Remembering the man who gave me my start.

I still have no idea why he recommended me.

He called me during my Christmas break.  I had just completed his History of American Theater class at Tisch.  I got an A-, I think.  So, I did well in the class, but it wasn’t like I was the perfect student.  In fact, I even forgot my homework one day.  Literally forgot it at home.  And I’m sure when I said those words, “I forgot it,” he thought, “This guy is in one of the top acting schools in the country?  Cuz I don’t believe that for a moment.”

But still, Jack Lee, the renowned and highly respected Music Director who had worked with everyone from Kander and Ebb to Jule Styne to Stephen Sondheim to Comden and Green, called me over that Christmas break and said he wanted to recommend me for a Production Assistant position on My Fair Lady starring Richard Chamberlain that he was music directing that spring.  Me!

I said yes, duh . . . and, well, to make a long story short . . . I ended up here, writing this blog.

Obviously a lot of stuff happened in between there, but it all traces back to Jack.  Seriously.  For the first ten years of my career, every job I ever had, every piece of knowledge about this business I ever learned, was all because of Jack.  He got me in the door to this exclusive nightclub of an industry, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

That was what I hoped for when I decided to transfer to NYU, actually.  I remember thinking when I applied, “Someone, someone so generous with their time, someone who can see the passion in their students and help them find an outlet for it, will help me into the business I love so much.”

And Jack did just that.  Like he heard that prayer.  And all that I can pray now is that I made him proud.

Jack Lee passed away last week at the age of 86.  You can read more about his credits in this article from Variety here.

But there are a long list of credits that aren’t in that article.  And they are the hundreds, if not thousands, of students Jack taught, coached, and inspired over his many years as a teacher.

There are so many of us who can say, #ImHereBecauseOfJack.

I’m proud to be one of them.


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  • My sympathies go out to you, Ken.
    But, also, congratulations.
    You found the mentor you were meant to find.
    And, why did he pick you?
    C’mon. Your face must have been shining every day with your love
    for the theater. You were, clearly, the one to be developed.
    And here you are.

    Out here, we have been working to preserve the White Barn Theater of Lucille Lortel.
    My mentor, Mark Graham, helped to get that article in the Times, and is still working to
    try to stop the bulldozers which are set to appear on March 22nd., unless we get an
    extension on the “stay of execution.” Last Wednesday, there was a big hearing at the Norwalk
    City Hall, to plead for an extension on the cease and desist notice.

  • Alexis Marnel says:

    He was very proud of you.This blog brought me to tears. thank you for writing this #IamherebecauseofJack

  • Roy says:

    What a great story, thanks for sharing.

    Also a lesson in being generous. Generous with your knowledge, with your ability to provide opportunity. We all have a teacher, mentor, that provided us that opportunity when we were starting. As Producers/Directors/Administrators/Teachers, we also have the ability to be that person for someone else.

  • Diana Klebanow says:

    What a touching tribute to your former teacher!

  • Melissa Bell says:

    A wonderful tribute and an important message in the importance of mentors and mentoring. I have enormous gratitude and love for my mentor Stevie Phillips (Whorehouse) who has advised me step by step through so many projects. She was always available for desperate phone calls, proofing emails, and practicing pitches. And always the only one who would say “OK. Truth time.”

  • Ed K. says:

    I am sure he was extremely proud of you and felt his recommendation had been validated many times over the years.
    Great running into you while I was on my way to ‘She Loves Me’ tonight.
    Best regards.

  • John Carden says:

    Thank you for your wonderful tribute. Mentors are so very important and sadly we don’t have enough of them willing to guide talented young people and give them a leg up so they can see the view. When I was a young countertenor singing at the Met in 1988 I literally had a family of wonderful mentors surrounding me and guiding me and helping me on my journey to what has been a wonderful career. I returned to NYU in 2011 and got an MFA in musical theatre writing. Wonderful program and wonderful mentors. However many of the bright talents that have come out of my class are now in the real world and work as assistants and such. It saddens me that when I ask them who is mentoring them now they shrug and say no one. You remember who gave you a chance. I hope the producers and industry professionals out there take a moment and ask the people who work for them how their dreams are going. Take them under their wing and yes help them take flight.

  • Dear Ken…What a moving tribute to someone who helped shape your destiny. You have honored his memory with all you do to help other with a passion for theater with your insights, encouragement and wisdom. Jack Lee’s legacy lives on in you.

  • Keith Crowningshield says:


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