ASU Gammage nominates, sponsors Mesa High students for Jimmy Awards

ASU Gammage, in conjunction with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA), nominated recent high school graduates Noah King, 18, and Holly Payne 18, to be finalists in a national competition for the NHSMA for Best Performance by an Actor and Actress, also known as the Jimmy Award.

King and Payne were among an elite group of 62 students nationwide who were selected to participate in an intensive 10-day theater program in New York.

The program culminated in a showcase June 27, at which the Jimmy Award winners were announced.

“It’s been kind of stressful, but it’s been awesome. There’s a lot of talent here,” King said, explaining that the nominees include some of the most talented actors and singers throughout nation.

In order to qualify for the Jimmy Awards, high schools submitted their musical productions for scoring in several categories. Out of the actors in the 19 musicals submitted to ASU Gammage for review, Payne and King received the highest scores for lead male and lead female.

Schools that submitted their performances for consideration were celebrated at ASU Gammage May 21 at a Tony Awards-inspired red carpet night which featured performances from all competing schools.

ASU Gammage also provided scholarships to two students viewed as leaders in the community, as well as sponsoring Payne and King’s trip to the New York City theater program preceding the Jimmy Awards ceremony and showcase. Clearwing Productions and Penrose Academy partnered with ASU Gammage to provide this financial support.

The 62 finalists participated in the opening number of the NHSMTA ceremony in New York, which also featured performances by a ballad group and an ensemble group, King said.

Although King began acting during his sophomore year of high school, he said he has pushed himself to reach his current level.

“I want to make sure I can be proud of my work,” he said.

King will be attending Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business after he completes a two-year religious mission trip, he said.

“Just the feeling that you get when you’re performing — it’s an expression of joy. It’s a way that you can escape all of your problems by becoming someone else,” King said.

“He is just a good kid,” said King’s mother, Amy King. “He’s polite and inclusive and he was as excited or more excited for the other people who won from Mesa High."

Although King is a talented actor, he may not pursue theater as a career, his mother said.

“Ever since he was a little kid, he would say he wanted to be a normal dad with a normal job. He never wanted to be a firefighter or an astronaut. He wants to be a good person and serve in the community, church and his family,” King’s mother said.

Due to the intensive nature of the program, Payne was unavailable to comment. Her mother, Brenda Payne, said she is proud of her daughter’s growth and confidence.

“She’s just an amazing young woman and I’ve watched her blossom in the last year,” Payne’s mother said.

When Payne was in junior high school, her peers made fun of her while performing in a class. Since then, she has overcome stage fright to find her success, according to her mother.

“I’m tremendously grateful for ASU and for this opportunity. It’s been very overwhelming and exciting,” Payne’s mother said, explaining that the support of Payne’s drama teacher as well as the support for ASU Gammage were key in her success.

Although Payne is undecided on her plans for the fall, her mother says Payne would like to continue acting and singing.

“I would like to see her live her dreams and be the best person, the best woman that she could possibly be,” Payne’s mother said. “I think she’s got so many God-given talents and (I hope she will) use the talents she was given and not take it for granted.”

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @emikamezaki

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