Corey Mitchell, head of the musical theatre department of Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina is the recipient of the inaugural Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award presented by The ASCAP Foundation and the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA). The annual award recognizes the highest level of achievement for a high school or middle school musical theatre teacher and comes with a $5,000 cash prize. This prestigious award is made possible by a grant from the Annenberg Foundation made in honor of Stephen Schwartz.
The award was presented personally by Stephen Schwartz and the award judges, lyricist/librettist Lynn Ahrens and composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa, as part of the Virtual International Thespian Festival on June 24. The presentation was hosted by Megan Hilty of NBC’s Smash, whose roles include Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked written by Schwartz.
“It’s a tremendous honor to accept this on the behalf of so many teachers out there, because this is a crazy year, but somehow all of my theatre teacher friends are persevering through it and figuring out a way to make this happen even more,” said Mitchell in accepting the award. “From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of everybody that I work with now, and that I’ve worked with in the past, thank you so much. Thank you!”
Mitchell, a teacher for 25 years, is the recipient of multiple awards, including the first Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award in 2015.
In nominating Mitchell for the award, Mean Girls star Renee Rapp recalled her former teacher’s drive for excellence. “He challenged us all to bring our best, never settle, and strive to keep getting better,” said Rapp. “He helped us understand not only the theater, but also the importance of our relationships in general, and he explained both were important skills regardless of the career path we chose.”
“One mark of a truly brilliant and dedicated teacher is that they know their students’ potential before the students know themselves. This was certainly my experience,” said playwright and composer James H. Kennedy, another former student. “He invests in his students’ artistic sustainability…and they are fierce advocates for theatre in every community they work in.”
Hear from Mitchell’s current students in this video.
“In reviewing nearly 100 nominations from 40 states, we clearly saw the impact and influence these dedicated teachers have on their students, and the ripple effect it has throughout those students’ lives,” said EdTA Executive Director Julie Cohen Theobald. “We are so grateful to Stephen Schwartz and The ASCAP Foundation for making this recognition possible.”
Schwartz who is a three-time Oscar winner and four-time Grammy winner, and an alum of Thespian Troupe 276 in Minneola, New York, was inspired to create the award to recognize the many ways that theatre teachers impact lives. “Theatre teachers help to not just bring theatre, but bring empathy and the ability to think, to work together as a group, and understand other people. These are things so desperately needed in our country right now that go way, way beyond theatre and musical theatre,” said Schwartz at a teacher conference last fall.