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CJay Philip

The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University Present the 2024 Excellence in Theatre Education Award to CJay Philip of Baltimore

CJay Philip, founder and creative director of Dance & Bmore theatre programs in Baltimore, Maryland, has been selected as the 2024 winner of the Excellence in Theatre Education Award(opens in new window). The award, co-founded by the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and Carnegie Mellon University, will be presented at the 77th Annual Tony Awards in New York City on Sunday, June 16.

Dance & Bmore’s mission is to create meaningful human connections through movement, music and theatre in communities — with people at every age and stage of life — to enhance their social and emotional well-being. The performing arts program was established by Philip in 2010.

Dance & Bmore partners with organizations serving a diverse range of youth to ensure that young adults, regardless of their background or circumstances, have equal access to the transformative opportunities that theatre education provides. Enrollment in all Dance & Bmore programs is free. Youth are often paid honorariums or even salary for their community work through Dance & Bmore. For over a decade, Dance & Bmore’s multigenerational ensembles have performed on stages throughout Baltimore, along with senior centers, adult day cares and low-income housing for elders.

“CJay actively works to remove barriers and create an inclusive environment in all Dance & Bmore’s theatre programs,” said Dance & Bmore’s Director of Operations Lauren Erazo, who submitted Philip’s recommendation for the award. 

Philip’s programs develop both onstage and backstage proficiency for students in grades K-12. Past experience as a Broadway performer, dance captain and assistant stage manager convinced her of the importance of youth learning multiple aspects of theatre-making. 

A panel of theatre experts from the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and Carnegie Mellon University selected Philip from a nationwide call for entries. 

“We are thrilled to honor CJay Philip with the Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Her unwavering dedication to providing her students with a safe space to foster their knowledge of theatre and build their confidence, while actively creating inclusive and accessible roles and programs, has instilled a passion and respect for the performing arts in the generations to come,” said Jason Laks, interim president of The Broadway League and Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing.

The Excellence in Theatre Education Award recognizes a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has demonstrated exemplary impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession. Philip will receive $10,000 for Dance & Bmore’s theatre program and tickets to the Tony Awards and Gala. Philip’s students will also receive a visiting Master Class taught by CMU drama professors. 

CJay Philip with students

CJay Philip and her students in Graffiti Alley in Baltimore.

“Theatre is made in many ways, by many people,” Philip said. “That’s why we focus on helping young people learn about the many different aspects of working in the theatre. Exposure to the theatre and theatre arts improves everyone’s quality of life.” 

Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian(opens in new window) echoed that sentiment.

“CJay’s dedication to nurturing future generations of performers, creators and art enthusiasts is extraordinary,” said Jahanian. “Carnegie Mellon University is grateful to help elevate her story for the world to enjoy and thrilled to celebrate CJay and her enduring contributions as an arts educator, advocate and performer." 

Philip knows well the path of performing and working in the theatre. A native of Albany, New York, she knew from an early age that the arts were an integral part of her world. At age 2, she accompanied her mother to her older sister’s dance class. Her sister showed little interest, but Philip began dancing with the others who were performing the routine. Philip was accepted into the class on the spot. 

When Philip reached junior high school, her mother, Nell Stokes(opens in new window), saw Philip’s potential to go further. Stokes could not afford the tuition, but she lobbied for her daughter’s admission to the Empire Institute for Performing Arts in Albany. Philip was granted a full scholarship, attending Albany High School during the week and going every Saturday for four years to Empire Institute. After studying vocal performance in college, she decided to pursue a Broadway career.

In the first nine years as a working actor, Philip was unemployed only three weeks. She took notes on every director and choreographer she watched, referring to them as her ‘mentors.’ She joined Broadway casts and touring troupes for “Hairspray,” “Big: The Musical,” “Street Corner Symphony,” “Legally Blonde,” “Dreamgirls” and more.

Philip and her husband, Winston, a music producer and social services organization chief operating officer, relocated to Baltimore in 2009 after years of helping to produce the African American Heritage Festival there. She founded Dance & Bmore the following year.

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