Recognizing talent

Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre awards three scholarships totaling $2,300 to local high school graduates

Show stoppers: Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre awarded $2,300 in scholarship grants to graduating Neshaminy High School seniors Molly Coughlin, Nathalie Hernandez and Elizabeth Shekhterman, all of whom plan to pursue college education in the fine or performing arts. Source: Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre

Since 1956, the nonprofit Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre has presented a volunteer-led, Broadway-style musical every spring at Neshaminy High School.

This year was supposed to be no different.

In fact, the 2020 production of Annie, scheduled for March 27 through April 4, was slated to be one of the best yet. Amateur and experienced actors would unite on the auditorium stage to fulfill NVMT’s mission – to raise funds through ticket sales for student scholarships. Over the span of 64 years, the organization has awarded $157,000 to graduating Neshaminy seniors planning to pursue a college education in the fine or performing arts.

Despite the heartbreaking cancelation of Annie due to COVID-19, and the loss of anticipated proceeds that would’ve been added to the scholarship fund, the nonprofit’s board decided to maintain its commitment to support the next generation of artists. Funds were still available to distribute thanks to generous donors who contributed in the past.

During Neshaminy’s class of 2020 virtual senior awards night on June 12, the recipients of NVMT’s grants, which totaled $2,300, were announced – Molly Coughlin, of Langhorne; Nathalie Hernandez, of Trevose; and Elizabeth Shekhterman, of Langhorne.

“NVMT’s scholarship grant program has been one of the most positive and rewarding forces behind the success of our theater group for more than a half-century,” said Tom Urquhart, president of NVMT. “While we strive for excellence in our stage productions, it is always with the objective of providing funds for our scholarship grants in order to support deserving young people such as these in their quest to achieve their dreams. We’ve been most proud of our recipients and truly happy to have been able to help them.”

Coughlin, who received support from NVMT through the Evelyn McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund, aspires to be a music teacher. She noted her belief that music is the “universal language,” and she is passionate about sharing that belief. At school, the vocal artist was a member of the Neshaminy Concert Choir for three years, and the elite Select Choir during her final year.

Outside of school, Coughlin is the director of the Neshaminy High School Women’s Choir, an audition-based a cappella group. In her free time, she also composes music, which she regularly performs in local restaurants as part of the musical duo Passing Mars. She plans to attend Bucks County Community College, and then transfer to a four- or five-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Hernandez, the recipient of NVMT’s George W. Kinsley IV Memorial Scholarship for Performing Artists, will attend Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, where she will major in music with a concentration in violin performance. Her goal is to build a performance resume by competing in solo and chamber competitions, such as the Tchaikovsky Competition, held in Russia once every four years, and eventually performing with a major urban orchestra. She also hopes to become a member of Project Music Heals Us, which performs for prisons, hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes around the globe.

To date, Hernandez was a member of the Philly Sinfonia, won the honors strings award from the Youth Orchestra of Bucks County and passed auditions at various festivals, including Kinhaven Music, Interlochen and Sphinx Performance Academy at Curtis Institute.

Shekhterman, who earned NVMT’s Joseph J. McGlade Memorial Scholarship Fund, will attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts to focus on theater production and lighting design. Her goals include familiarizing herself with concert and architectural lighting technology, and pursuing high rigging and design.

She was active in the Neshaminy High School Dramatics program for three years, and was a member of the Roadies – an award-winning group of Neshaminy theater students – for which she served as lighting technician, lighting designer and stage crew leader. Shekhterman said theater and dramatics have offered her the opportunity to gain skills that are “life-long and irreplaceable,” and she hopes to be able to promote and support the arts after graduation and throughout her career.

The application process for 2021 scholarships, open to graduating seniors of Neshaminy High School, will be available next spring.

Information on the rescheduled production of Annie will be announced in the fall. Patrons holding tickets for the canceled performances can use those tickets for the rescheduled performances next spring.

For more information on Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre, which has received national recognition for its annual productions, including 32 nominations and seven wins from the International Music and Entertainment Association, visit NVMT.org, email nvmt@verizon.net or call 215-860-1584.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com