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Olivia Bellido Named 2024 Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year

Olivia Bellido working with a group of students

C.E. Jordan High School theatre director and educator Olivia Bellido has been named the 2024 recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award. Presented by The ASCAP Foundation and EdTA, this accolade recognizes exceptional achievement in the field of high school and middle school theatre education, including a $5,000 cash prize and recognition at the Theatre Education Conference, September 26-29 in Minneapolis.

Building Theatre Community

Olivia Bellido headshotFor the past 18 years, Bellido has led Thespian Troupe 5478 at Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham, N.C., expanding the theatre program and creating an inclusive environment for students to pursue their interests and discover new talents. One such student was Faith Jones, currently staring as Mary Magdalene in the Broadway national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Early on, Jones found that her individuality was celebrated as was the value of community. It allowed her to often step out of her comfort zone and find her place in the program, which started with an unforgettable experience as she auditioned for the school’s production of Hairspray.

“There I was, auditioning for Motormouth Maybelle alongside upperclassmen, unsure of all that my voice could do,” she said. “With the support of the friends I had in the theatre program and the belief Mrs. Bellido had in all of us, I could start to see a life for myself in theatre.”

That performance launched a successful high school career that included a trip to the Jimmy Awards. And when Jones found herself struggling with imposter syndrome, she knew exactly who to call. “I called [Mrs. Bellido] crying one night and she reminded me of everything I was capable of, how proud she was of me, and how proud our community was,” she said. “That was one of many times Mrs. Bellido was someone I could lean on in times of trouble. Her theatre room was a safe space for me to be myself. To cry, to be goofy, to say the wrong thing, to learn, to discover myself, to be myself, to just be. Her constant grace and belief has uplifted me so many times in high school and beyond.”

Expanding Student Skills Through Opportunity

In addition to establishing a nurturing culture for Thespians, Bellido has also developed a student-led technical theatre program, allowing students to manage all aspects of production, from set construction, to lighting, sound, and stage management.

“Mrs. Bellido recognizes that this hands-on experience hones students’ skills and instills in them a sense of responsibility and pride,” said current student Mia Pieraccini. “Performance students often come to the program with no prior experience. With Mrs. Bellido’s encouragement and mentorship, they frequently discover untapped talents and new aspirations, introducing possibilities for creative endeavors and career paths they had not previously considered.”

Additionally, Bellido has never shied away from opening her program and teaching opportunities to others to help expand skillsets and opportunities for students. “[Bellido] is a firm believer in bringing in outside resources to help train and motivate her students. Even though she’s been doing this for seventeen years, she’s always willing to bring in artists to help train her students,” Kristin Winchester, Durham School of the Arts Theatre Teacher and Director Said.

From local contractors to help with building and design, to chorographers to teach the professional way of learning and rehearsing, “she’s incredibly open to others leading and guiding her students, which is rare in someone who has been working so long in the same location,” Winchester continued.

A Lasting Impact for Thespians

Bellido has also worked to ensure that quality arts experiences are accessible to all students within C.E. Jordan High School, which serves a socio-economically diverse community (40% of students participate in free or reduced lunch programs). Through innovative programs, she has been able to offer low-cost or free admission to performances and reduce associated expenses for students participating in productions.

Presently marking her 19th year in education, Mrs. Bellido has been the Director of the Theatre Program at JHS since 2011, overseeing 37 productions during her tenure. In that time, she’s fostered an environment that inspires graduates to return and support the theatre program, while current students welcome newcomers with open arms.

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