Drama teacher Melody Herzfeld and 65 of her students hid for two hours in her office when a mass shooter went on a rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
A week after the February 14 massacre, Herzfeld directed her students in a performance of an original song called “Shine” during a CNN town hall. The song, written by two Parkland students, was part anthem, part rallying cry, expressing their pain in the wake of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Herzfeld is now set to be honored with a Tony Award for excellence in theater education from the Tonys and Carnegie Mellon University. The award will be presented later this month during the 72nd annual Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
The award “shines a national spotlight on arts education and the vital role theater educators play in helping students embrace their creativity and realize their potential,” Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian said.
“Carnegie Mellon is delighted to recognize all that Melody has done to impact the lives of her students over the years, and we offer our sincere congratulations to her on this honor.”
Herzfeld credits her students
Reacting to the news, Herzfeld said that during any normal time she “would say that I am truly humbled and grateful for this recognition for the work I have done.”
“(However) the way that my students have taken to action through speech, performance and passionate honesty it now means so much more,” she said in a statement. “My work is being reflected through my students, as it is every day with every arts teacher around the world.”
A video of the song “Shine” was released last month, with proceeds from the downloads and views of it doing to Shine MSD, a nonprofit created by Stoneman Douglas families to support programs that provide healing through the arts. “Shine” was also performed live at the March for Our Lives in Washington in March.
“You’re not gonna knock us down. We’ll get back up again. You may have hurt us. But I promise we’ll be stronger,” a lyric from the song goes.
She also gets $10,000
Herzfeld has been directing the drama department at Stoneman Douglas since 2003, producing more than 50 productions, according to Carnegie Mellon. She will get a $10,000 prize with the award, along with tickets to the Tony ceremony and gala.
“Melody is a true inspiration to her students and to all of us in the (theater) community and beyond,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement.
“(Theater) is transformative — it has the power to celebrate the best of times, and it has the power to help heal us and comfort us in the worst of times. We are honored and humbled to present the Excellence in Theatre Education Award to Melody this year.”
Hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, the Tony ceremony will be broadcast live June 10 on CBS.