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Blumenthal Performing Arts
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Winter 2023
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In the News
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Photo by Bae Hart
Junious "Jay" Ward
Jay Ward Named Charlotte’s First Poet Laureate
History has been made in Charlotte as Mayor Vi Lyles named Jay Ward as the city’s first poet laureate. The announcement came on April 19 at “Let the Laureate Tell It,” an event hosted by Blumenthal Performing Arts and the City of Charlotte that brought together poet laureates from across the country to celebrate the art form.
A poet, teaching artist, and author, Ward is a National Slam champion and Individual World Poetry Slam champion.
“For me, the role of poet laureate means partnering with all the wonderful poets and arts organizations in our city while also finding ways to incorporate poetry and literature into new spaces, to amplify the voices that are already here while helping others to emerge,” said Ward. “In some cases, this will take form in the creation of new programs, in others increased funding for existing programs, in still others it will take form as professional development. Let’s get to work!”
Ward was selected by a committee of city representatives and local cultural leaders. Emmy Award winner Bluz Rogers, slam master and coach of SlamCharlotte and Blumenthal’s director of creative engagement, was a leading force in getting the poet laureate position created in partnership with the City of Charlotte. Rogers says, “It has been an honor and pleasure to create the position of poet laureate for Charlotte, a city that deserves the distinction of such a position. I am so grateful for the efforts of our mayor, elected officials, and engaged community creatives that stepped up to help guide and choose Jay Ward. He’s an amazing choice and has already began impacting and serving in his new role. Great work done, more great work to be done.”
Ward adds, “My first reaction to being named Charlotte's first poet laureate is that the word ‘first’ implies succession. The fact that there will be another poet laureate, and another, is beyond exciting to me – each laureate adding their own spin to the position and interacting with the community in new ways. “I'm excited to see the power of poetry work its magic throughout Charlotte.”
Blumenthal Performing Arts is pleased to announce its Ticketing Department was named the 2022 Outstanding Ticket Office by the International Ticketing Association at the organization’s 43rd annual conference and exhibition – the largest, most important annual industry event for ticketing professionals.
“... This team always strives to provide creative and flexible solutions for their customers,” said Kevin Stephenson representing the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, which received the Outstanding Ticket Office Award in 2019. “This ticket office takes on new challenges, drives and generates new revenue and thrives on taking on new programs. In the past year, this team took on a pivotal role of bringing back staff, bringing back customers and bringing back the arts.”
Blumenthal has been an INTIX member for 22 years. ◼
Blumenthal Ticketing Team Awarded as ‘Outstanding’
Above are some members of Blumenthal's award-winning ticketing department. Below, the International Ticketing Association award.
Blumenthal Names Samantha Kowert VP of Development
Bringing nearly 15 years of experience in arts and community nonprofits, Samantha Mills Kowert joined Blumenthal Performing Arts last year as vice president of development, where she will lead Blumenthal’s multimillion dollar fundraising and advancement strategy.
“Samantha is the perfect choice to join Blumenthal as we head into an exciting new chapter,” said Blumenthal Performing Arts President and CEO Tom Gabbard. “In addition to her background in cultivating thriving local arts communities, Samantha’s well-rounded nonprofit development experience will help strengthen Blumenthal’s relationships with our major donors, corporate sponsors and other community partners. We are thrilled to welcome Samantha to our growing team!”
Samantha Kowert
Kowert was previously the advancement director of the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill, South Carolina, where she was responsible for strategic planning and diversifying the Greenway’s funding to include a mix of individual donors, corporate and business partners, and foundations. Before joining the Greenway, she led the major gifts strategy and managed corporate relationships for United Way of Central Carolinas. She received her bachelor’s degree in arts management and business administration from the College of Charleston and obtained her MBA at The Citadel.
"My fondest childhood memories take place inside a theater, being transported to magical places and becoming truly captivated by the performers onstage. I have loved everything about the arts ever since,” Kowert said. “I am excited to help introduce new audiences to the transformative power of the arts by joining the Blumenthal team. It is an honor to be given the opportunity to advance the organization’s mission to showcase diverse artists and use the arts to infuse and bring our community together.”
Before moving to Charlotte, Kowert held development and events management roles at nonprofits in Charleston, South Carolina, including at the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston Stage Company, and the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
Kowert was selected following a national recruitment led by executive search firm DHR Global and its consultants James Abruzzo and Michele Counter.◼
The ninth annual Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards culminated Sunday, May 29, at a gala award celebration where winners in 15 categories were announced and nominees for Best Actor, Best Actress and Wells Fargo Best Musical performed live onstage at Belk Theater. The Blumey Awards were presented by Wells Fargo.
“We’re thrilled that The Blumeys are back,” said Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard. “This year felt especially triumphant for the students, teachers and staff. All who participated from the 41 schools this year should be proud of their achievements onstage and off. It was an unforgettable night that showcased the amazing drive, resilience, and collaboration of our city’s talented young people. Bravo!”
Above, Best Actor winner Jared Garcia; below, Best Actress winner Kate McCracken.
2022 Blumey Award winners:
  • Wells Fargo Best Musical – Tier 1 Concord Academy – Newsies
  • Wells Fargo Best Musical – Tier 2 Central Academy of Technology and Arts – Heathers the Musical: Teen Edition
  • Best Actress Kate McCracken as Alice Murphy in Bright Star – Charlotte Latin School
  • Best Actor Jared Garcia as The Baker in Into the Woods – North Lincoln High School
  • Best Supporting Actress Jillian Joyce as The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods – North Lincoln High School
  • Best Supporting Actor Max Odom as Danny in Xanadu – Providence Day School
  • Best Featured Performer Dominick Charles as Daryl in Bright Star – Charlotte Latin School
  • Best Overall Direction Charlotte Country Day School – Anastasia
  • Best Ensemble/Chorus Concord Academy – Newsies
  • Best Choreography Execution Charlotte Country Day School – Anastasia
  • Best Student Orchestra Central Academy of Technology and Arts – Heathers the Musical: Teen Edition
  • Best Student Costume Designer Olivia Chiseck and Keeley Schmidt for Matilda the Musical – Ardrey Kell High School
  • Best Student Set Designer Eli Dills for Newsies – Gaston Day School
  • Best Student Stage Manager Margo Smith for Heathers the Musical: Teen Edition – Central Academy of Technology and Arts
  • Best Student Critic Isabella Meltzer – Northwest School of the Arts
  • Mary Doctor Performing Arts Scholarship Laila Brothers – Northwest School of the Arts; and Marley Noel – Harper Middle College High School
  • Gordon Hay Scholarship Evie Nootenboom – University of North Carolina School of the Arts◼