THE JIMMY AWARDS® is pleased to announce the 2021 INSPIRING TEACHER AWARD presented by WELLS FARGO will be given to Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight, Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, Salt Lake City, Utah and Benjamin Pesenti, Elmont Memorial High School, Elmont, NY. These teachers will be honored for the encouragement and inspiration that led their students to win the coveted Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor at the most recent past Jimmy Awards ceremony, in 2019.

In 2019, the Jimmy® for Best Performance by an Actress was presented to Ekele Ukegbu, representing The Roger Rees Awards for Excellence in Student Performance. Also that year, the 2019 Jimmy® for Best Performance by an Actor was presented to Ethan Kelso representing The Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards. This year’s Inspiring Teacher Award presented by Wells Fargo will be awarded to two of the educators who helped them reach this remarkable achievement: Ethan’s teacher Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight, and Ekele’s teacher Benjamin Pesenti.

For the 2021 Jimmy Awards, all coaching, rehearsals, and activities will take place online for the 72 nominees from 36 regions around the US. This will culminate with two talented students presented with a Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor award with a total of 20 awards and scholarships available to participants.

“Wells Fargo is a proud supporter of the arts across the country. We have sponsored the National High School Musical Theatre Awards’ regional program in Charlotte since its inception,” said Jay Everette, SVP and Community Affairs Manager, Wells Fargo & Co. “Wells Fargo also supports the regional programs in Omaha and Seattle. We are pleased to continue our support at the national level by honoring two exceptional teachers at the Jimmy Awards.”

“This year more than ever and under unprecedented circumstances we have come to appreciate and honor the importance of outstanding educators such as Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight and Benjamin Pesenti, and we are so pleased to present them with the Inspiring Teacher Award presented by Wells Fargo,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “Their attention and encouragement helped their students excel at the Jimmy Awards and their dedication continues to inspire and support arts education and future generations of arts professionals and audiences.”

As presented by the Broadway League Foundation, the program has, in past years, invited two nominees from participating members’ regional ceremonies to New York City to take part in a theatre intensive including coaching and rehearsals with Broadway professionals in preparation for a one-night-only talent showcase on a Broadway stage.  

The program has been the catalyst for more than $4,000,000 in educational scholarships to date, and several student participants have already been cast in Broadway, Touring and West End productions. For more information about this and the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, please visit www.JimmyAwards.com. Follow the Jimmy Awards on FacebookInstagramTwitter & YouTube!

The Jimmy Awards are presented by the Broadway League Foundation in honor of legendary Broadway producer/theatre owner James M. Nederlander, and are supported by many leading theatre industry organizations.

Apples and Oranges Arts is the streaming and video production partner. The official media partner is WABC-TV. 

The Broadway League conducts the program through The Broadway League Foundation, which acts as its philanthropic arm. Part of the Foundation’s mission is to enlighten and increase the public’s knowledge, appreciation and awareness of the theatrical arts, and since its founding in 1993, has supported several projects to help preserve Broadway’s heritage and expose new audiences to Broadway theatre. The Foundation is a corporation organized under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York, the purposes of which are exclusively charitable as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Donations to support the program can be made at JimmyAwards.com.

BIOS

Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight – Originally from sunny Southern California, Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight has taught at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts (SLSPA) in Salt Lake City, Utah for the past five years. She currently teaches beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of Musical Theatre, and beginning Acting. She also directs the all-school musicals. Knight has performed professionally as a dancer, singer, and actor with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Utah Opera, the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, and with Performance Riverside. She has danced in conjunction with the Alwin Nikolais Dance Company and the American Folk Ballet. She has performed as a soloist and ensemble member with multiple choirs throughout Utah and Southern California. She was previously resident choreographer for the Utah Shakespeare Festival Playmakers children’s theatre for five years. She has worked collaboratively with multiple children’s theatre programs throughout Utah and Southern California. She taught competitive dance at a studio in Southern California for three years and danced competitively for fifteen years. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance from Southern Utah University. Knight is thrilled to accept this award on behalf of her production team at SLSPA including Jessie McCullough (Choreographer) and Nathan Wambolt (Music Director).

Benjamin Pesenti – Benjamin Pesenti has been a music educator for 10 years at Elmont Memorial High School in New York. He teaches classes such as chorus, music theory, general music and after-school ensembles with students grades 7-12. He is also known as the musical director at his school and utilizes his performance experiences outside the classroom as a vocalist and accompanist, recently as a pit musician at the Argyle Theater in Babylon, in his productions. He is also involved in the Nassau Music Educators Association, serving as Vocal Jazz Chairperson. He often provides professional development opportunities for other music educators on music technology and jazz pedagogy on behalf of the New York State School Music Association and the NYS Council of Arts Administrators. He holds degrees from New York University and Hofstra University, and he is currently completing an advanced certificate in Educational Leadership at Stonybrook University.

WELLS FARGO & COMPANY (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $2.0 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,300 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 42 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 263,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 25 on Fortune’s 2017 rankings of America’s largest corporations.