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Shady Side Academy students up for Gene Kelly Award

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | The Herald
Shady Side Academy members of the string orchestra are Roy Navic, back left, Zachary Kosbie, Tony Satryan and Bruce Morrison, as well as Sylvie Lee, front left, Leah Liv, and Arya Reddy. These seven member, along with 11 others, are nominated for their work on the musical 'West Side Story.'

When Shady Side Academy theater students put on “West Side Story” this spring, musical director Dan Brill said the challenges were the reward.

“There is not a more musically challenging Broadway score,” said Brill, chairman of the Shady Side Academy Arts Department.

Now, a coveted nomination in the annual Pittsburgh CLO-sponsored Gene Kelly Awards is “icing on the cake,” he said.

“I'm so proud of our students,”Brill said. “Through their high level of skill, commitment and musicianship, they supported and enhanced the stage action.

“Just playing that music is a joy.”

The school earned a nod in the “Best All-Student Orchestra” category against North Hills, Pine-Richland, Pittsburgh CAPA and Plum.

The award ceremony, in its 23rd year, is scheduled for Saturday, May 25, at the Benedum Center, downtown Pittsburgh.

Founded in 1991, the Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater recognizes student skill and dedication, and is meant to focus community attention on the importance of arts education.

Co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh, the awards have spawned an impressive list of winners who have gone on to celebrated Broadway and Hollywood careers, among them Central Catholic graduate Zachary Quinto, of “Star Trek into Darkness” fame.

The ceremony is patterned after the Tony Awards, with categories marking achievements not only by those on stage. There are accolades for behind-the-scenes skills, including Best Scenic Design, Costume and Lighting.

Winners of the Best Actor and Actress categories will travel to New York in July to take part in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

Brill said the music for the iconic script about two New York street gangs is more than just typical stock accompaniment.

Whereas he usually rehearses once a week leading up to the production, this show required twice-a-week practices for the 18-member student orchestra.

“It was written by Leonard Bernstein. It is sophisticated, real music; not just a nice tune,” he said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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