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Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5

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The Jimmy Awards return as a virtual ceremony on Thursday, July 15, 2021.

Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5

It's just under one month until the biggest night in high school musical theatre! The Jimmy Awards officially return as a virtual ceremony on Thursday, July 15, 2021. View the full list of nominees!

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

Before we get to know this year's nominees, BroadwayWorld is catching up with some of the program's alumni! Below, get to know just a few, including: Travis Anderson, Anna Ascheman, Laurel Bollard, Anna Gassett, Matt Gurniak, Lauren Harkness, J.R. Heckman, Morgan Higgins Pereira, Bethany Menjivar, Shauni Ruetz, and Jeremy VandenHout.

View Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4!


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Travis Anderson

School: North East School of the Arts

City, State: San Antonio, Texas

Jimmys Year: 2015 and 2016

Favorite Memory: Working with my fantastic coach Telly Leung in 2015! Telly not only took my voice to the next level, but he also taught me what it means to be an artist, giving me the skills I needed to bring my full self to my material.

Been Up To: I've been studying musical theatre at The University of Michigan! I am now a senior and will be graduating in the fall of 2021 with my BFA in musical theatre and a minor in entrepreneurship. I've performed with Theatre Aspen for the past two summers and will be returning again this summer as "Franz" in ROCK OF AGES, directed by Hunter Foster, and as the assistant director to Mark Martino for CHICAGO. I've had a dream semester here at The University of Michigan after Telly Leung, my 2015 Jimmy Awards coach and mentor, cast me as Jesus in his production of GODSPELL! Telly spent 6 weeks with us here at The University of Michigan devising a version of GODSPELL specifically for 2021. Telly's knowledge of GODSPELL after starring in the 2011 revival was invaluable, and Telly's generosity of spirit made for a joyful, safe, and collaborative creative environment that I will always cherish. It was truly a full circle moment to reconnect with my 2015 Jimmy Awards coach for my final show here at The University of Michigan. Telly is a mentor and friend that I feel beyond lucky to have as I prepare to graduate, and I will always be grateful to the Jimmy Awards for connecting us back in 2015! Telly and I recreated a photo taken of us in 2015 on our last day of filming GODSPELL, and the two photos are attached side by side below. GODSPELL will be available for streaming at the end of May. Visit smtd.umich.edu for more information!

Tell This Year's Class: Live in the moment!! The Jimmy Awards is one of the greatest experiences you will ever have, so savor every part of it- your coachings, the new friends you will make, the outstanding professionals you will meet. Also, as Telly Leung taught me in 2015, bring your full self to your material. Everyone wants to see you, quirks and all, so let your full spirit shine through. The conversations we can prompt and joy we can bring make what we do beyond valuable, especially during difficult times like these. If you live in the moment and bring your full self to your work, you will have a wonderful time and will give everyone who views your performance a fantastic experience.

Where can we see new clips?: You can find some of my work on www.travisanderson.biz. I'm also on Instagram @trav.is_anderson.


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Anna Ascheman

School: Spirit Lake High School

City, State: Iowa

Jimmys Year: 2018

Favorite Memory: One of the most magical moments of my Jimmy Awards experience was when I took my first step on a Broadway stage. Everything was incredible: "The Lion King" props, working with "The Lion King" tech crew, singing with a live orchestra, using Broadway dressing rooms, and performing for an audience packed with excited theatergoers and casting agents as well as thousands watching the live streamed performance. I cannot put into words the electric thrill I felt when the lights came up in the Minskoff Theatre, and the audience went wild.

Been Up To: I am currently a junior at Stanford University, studying computer science, mathematics, and the arts with a strong interest in cybersecurity. At Stanford, I have continued to pursue my passion for the arts. My freshman year, I was selected for the freshman arts program ITALIC (Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture). We studied art theory in many fields including performance, music, film, sculpture, painting, and poetry. The program transformed how I view my art practice and the world. I was also selected to study voice under Wendy Hillhouse, a former mezzo-soprano for the Metropolitan Opera. Bridging computer science and the arts at Stanford has been incredibly rewarding.

Tell This Year's Class: The Jimmy Awards is an intensive, transformative experience; absorb as much knowledge as you can. The Broadway producers, directors, and stars who coach you throughout your time in New York City are eager to provide you with an abundance of notes and advice, preparing you for an exciting musical theater career. In addition, by interacting with "The Lion King" Broadway tech crew and the media, you learn how to navigate the other avenues of the industry. Finally, the other talented nominees are repositories of information. I enriched my acting skills by observing the techniques my fellow nominees used during rehearsals and their auditions. I still apply these techniques in my performances today and am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from my peers. By the time you perform the closing number at the Minskoff Theater on Broadway, you will have grown significantly as a performer. Enjoy the magical experience that is the Jimmy Awards!


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Laurel Bollard

School: Shadow Hills High School

City, State: Indio, CA

Jimmys Year: 2017

Favorite Memory: I think my favorite memory has to be the morning of the show when we stepped onto the Minskoff stage for the first time. It was so surreal and everyone's excitement was so palpable. It was a dream come true to be sure!

Been Up To: I just graduated from California State University Fullerton with my BFA in Musical Theatre and I'm preparing to make my Regional and professional debut in A Chorus Line at the Moonlight Amphitheater in Vista, CA! In the meantime, I'm awaiting my call back to work for the Happiest Place on Earth as a parade and character performer!

Tell This Year's Class: Everything that you hear and see while rehearsing in that one week before the show is a nugget of gold! Be a sponge! Try to soak up everything because you never know who or what might help you in the future! I still chat with our choreographer Kiesha Lalama every now and then! And no matter what just enjoy every moment! You have worked so hard to be here, and it's all been through a global pandemic which has made you even stronger! You're going to rock it! Break legs!

Where can we see new clips?: Check out my YouTube channel: Laurel Bollard, for all of the content I've been working on over the last year! https://youtube.com/channel/UCY3TrVmHO3idFmV4pkFS2HQ

School: Coronado School of the Arts/Coronado High School

City, State: Coronado, CA

Jimmys Year: 2010

Favorite Memory: All of my memories from that week are such happy ones, but I especially recall the fun we had with Kiesha learning the staging for the character medley.

Been Up To: Since the Jimmy Awards, I've graduating with a degree in theatre from Wagner College and have been living in Manhattan pursing my performance career. I've been lucky to have been a part of the long running off-Broadway hit, "That Physics Show" since it opened in 2015. Additionally I've had the pleasure of performing on such stages as Feinstein's/54 Below and The Birdland Theater and with such companies as The Princeton Festival, Axelrod Performing Arts Center, The Mac-Haydn Theatre and Players Circle Theatre. Following the pandemic hiatus, I am looking forward to getting back on stage soon!

Tell This Year's Class: Learn everything you possibly can from the incredibly knowledgeable people you will be meeting---take their notes and emulate their professionalism.

Where can we see new clips?: Find me at my website: jordanbunshaft.weebly.com

Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Anna Gassett

School: Cor Jesu Academy

City, State: St. Louis, MO

Jimmys Year: 2019

Favorite Memory: My favorite memory was stepping onto the Minskoff Theatre stage for the first time.

Been Up To: I am finishing up my sophomore year as a BFA Musical Theatre major at Texas State University!

Tell This Year's Class: Get to know your fellow nominees! They will become your lifelong friends and you may work with them at some point in the future.

Where can we see new clips?: You can see me in the ensemble of Chicago at The Muny in St. Louis, MO this summer!


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Matt Gurniak

School: Allentown Central Catholic High School

City, State: Allentown, PA

Jimmys Year: 2012

Favorite Memory: Meeting so many talented, motivated, and encouraging actors and teachers, being part of the PBS documentary, and spending time with the warm and welcoming Lion King cast during the Jimmy Nederlander tribute in 2017.

Been Up To: After college, I worked at a forensic toxicology lab and performed in some regional productions of Newsies, Grease, Footloose, and A Chorus Line. Most recently, I toured as Ryder in Nickelodeon's production of PAW Patrol Live! "Race to the Rescue". It was a really rewarding experience being able to interact with the kids after the shows and see how excited they were to meet their favorite characters. I can't wait to get back onstage after this pandemic!

Tell This Year's Class: Take as many opportunities to learn and grow as you can, don't let the fear of failure stand in your way.

Where can we see new clips?: Check out my website (mattgurniak.com) or my Instagram (@mattgurniak).


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Lauren Harkness

City, State: Whitewater, Wisconsin

Jimmys Year: 2019

Favorite Memory: Meeting so many amazing life long friends!

Been Up To: Since the Jimmy Awards I've graduated high school and am currently a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for a BFA in Versatile Voice with a minor in Nutritional Sciences. My senior year of high school I played Ariel in The Little Mermaid, which I won a Jerry Award for which was amazing!

Tell This Year's Class: Remember to have fun and soak up all the information you can! Also, bring a journal! I brought one and it really helped to write out my thoughts and emotions throughout the week and I love going back and reading what I wrote.

Where can we see new clips?: You can see some videos on my instagram @laurennharkness, I have some YouTube content but I usually stick to Instagram!


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 J.R. Heckman

School: Solon High School

City, State: Solon, Ohio

Jimmys Year: 2018 (Finalist), 2016, 2019

Favorite Memory: Having the opportunity to meet and form friendships with artists from all across the country who are passionate about their craft; learning from our Broadway Coaches; seeing my headshot on the marquee in Times Square; and hearing my name called as a finalist.

Been Up To: -Currently completing my BFA in Musical Theatre at NYU Tisch School Of The Arts- Graduating, December 2021 (a year and a half early) -Produced 2 concerts for Josh Groban's Find Your Light Foundation which assists underserved arts education programs throughout the country. -Currently filming as part of an upcoming HBO Max Series -Wrote and Produced 2 Original Songs

Tell This Year's Class: Use your talent to inspire others!

Where can we see new clips?: Website: www.jrheckman.com


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Morgan Higgins Pereira

School: St Margaret's Episcopal School

City, State: San Juan Capistrano

Jimmys Year: 2015

Favorite Memory: My favorite memory from the Jimmys was performing as a finalist on the Minskoff stage. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a finalist and it was such a high to be able to do that! It felt like I was flying!

Been Up To: I recently graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Since the Jimmys, I've worked for Nickelodeon in a movie called Lost in the West, shot a series called Mr. Student Body President, now on Amazon, and I have shot a series of commercials. I also have spent each summer singing with the South Coast Symphony in my home town. Most recently, I can be seen in Times Square above the Express store in a commercial I shot during COVID.

Tell This Year's Class: DONT LIMIT YOURSELF. BE YOURSELF. DONT GET IN YOUR HEAD. DONT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. It can be so easy to worry about what everyone else is doing. Focus on what you can control in this business which is really just you and your work. That speaks more than what you think the industry wants. Oh, and HAVE FUN :)

Where can we see new clips?: You can see me on YouTube, Instagram @morgannhiggins, and Tiktok @morgiesingz ! Mr. Student Body President is also on AMAZONPRIME. If you're in NYC, you can see me about 4 times an hour on the billboard above Express!


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Bethany Menjivar

City, State: Ambridge, Pennsylvania

Jimmys Year: 2011

Favorite Memory: My favorite Jimmy Awards memory would have to be when Liz Callaway sang "Once Upon a December" to us in one of our voice classes. Also, performing on the Minskoff Theatre itself with so many wonderful and talented people!

Been Up To: I have been Performing in different shows including Hello Dolly and West Side Story. I have been working on different tv/film shows and movies and I have also been training, teaching, and choreographing dance for Master Classes and conventions.

Tell This Year's Class: The advice that I would give this year's class would be to have fun and always learn to adapt to any and every circumstance. Especially during this Pandemic when everything changes in the blink of an idea. Adaptability and awareness is key.

Where can we see new clips?: Facebook: Bethany Anjelica Menjivar Youtube: Bethany Menjivar instagram: BmenjjjjjBeast


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Shauni Ruetz

School: Wayne Central High School

City, State: Rochester, NY

Jimmys Year: 2011 Jimmy Award Winner

Favorite Memory: My favorite Jimmies memories were getting to know and keep such wonderful friendships with other passionate performers from around the country and rising from the floor of the Minskoff! There are countless beautiful memories that The Jimmy Awards became a vessel for even beyond the competition.

Been Up To: Since the 2011 Jimmy awards, I graduated from The University of Northern Colorado with a BA in Musical Theater and a dance minor. I had the wonderful opportunity to be in a few professional shows before making my exit from CO as Rose in Dogfight at The Little Theater of the Rockies. During my time in NYC I was able to be in the final stages of a handful of new shows including "The Time of Nick", "The Imaginary Musical", and "Wings of Fire". I competed in New York's Got Talent and Rising Star 2 competitions and was lucky enough to win a show where I debuted my single "Brave Girl" at a venue in Times Square. I am now working with a management company, Baseline HQ, and have released my single "Disappear" under them and have another coming out 5/12 titled "Blüm"! Although I am developing my singer/songwriter journey, I am still involved in new musical theater and new original cast albums, such as "The Reunion". Excited to get back to performing live once the world is healed!

Tell This Year's Class: Never ever ever change who you are for the job. You are perfect the way you are and you have so much to offer this industry and the world. Settle into who you are and go forth knowing that THAT is what makes you unstoppable.

Where can we see new clips?: You are welcome to check out my music on my Spotify (Shauni), and access new music and updates on my website (www.shaunimusic.com) and check out my YouTube channel (Shauni Ruetz).


Catching Up with the Jimmy Awards Alumni- Part 5 Jeremy VandenHout

School: Caledonia High School

City, State: Caledonia, Michigan

Jimmys Year: 2018

Favorite Memory: I will never forget going to Sardi's with my Jimmys family. That was probably one of the best nights of the entire week because I really got the chance to sit down and just talk with the other nominees. We were given such high-class treatment, something that really isn't available anywhere near the town that I come from. It reminded me of where I could be someday, and it rejuvenated my soul to keep chasing my dreams. Plus, it helped that we were served some of the best cheesecake I have ever had. And of course, it was followed by my first-ever Broadway show, Dear Evan Hansen. It wasn't just watching such an amazing show that made that experience so great, but it was being able to watch it with the people I had already grown so close with. These were individuals who share the same passions that I do and can deeply appreciate the art presented on the stage. There was just an energy in that theatre that I have never felt before. Definitely an experience that I will never forget.

Been Up To: Now, I have decided to pursue theatre, but in a different way. I am currently working as a part-time digital media assistant at The Jimmy Awards. This just goes to show the numerous opportunities that The Jimmys can give you! It truly is the gift that will continue throughout the rest of my life!

Tell This Year's Class: GET TO KNOW YOUR FRIENDS! These are people that will be a family for you for the rest of your life! I still talk to my friends from the Jimmys, and we still keep each other updated on our lives.


For more information about the Jimmy Awards, visit: JimmyAwards.com.

Photo Credit: Mark Abramson


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