Carnegie Mellon faculty conduct Masters Class for Carver HS theater students

Reward for “Excellence in Theatre Education” Tony Award

Editor’s Note: Northeast News publisher Gilbert Hoffman is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, as well as his father, brother, and daughter.

ALDINE – Earlier this year, theater director Roshunda Jones-Koumba received CMU’s prestigious Excellence in Theatre Education Award, presented at the Tony Awards. As a result, they won a Master Class session with Carnegie Mellon School of Drama faculty.

American Theatre, a publication of Theatre Communications Group, featured Carver High School’s drama program in an article posted on December 6. Carnegie Mellon University faculty Robert Ramírez, Tomé Cousin, Kyle Haden, Lisa Velten Smith, and Antwayn Hopper led a master class on November 28 for Carver HS theater students. Ramírez is CMU’s newly appointed head of the School of Drama.

Roshunda Jones-Koumba has served as the magnet school’s theater director for 18 years. Thanks to Jones-Koumba, a flourishing awards-winning arts program with past productions including Hairspray, Memphis, Dreamgirls, and The Color Purple, which had a sprawling cast of 130. In January, G.W. Carver High School will be the first high school in the country to stage Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.

Jones-Koumba’s efforts were recognized in June at the Tony Awards with the Excellence in Theatre Education Award, presented by Carnegie Mellon University. Since 2015, the award has honored a high school drama teacher who has impacted their students. The award came with the famous spinning medallion, a $10,000 cash prize to support the drama program, and a master class with Carnegie Mellon University faculty at the winning teacher’s high school.

The schedule for the day included vocal exercises, text analysis, choreography, and discussions about the business of acting to give the students a preview of studying theater at the collegiate level.

Since the 2022 Tony Awards, Jones-Koumba’s spotlight has been shining even brighter. Last month, she was named on Ebony’s Power 100 List and attended a star-studded event in Los Angeles with fellow art awardees Michael R. Jackson, Myles Frost, and Jeremy O. Harris. Her accolades include the 2021 Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award, the International Thespian Society Inspirational Theatre Educator Award, and induction into the Texas Thespians Hall of Fame. The city of Wharton, Texas, her hometown, declared June 28 a day to honor her.

But her biggest reward, she said, is seeing her students succeed in various fields.

“It’s just beautiful to see my students blossom,” she said, rattling off a list of former students pursuing careers as nurses, entrepreneurs, and lawyers. Actors too: Fernell Hogan, one of her former students at the Theatre Under the Stars Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, is currently in Kimberly Akimbo on Broadway.

“This award has really opened my students’ eyes to how important the arts are,” said Jones-Koumba. “They have become advocates for arts education and will tell whoever will listen about how important it is for arts to be at every school.”