PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – It’s that time of the year again! The Pittsburgh CLO’s 24th annual Gene Kelly Awards are right around the corner, and on Wedneday, the nominees were announced.

The Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater started in 1991 as a way to recognize students for their work and to bring attention to musical theater programs and art education.

Keisha Lalama, the education director of the CLO, joined Bill Rehkopf on the KDKA Afternoon News to talk about what she gets out of the upcoming awards.

“It is the most rewarding thing ever. These kids, you would never know they were high school students, and the directors in the community, the way they come together and rally and really have taken the time to develop and build these programs,” Lalam said.

The categories include things such as Best Scenic Design, Best Actor and Actress, Best Ensemble, Best Crew and Technical Support and much, much more. The big win that everyone wants to take home though is Best Musical.

These days, high school musicals seem to have kicked things up a notch with talent. Lalama credits all the wonderful programs offered here in Pittsburgh at places such as the Pittsburgh CLO Academy.

“The arts are thriving here as well as arts education, so we are very fortunate to have those kind of resources to educate and just train all of our students and community. I feel that through the years we have really, really, really evolved the quality of programs,” Lalama said.

Local schools cleaning up and picking up 10 nominations each are Hampton High School and Pine-Richland High School. Other schools among the nominees this year include West Allegheny, Central Catholic and North Hills, just to name a few. With all those nominees, how does the CLO pick the winners?

“We have an adjudication panel of volunteers that there is about 30 of them and they range in expertise from former educators or current educators, professional actors, directors, people who have done film, television and stage and they get in this room and we really have these long, intense, informed discussions on who the winners should be,” Lalama said.

The Gene Kelly awards are patterned after the Tony Awards, to celebrate the arts and creative process that goes into these musicals. There are also opportunities for seniors involved in the musicals to win scholarship money to help further their education into the preforming arts.

So much talent has come through the Gene Kelly awards over the years and one thing the Lalama loves to see is when that talent not only makes it to Broadway or continue their theater careers, but when they come back to the awards, participate and help give advice to those that are in shoes they themselves filled not too long ago.

“We have a family and a relationship with most of these people, they have come in and out. A lot of these kids actually come back for the Kelly’s and they will come back and rehearse with me, talk with the kids and spend time with them. And we have people that come back that have been on stage and people that have moved on with their lives that may not have necessarily pursued a career in the arts, that are doctors and lawyers and they just want to say this was a profound impact on my life, it provided me with a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, communication skills,” Lalama said.

Lalama finished the interview by reminding us that there is so much more to the Kelly’s then just being on stage.

You can listen to the whole interview below:

You can also listen to the KDKA Afternoon News with Bill Rehkopf weekdays 3 p.m. to 7pm.

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