Theatre; Concord, California); Shawna Linck (KIDSALIVE!; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma); Laurilea McDaniel (Mountain Ridge Middle School; Highlands Ranch, Colorado); Nicole Oliver (Conwell Kidz Drama Program; Bayonne, New Jersey); Mandy Seymore (Inspiration Stage; Sugar Land, Texas); and Daniel Stoddart (Hunter Drama; Cameron Park, NSW).
This year’s Freddie G Fellowship weekend included master classes with Tony-nominated Newsies director Jeff Calhoun, Tony Award-winning Newsies choreographer Christopher Gattelli, musical director and conductor Kristen Blodgette (Sunset Boulevard), Tony-winning lighting designer Ken Billington (Sweeny Todd, Chicago), Broadway sound designer Matt Kraus (Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway) and the theatre education team at itheatrics, producers of the Junior Theatre Festival. Other highlights included a private cruise around the island of Manhattan, attending the pilot workshop of Matilda, JR. (a potential future Broadway Junior title), and performances of a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
Fifty-five teachers have now taken part in the Freddie G Fellowship, which has included master classes with award-winning Broadway professionals such as Stephen Sondheim, Jeanine Tesori, Stephen Schwartz, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Baayork Lee, Jeff Calhoun, Warren Carlyle, Rick Elice, Douglas Carter Beane, Ken Billington, Tobin Ost, and many others.
“Without teachers there is no Broadway Junior. Myrna and I feel strongly about our personally investing in teachers and immersing them in experiential skills they can take home and utilize to guide their students and pass on to other teachers,” added Gershon. “It’s crucial we keep live theatre thriving in this country by working with both educators and children,” Myrna added. “We believe that teachers should be honored and appreciated. Our future is in their hands.”