John Gismondi and son, JJ, presenting Kelly Awards.
Some years ago The Gismondi Foundation created an endowment at the CLO of Pittsburgh to provide grants to local high schools which were having trouble raising money to support their musical theater programs. (https://www.pittsburghclo.org/education/gene-kelly-awards/gismondi-family-foundation-grant)
When the endowment was first announced by the CLO at their annual Kelly Awards program, John Gismondi made remarks explaining how musical theater programs provide a great learning opportunity for students. Click here to hear his remarks.
“I have to confess, I know very little about musical theater, and I have never been a big Broadway fan,” says John Gismondi, “but I am a huge fan of musical theater in the high school because it brings together a large number of students from different backgrounds, and it requires that they work together toward a common goal, and that is a very valuable experience for any young person.”
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John and Lisa Gismondi with Patricia Ward Kelly, wife of the late dance legend and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly
Lisa Gismondi agrees with the benefits of supporting school activities like musical theater, “I agree with what John said. It is not about trying to send students to Broadway; it is about allowing young people from diverse backgrounds to make connections with one another. Our kids participated in the musical theater program at their school, and we found it to be one of the most valuable social experiences of their teenage years.”
Unfortunately, however, some schools in the area, particularly those with low enrollments, have raising enough money to pay for the many expenses that go along with putting on a show, i.e., things such as copyright fees, costumes, sets, sound equipment, etc. The aim of this endowment is to provide assistance so that these programs can remain viable and available to the student body.
A CLO representative says, “The Gismondi Foundation endowment has impacted hundreds of students,” and the schools agree, “Your dedication to young performers is highly appreciated.”
At the end of each school year, many of the high schools which sponsor musical theater productions gather for the annual Kelly Awards held at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The event, which plays to a raucous sold out crowd every year, is sort of the Academy Awards for high school musical theater as recognition is given in categories such as best actor, best actress, best musical, etc. Click here to get a flavor for the Kelly Awards evening at the Benedum. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QA0Uf2ECQc)