National award-winning Utah musical theater teacher
Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight will receive the Jimmys’ Inspiring Teacher Award at online ceremonies.
Two years after a Utah teenager won the highest honor in musical theater for high school students, his teacher will receive the Inspiring Teacher Award.
Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight, director of musical theater at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, will receive the Jimmy Awards “Inspiring Teacher Award” on Saturday. She taught musical theater and drama and was a director for five years, “and I wasn’t expecting it.”
The National High School Theater Awards – aka the Jimmys – are sponsored by the Broadway League Foundation and named after Broadway producer, theater owner and 10-time Tony award winner James M. Nederlander (1922-2016). The New York Times called the Jimmys “the Tonys for teens”.
Before the pandemic, the state winners traveled to New York – on Broadway – where they spent a week being coached by Broadway actors, directors and choreographers and competing for top prizes. At the end of the week, they performed on stage (and online) and learned about the winners.
“It is truly a unique and remarkable tool for these students to learn, watch and experience,” said Ruzzamenti Knight.
In 2019, Utahn Ethan Kelso was named Best Actor, and Ruzzamenti Knight – who directed him in “Big Fish” – couldn’t have been more thrilled. But she didn’t expect to be honored by the Jimmys herself.
“It truly is a lesson in humility to be able to receive this award on behalf of my production team at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts,” said Ruzzamenti Knight.
(Kelso’s career – along with everyone else in the theater – has been put on hold by the pandemic. But he’s auditioning for roles on Broadway.)
To make her feel humble would be an understatement. She was quick to recognize the merits of choreographer Jessie Metcalf-McCullough, music director Nate Warmboldt, students, faculty and school. “I am truly grateful to be able to accept this award on their behalf,” she said, “and I am grateful to the competition for celebrating the teachers in this way.”
In the space of 15 minutes, she spoke a dozen times about how “humiliating” it is. While she said her students were “really excited for me and for our school,” she said, her own reaction was that this is “another opportunity for humility”.
As much as she doesn’t want to talk about herself, Ruzzamenti Knight doesn’t hesitate to talk about her students or the school where she has been teaching for five years.
“If the last year has taught me anything,” she says, “it’s that students need to have some sort of creative outlet. And it was truly a lesson in humility last year to be able to give my students the opportunity to keep working hard on something they love to do – sing, dance and play every day. It’s a great opportunity for our students to be able to put on these shows and participate in the Utah High School Musical Theater Award.“
Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Jimmys have been canceled. The 2021 Jimmy Awards Show will be virtual, streaming on Thursday, July 15 at 5:30 p.m. MDT. Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”) will be the host, and you can find information on how to broadcast the ceremonies at jimmyawards.com.
(A second Inspiring Teacher Award will be presented to Benjamin Pesenti of Elmont Memorial High School in Elmont, NY. He led 2019 Best Actress winner Ekele Ukegbu.)
Even though she is, yes, touched by the award, Ruzzamenti Knight really wants to talk about her ongoing work with her students.
“It’s really great to be able to work with kids who love the performing arts and love to work there every day,” she said. “We are really proud of our program and we are proud to work with these amazing children every day. “