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Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation Board of Directors

The TAA Foundation Board consists of a Board of Directors, an Honorary Board, and an Advisory Board. The organization is governed by four officers and is managed by an executive director and executive assistant.

TAAF Officers

Stephen Coleman’s career as an instrumental music educator has spanned nearly four decades. He was most recently an associate professor of music education at Cumberland University, where he taught courses in instrumental music pedagogy and music history. Prior to this appointment, he and his wife Marion Coleman co-directed the instrumental music program in the Tullahoma City School system. Coleman has served as the president of Phi Beta Mu, the Middle Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association, the Tennessee Bandmasters Association, the Tennessee Music Education Association, and was state chair for the National Band Association. He has presented clinics and sessions on various aspects of music education at the Tennessee Music Educators State Music Conference, the National Association for Music Education Conference, and the Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Conference. His professional honors include the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence, the Tennessee Music Education Association Hall of Fame, and the Tennessee Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

William H.
Watkins Jr., CPA
Vice President

Bill Watkins began his career in public accounting with a large local firm and then served as controller for the sixth largest industrial security firm in the United States. He transitioned back into public accounting when he started the public accounting firm of Watkins and Watkins in 1971 which became what is now Watkins Uiberall, PLLC.

Watkins is a graduate of the University of Memphis College of Business, which has named the auditorium in its Fogelman College of Business and Economics in his honor. He is a member of the Germantown Performing Arts Centre and serves on its board of directors. Watkins is also a member of the Economic Club of Memphis, Christ United Methodist Church, and the Boy Scouts of America, for which he has served on the board of directors in the Chickasaw Council. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Tennessee Society of CPAs, and the University of Memphis board of visitors.

Watkins is a Missouri native and currently resides in Germantown, Tennessee with his wife, Jeanette. When away from the office, he and Jeanette enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren, relaxing at their lake home and boating.

Bobby Jean

Bobby Jean Frost was chair of the fine arts department and director of choral activities at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tennessee. She retired from that position in 2002, having previously taught at McGavock High School and Pearl High School.

Frost’s high school performing groups garnered many gold and silver medals in international competitions and received invitations from all over the world to participate in special events. The unique McGavock Jazz Rock Ensemble combined sixteen singers and sixteen instrumentalists to perform current music. The SophistiCats, her widely acclaimed singers at Hillsboro High School, were named as one of the top 100 of 14,588 high school performance choirs in the United States.

A diverse musician, Frost also enjoyed a career in commercial music. She was a musical director at Opryland, USA for twenty-three years. A published arranger, she has supplied custom arrangements for Opryland and many other groups. Frost has been a frequent clinician and adjudicator at regional and national events. She was session director and pianist for all classroom recordings in Metro Nashville Public Schools and for many well-known local PBS educational TV shows.

Frost's awards include The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences “Music of the Heart” Educator, Metro Nashville Education Association Distinguished Classroom Teacher, Hillsboro Teacher of the Year, Tennessee Arts Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and Tennessee Music Education Association Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Award. Frost currently serves on the boards of the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation, the Tennessee Music Education Association, the Woman’s Club of Nashville, and the J. B. Daniels Foundation, and is a member of the Tennessee State Museum Ladies and Gents Committee. She received a bachelor of music degree in piano performance from George Peabody College and did graduate work at Belmont University.


Flowerree W. McDonough has been named by the National Art Education Association as the Tennessee Art Educator of the Year in 1999, and National Emeritus Art Educator in 2018. The Tennessee Arts Academy Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to her in 2011. The Tennessee Governor’s School named her Tennessee Visual Arts Educator of the Year in 2009 in a ceremony at the Schermerhorn Center in Nashville.

Until her retirement in 2013, Mrs. McDonough served for thirty-two years as chair of the Bearden High School Fine Arts Department in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her tenure, her students garnered numerous scholarships and won Scholastic Gold, Silver, and Honorable Mention awards. At Carnegie Hall, she was honored at the National Teacher Recognition ceremony for having several national student winners. After being named a Twenty-first Century Classroom Teacher, the resulting grant funds jump-started her students’ technological understanding of visual production techniques. She was selected as a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and subsequently, participated in the Excellence in Teaching Institute at Ohio Wesleyan and in Florence, Italy.

She served as President of the Tennessee Art Education Association, as well as National Art Education Association’s Southeast Region Secondary Director, and has also chaired state-wide art education conferences. In 2000, she represented the state in several events as State Finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year.

McDonough has served on the ArtsEd Tennessee Development Committee, and for Leadership Knoxville, she has coordinated the art experiences for new class members each year since she became a member in 2003. McDonough has been a frequent clinician and adjudicator at regional and national events.

McDonough passionately serves both students and teachers of the arts in her dual roles as an adjudicator for the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts and as a Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation board member.

TAAF Board of Directors

Ottie C. “Bud” Akers has been a successful attorney practicing in the fields of corporate, securities, and entertainment law for thirty-eight years. Early in his career he was a creative marketing strategist and used his deep understanding of advertising to improve on an enterprise’s presence in its media environment. He attended Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, as well as the University of Virginia graduate school, and he earned two English degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is managing director and founder of Data Routers, Inc., an American holding company home to more than fifty category-leading digital products and brands. He continues to be managing attorney for his law firm.

Akers has been actively engaged in a variety of artistic pursuits which include managing a rock band, assisting with the formation of a chamber orchestra, acting in and building sets for theatre productions, writing plays and short stories, and authoring reviews of arts-related activities for a weekly publication. He also has a passion for the visual arts and has represented several graphic artists and art studios. He continues to work with a Los Angeles-based movie company and publishes movie reviews for his blog, Cinema Bebop.

Akers grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and practiced law in Birmingham for many years. He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Marcia. They recently celebrated their fifty-second anniversary together. Akers has one daughter, Kate, and one granddaughter, Ruby.

Rosetta Jo “Joey”

Rosetta Jo “Joey” Beckford is a graduate of the University of Memphis. She serves on the board of the Germantown Performing Arts Center and has also served as its president. Ms. Beckford has volunteered for Opera Memphis and participated in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra Mei-Ann Circle Guild. A graduate of Leadership Germantown, Ms. Beckford is also a member of the Memphis advisory board for Facing History & Ourselves and the Shelby County chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Along with her husband Dr. Neal Beckford, she has co-chaired the annual fundraising gala for the Germantown Performing Arts Center and was a co-founder for the center’s Jazz Society. In 2014, she and Dr. Beckford were named as the Germantown Arts Alliance Arts Patrons of the Year. Besides her numerous community activities, Ms. Beckford has a rich and varied business background in sales and management. The Beckfords have three adult children. They enjoy family, music, reading, traveling and attending performing arts events.


Chuck Blackburn grew up in Texas and graduated from college in that state. He began his sales career as a teen, selling Fuller brushes. While in college he sold books door-to-door during his summers, working eighty hours per week and working 1000 miles away from home. Blackburn became the company's top salesperson in the biggest year of their 155 year history while also building and managing a well-trained, motivated, and productive sales organization. He served as district sales manager for five years after graduation from college. As his career progressed, Blackburn was top producer in scores of diverse organizations in several different industries. He has demonstrated deep sales and sales strategy skills in a variety of challenging situations. He is extremely creative and analytical, and especially adept at advancing innovative concepts, products, services, or ideas.

A lifelong bow-tie fan, Blackburn owned a business providing tailored clothing and quality handmade neckwear, including bow ties, to many of the best traditional men’s specialty shops throughout the country. He believes that bow ties are not just a fashion option, but a personal lifestyle statement of a discerning individualist. He founded the International Bow Tie Society with a mission to leverage the interests of bow tie enthusiasts to create benefits, value, and friendship among thousands of members worldwide. He is the author of Stop Selling! ...Let 'em Buy. His most recent book is the Bow Tie Bible, an expose on how and why bow ties are a positive alternative to long ties. Chuck and his wife Marsha live in beautiful Brentwood, Tennessee.


Madeline Bridges is professor emerita of music at Belmont University. During her tenure in the School of Music, she taught graduate and undergraduate classes, served as director of graduate studies, and most recently was an associate dean. Bridges previously taught at Middle Tennessee State University and Carson-Newman College. During her long and storied music education career, Bridges guest conducted all-state elementary and middle school honor choirs throughout the country and led scores of workshops for local, state, regional, and national general and choral music conferences. In 1985, as a consultant in the Arts Education Program of the Tennessee Department of Education, she worked closely with the program’s director, Joe Giles, to help create the Tennessee Arts Academy (TAA). Bridges was the TAA’s founding music director before serving as both campus and project director for the organization.

During her three decades in a leadership role with the Nashville Children’s Choir, she worked as program director with a staff of fifteen to oversee the choral development of more than two hundred young singers in four choirs each year. She also co-directed the touring choir, which was regularly chosen to sing on national broadcasts of Christmas at Belmont.

A lifelong member of the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA), Bridges served as president of the group and was inducted into the TMEA Hall of Fame. She served as president of the International Board of Choristers Guild and was co-founder (with Michael Hawn) and member of the inaugural faculty of Choristers Guild Institute, a national certification program for directors of children and youth choirs. Bridges has authored or co-authored articles in both practitioner and research journals including Tennessee Musician, and The Chorister. Bridges’ numerous publications include Sing Together, Children published by Choristers Guild, and Book of Church Songs and Spirituals with John Feierabend published by GIA Press.


Cavit Cheshier received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1953. Following a master’s program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, he returned to UT Martin to teach horticulture and landscape design, and fruit and vegetable production. In 1956, he was employed by the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) to become the specialist in teacher retirement and Social Security. While at TEA, he earned his masters and doctor degrees from Peabody College with an emphasis on school law and school finance.

During his thirty-eight year tenure at TEA, he served as field representative, assistant executive secretary, and associate executive secretary and before his retirement in 2004, he was the executive secretary-treasurer. He led a staff of eighty-three people, managed the association’s business and finances, wrote and lobbied many pieces of legislation and was the primary staff spokesperson for the 50,000 member association.

After retirement, Cheshier continued his hobbies of traveling, ballroom dancing, refinishing furniture, and serving on the grounds committee of his 188 home subdivision. He volunteers extensively at his church and is in his fifteenth year as trustees chair. Cheshier has served on the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation Board since its inception. He has been married fifty-nine years, has three granddaughters and two daughters who are teachers.


Rena Ellzy is a retired university professor and a graduate of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. Additionally, she is a graduate of the Realtor Institute, a certified residential specialist, and a Million Dollar Life member of the Nashville Greater Association of Realtors.

Ellzy is also an artist who likes to travel; she uses oil paints on canvas to capture her excursions. She has served the Nashville community as a member of the boards of directors for the Hospital Hospitality House, the Nashville Urban League, and the Boiler Room Theatre. She is a founding member and leader in the Parthenon Chapter of Links, Inc.

From 2010 to 2017, Ellzy was co-chair on the organization Room at the Inn for the Forest Hills Baptist Church. She currently volunteers with Hope Lodge and is a member of Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Frist Arts Museum, and the Woman’s Club of Nashville. For her many achievements and contributions to the community, her peers have honored her by naming her to both Who’s Who in the South and Who’s Who in American Women.


Dr. Solie Fott is professor emeritus of music at Austin Peay State University (APSU) in Clarksville, Tennessee. He joined the music faculty at APSU in 1958 and during his career at the university he served as chair of the music department and founding president of the faculty senate. He also was a major force in establishing the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts in 1985.

Fott has performed with the Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville Symphonies. In his sideline career as a Nashville sessions string player, he performed with some of the top names in modern music history, including Eddie Arnold, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Kris Kristofferson, and Elvis Presley.

In recognition of his distinguished career in music education, Fott was presented the Tennessee Arts Academy’s Lorin Hollander Award in 2008. He was also honored with the Tennessee Music Educators Association’s Hall of Fame award in 2008. Most recently, he received the Acuff Circle of Excellence award from the Center for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University.

Fott is a member of the board of the Customs House Museum, the Acuff Circle of Excellence, the Gateway Chamber Orchestra and the Community Concert Association. He is the former president of the Tennessee chapters of the American String Teachers Association and the Tennessee Music Educators Association, and served on the board of the Tennessee Alliance for Arts Education.


Brandon Herrenbruck is the vice president and an owner of Steinway Piano Gallery in Nashville and Alabama Piano Gallery in Birmingham, Alabama. His company represents Steinway & Sons pianos for most of Tennessee and Alabama. After being an educator for seven years, he joined the family business in June of 2007. Herrenbruck grew up in Evansville, Indiana and received the bachelor of science degree in Secondary Education and Theatre from Indiana University in Bloomington and a masters of education and supervision from Tennessee State University in Nashville. He and his family relocated to Nashville in 2002 and currently live on a small farm in Thompsons Station, Tennessee.


Jim Holcomb’s impressive fifty-four year career in both Tennessee and Mississippi as an educator, administrator and performer in music and arts related fields is still very much a work in progress.

Holcomb spent twenty-four years in the classroom as an instrumental and vocal music teacher. Beginning in the early 1990s, he assumed the role of supervisor of music programs for Memphis City Schools, a position he held for twenty-one years. Upon his retirement from the public schools, Holcomb was appointed as the administrator of the Bellevue School of Performing Arts for approximately five years, where he continues to serve as a brass instructor. He also teaches French horn at Christian Brothers High School and other schools in the Memphis metropolitan area. Beyond his teaching and administrative duties, Holcomb remains very active as a professional musician and performer.

During his classroom music tenure, Holcomb created innovative and comprehensive music programs wherever he taught, and in so doing, his performing ensembles were well known for their consistent success at local, regional, and national festivals. Holcomb has served on grant panels for the Tennessee Arts Commission and Memphis City Center Commission. He has also served on the board of the Governor’s School of the Arts (1992-1996), and currently serves on both the boards of the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation and the Cultural Connections by Design Technologies National Board of Directors. His many honors include the American Legion Americanism award, the Tennessee Arts Academy Lifetime Achievement award, and the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA) Music Educator’s Hall of Fame award, to mention just a few. Holcomb was named as Amro Music’s first Educator’s Walk of Fame recipient. In service to the Tennessee Music Education Association and affiliated regional associations, he received their “Outstanding Administrator” Award in 2006. Jim Holcomb continues to pursue his love and passion for the arts in all ways possible.

Patricia Anderson

Patricia Anderson Hudson is a visual art educator who retired in 2016 with forty-six years of service with the Dickson County school system. The last thirty years of her career in education were teaching high school art at Dickson County High School. In retirement, Patricia has joined the Dickson County Retired Teacher Association and currently serves as president. She also served one four-year term on the Dickson County School Board.

While at Dickson County High School, Patricia developed a comprehensive curriculum for the visual art department based on Southern Association recommendations. The new curriculum added commercial design, printmaking, mixed media, and 3-D art. The curriculum she developed is still used by Dickson County High School and gives students a very broad course offering in the visual arts. Patricia was also active in the Dickson County and Tennessee Education Associations. She attended TEA Representative Assemblies consistently for more than thirty-five years and served on the TEA Professional Development Committee.

Patricia is a practicing visual artist working primarily in watercolor and polymer clay. She has artwork in many private collections and participates in shows and exhibits on a regular basis.

Since her retirement, Patricia donates her time and talent each month to assist in the TAA office. During the Academy week, she serves as an office facilitator. Patricia attended at least twenty Tennessee Arts Academies as a secondary visual art participant and attended one year as an administrative participant. She credits those years of TAA participation with enriching her teaching experience on a consistent basis. She volunteers her time so that more arts teachers from across the state can experience the renewal and encouragement provided by the Tennessee Arts Academy.


Kami Lunsford is the 2020-2021 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. She has been sharing her love of learning and music with students, teachers, and future educators in all three regions of Tennessee for her entire career. As choir director of Karns Middle School, Kami uses music to help students find their place in middle school and promote personal and academic success. She operates before and after school programs, including theatre and advanced ensembles that seek to expose students to disciplines, careers, and opportunities in the arts. Kami credits exceptional, visionary K-12 teachers in her rural, West Tennessee upbringing for her passion to provide opportunities in creativity and leadership that equip students for their future, wherever it takes them. Paying it forward has always been the goal.

Two-time Knox County Schools Middle School Teacher of the Year, Kami consistently answers the call to serve her school and county through leadership and collaboration on improvement initiatives. She actively supports Tennessee teachers as an evaluator and mentor, as well as serving as a facilitator for the Tennessee Arts Academy at Belmont University. Her music ensembles have performed in nine states and extensively in Tennessee, recording at Studio B in Nashville, live at Graceland in Memphis, and alongside performers like Knoxville star, Chris Blue. Many of her students have pursued careers in music, performance, church music, theatre, and education. She counts the privilege of using music and the arts to help kids build a better life as “the best job in the world.”

Michael J.

Michael J. McBride, a native Tennessean, earned his undergraduate degree in art from Tennessee State University and his graduate degree in painting from Illinois State University, where he credits Dr. Harold Gregor with providing a world class artistic mentorship. As an instructor of art at Tennessee State University and former adjunct faculty at Watkins College of Art and Design and Film school, his commitment to the Nashville art world's future has always been at the forefront of his career. McBride served as curator of the Hiram V. Gordon Gallery at Tennessee State University from 1995 to 2000, and has been the lead artist on many community-based projects in Nashville. These include Sister Cities Mural projects as well as Nashville International Airport's Arts in the Airport program. McBride was featured in Visions of My People, Sixty Years of African American Art in Tennessee, an exhibit organized by the Tennessee State Museum, and one of his pieces was purchased for their permanent collection.

McBride's work is included in both private and corporate collections in the United States and abroad. His work has been featured on television sitcoms such as Living Single, The Wayans Bros. Show, and The Jamie Foxx Show. He has also illustrated children's books and book covers for several publishing groups. He was one of twelve Nashville artists selected by The Tennessean newspaper for inclusion in the Millennium 2000 Collection, a signal honor. Another honor was the Side by Side sister cities exhibition with Belfast, Northern Ireland, featuring seventeen artists from Nashville and seventeen artists from Ireland. A recent honor was a ten week artist-in-residence in Bermuda with the MasterWorks Museum of Bermuda Art in the summer of 2005. His current body of work titled Too Black Too Fast is a traveling exhibition of art about African-American jockeys and trainers.

McBride is currently a member of the board of trustees for the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, The Arts in the Airport, Tennessee Art league, The Nashville Artist Guild, South Arts southern artist registry, and the board of Family and Children Services.


After a 43 year career in education, Ron Meers retired in 2012 following his 30 year tenure as Director of Bands at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Prior to Riverdale, Meers was Director of Bands at Mt. Pleasant High School in Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, for 13 years. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from David Lipscomb University and his Master+30 from Cumberland University. Meers has served as president of various statewide music organizations including the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA), the Middle Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association (MTSBOA), the Tennessee Bandmaster‘s Association, and Phi Beta Mu. Meers has also served in numerous adjudication roles including TMEA Performing Group Audition Chair, All-State/Mid State Audition Chair for the MTSBOA, auditions chair for the Governor’s School for the Arts, and Tennessee All State Band Chair. Throughout his long career he often was asked to be an adjudicator for both marching and concert band events. Meers was selected as Riverdale High School‘s Teacher of the Year for the 2002-2003 school year. On April 7th, 2011 he was inducted into the Tennessee Music Education Association’s Hall of Fame at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The following year, the Riverdale High School Band Room was renamed the Ronald S. Meers Band Hall in his honor. In the spring of 2019, Ron was inducted into the Tennessee Bandmasters Hall of Fame. Ron recently retired one final time after eight years of service as Executive Director of the Tennessee Music Education Association in June of 2020.


Michael Richard Meise, the son of German immigrants, was born in Teaneck, New Jersey. In 1964, at the age of five, his family moved to Dickson, Tennessee. Meise graduated from Dickson County High School in 1976. He went on to earn a bachelor of science degree, summa cum laude, in music education and a master of arts degree, with honors, in language and literature from Austin Peay State University.

Meise was a public school teacher for thirty-five years before pursuing a career in law. He earned his law degree from the Nashville School of Law, where he was a member of the Nashville School of Law Legal Aid Society and served on the honor council. He graduated in 2007 and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar the same year. He served as an assistant public defender in the 23rd Judicial District and was elected to the bench of the Dickson County Juvenile and Probate Court in 2014, where he served for eight years. As judge of the juvenile court, he dedicated his time and passion to the welfare of the families that came before him. He is a trained presenter in the area of adverse childhood experiences and is devoted to compassionate approaches in seeking successful dispositions.  

Meise is a member of the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, where he served on the legislative committee.  He is also a member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Tennessee Bar Association, the Mid-Cumberland Council on Children and Youth, and the Drug Free Dickson Coalition. He is a member of the Dickson Good Morning Rotary Club and director of the chancel choir of the Dickson First Presbyterian Church.  He has managed his own law firm since 2007. His primary areas of practice include wills and estate planning, probate, juvenile law, criminal defense, and contracts.


Jeff Myrick has held positions in hospitality, education, and healthcare for almost twenty-five years. His current role as director of learning and development for Parallon, a subsidiary of HCA Healthcare, sits at the intersection of those disciplines.

Myrick received a bachelor of music degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in music business with a vocal performance emphasis. His career began with Gaylord Entertainment Company in Nashville, but his love for choral music redirected him to earn a master of arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University in choral music education.

His tenure as an arts educator took place in Williamson County as a choral director and general music teacher. Myrick also served as an instructional coach and department chair, and was named a school-level teacher of the year. After earning his educational leadership license through Trevecca Nazarene University, he was nominated to participate in the Williamson County Schools Leadership Academy for Aspiring School Leaders.

In 2009, Myrick and his family entered the disability community after the birth of his son Silas, who has Down syndrome. In addition to serving and advocating for various organizations, Myrick was invited to serve as an advocate on advisory councils for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt as well as for the Tennessee Department of Health. He was also selected to participate as a family advocate in a cohort of the Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program under Vanderbilt's Kennedy Center. Myrick has served in and deployed with the US Army Reserve’s Military Police Corps, but he is prouder of his service as an arts educator and is a tireless advocate for arts education.

Diana K.

Diana Poe, a native of Chicago, Illinois, is an alumna of Tennessee State University where she has also served as a vocal professor and choir director. She was founder and artistic director for the TSU Showstoppers Choir, which performed under her direction at the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors presentation for Oprah Winfrey. She also received the University’s President’s Public Service Award. Ms. Poe, a lyric soprano, has performed internationally and throughout the United States. She holds a master’s degree in vocal performance from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. She serves on the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation Board and has directed the Nashville Symphony Celebration Chorus for the Let Freedom Sing concert for more than twenty-two years. She is presently a music instructor at Nashville State Community College and is the recipient of the Circle Players Theater’s Best Music Director award 2013-2014 for Dreamgirls


Wayne Qualls has given fifty-one years of devoted service in the field of education to the students and teachers of Tennessee. A former Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Qualls began his career as a public school teacher in 1970. He soon became a principal and eventually the superintendent of Hickman County Schools. He also served for four years as a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents. Qualls is the founder of Teams, Inc. an educational consulting firm that offers education and management services. He has conducted more than forty superintendent searches for school systems across the state. He is also the executive director of Tennessee School Systems for Equity, a group that represents the interests of rural schools throughout the state.

Jim H.
Rieniets, Jr.

Jim Rieniets, Jr. is president and CEO of INSBANK. He has been with the bank since its inception in November of 2000, and served as its chief Lending and Credit officer for six years. He serves on the Bank’s Board of Directors; its management committee; and chairs both the Bank’s Executive Loan Committee and the Asset Liability Committee.

Jim is currently serving as chairman of the Government Relations Council of the American Bankers Association, as well as a member of its board of directors. He is also on the board of the Tennessee Bankers Association, and previously chaired both its Government Relations Committee and Credit Committee.

Within the community he is on the board of directors of Affordable Housing Resources; is a member of the Rotary Club of Nashville; serves on the finance committee for University School of Nashville; is an advisory board member of the technology non-profit GeekCause; and serves as vice-chairman on the board of directors of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission. For more than twenty years Jim has been a member of the fundraising team for the FedEx St. Jude Classic and World Golf Championships FedEx St. Jude Invitational. In 2015 he was recognized by the Nashville Business Journal as an honoree in their Most Admired CEOs Awards.

Prior to INSBANK, Jim worked for National Commerce Bancorp in Memphis, where he held positions as Division Head of Correspondent Banking, Business Banking Department Manager, Commercial Loan Officer, Credit Analyst, and Branch Manager. During his eight-year tenure with National Commerce Bancorp Jim served for four years as a senior loan committee member. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University in 1991 and earned an MBA at the University of Memphis with a concentration in Finance in 1998. Jim and his wife, Susie, reside in the Forest Hills community of Nashville with their three children.


Thane Smith has been recognized as a Germantown Hometown Hero and in 2003 was named the recipient of the Germantown Arts Alliance Patron of the Arts Medal for his contributions to the arts in the community. He is a founding board member and treasurer of the Germantown Association, a non-profit organization that oversees the annual Germantown Arts and Crafts Festival.

Thane and his wife, Pat, serve on the board of the Tennessee Arts AcademyFoundation (TAAF) and sponsored the musing sessions for both Marvin Hamlisch and Richard Sherman at the Academy. They continue to sponsor the celebrity performer at the Bravo Banquet and in 2013 received the Academy’s Lorin Hollander Award for their continued commitment to the arts.

Smith is past president of the Shelby County Homebuilders Association, past chairman of the Germantown Chamber of Commerce and currently serves as president of the Condo Association in Angel Fire, New Mexico, where he enjoys skiing in the winter. He is owner of Old Town Center, a shopping complex in Germantown.

Smith has been scout master of Troop 64 in Germantown for over forty-five years and has served on the staff at Philmont Training Center, the Boy Scout National Adult Training Facility in Cimarron, New Mexico.


Pat Smith has been active in community service for many years. She was named the 19th Century Club’s Outstanding Member after serving as chairman of the club’s sponsorship activities for the Germantown Charity Horse Show. Smith was named as Honorary Shelby County Commissioner by Mayor Jim Rout for her work at the polls and promoting candidates for public service. She was named Shelby County School’s Teacher of the Year and was recognized in 1989 as the Outstanding Career Ladder Evaluator in Tennessee for Governor Alexander’s Master Teacher program.

Smith has served as president of the Germantown Performing Arts Guild, Germantown Arts Alliance and Germantown Garden Club. She has served as a member of the board of the Germantown Community Theater, Poplar Pike Playhouse and Tennessee Shakespeare Company.  In 2012, Smith was named Germantown’s Outstanding Citizen and won the Leadership Germantown Award for Community Service.

Smith is a Master Flower Show judge and has judged international shows in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lima, Peru; and San Ramon, Costa Rica. She served as a United States delegate to the World Flower Show in Dublin, Ireland. She currently serves on the board of directors of the State, Deep South and National Garden Clubs, Inc. where she is vice chairman of the National Disaster Grants Committee and a delegate on the National Nominating Committee.


Tabor Stamper serves as president of KHS America, the parent company for Jupiter Band Instruments, XO Professional Brass, Mapex, Sonor, Majestic Percussion, Altus Flutes and Hohner Harmonicas and Accordions.  KHS America is a leading supplier of musical instruments, and serves the performance needs of musicians from beginning students to professionals.

Stamper began his career in music education as a band director, teaching in both high school and at the university level. He holds music degrees from Indiana University and Ball State University and is a member of both Alpha Beta Alpha and Phi Beta Mu bandmaster fraternities. In 2002 he was recognized by Phi Beta Mu as Outstanding Contributor to Bands. He is the founding chairman of “Give a Note,” a non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for music education in underserved school districts throughout the United States. He is a member of the Music Makes Us advisory council, serving Nashville Metropolitan Schools in support of music education, and is a board member for the John Philip Sousa Foundation and the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation.

Following his years of directing bands in Indiana, Ohio and Missouri, Stamper joined the music industry, holding various positions with United Musical Instruments and Conn-Selmer before joining KHS America in 2005. As a former music educator, he believes in the positive impact music has on all lives, and that every student deserves the opportunity to receive a quality music education.


Todd A. Tressler, II is the founder and CEO of Tressler and Associates, PLLC, and Tressler Title, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he earned his degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. While his plan for medical school eventually changed, his passion for helping others remained prominent in his heart. Tressler worked in the legal industry in 2005, and in 2007, he earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Nashville School of Law.  

Two years into his licensed legal career, Tressler recognized the need for approachable legal services. He believed the barriers of the industry could be broken down by practicing the legal profession fairly and ethically with sincerity. He built his firm on this client care approach and continues to care for his clients as if they were family.

Tressler holds memberships in the American and Tennessee Land Title Associations, The Middle Tennessee Fifteenth Judicial Bar Association, and the Tennessee Bar Association. He serves on the board of directors for Empower Me Center, The Joshua Chamberlain Society of Nashville, and The Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation. He is a past board member of the Young Lawyers Division of the Tennessee Bar Association, Jazz at the Mill, and the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

Tressler aspires to live life to its fullest, impacting others with faith, love, and gratitude. He is committed to helping others fulfill their own dreams in life – one client relationship at a time.


Talmage Watts is an attorney in the tax division of the Tennessee Attorney General’s office. In addition to his work as a lawyer, Watts has a long history as an active participant in the arts. After teaching music in the Davidson Country Metropolitan Nashville public schools and serving for two years as the band director and trumpet instructor at the University of South Alabama, Watts graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law and accepted a position with a firm in New Orleans, Louisiana. While there, he joined the New Orleans Symphony Chorus and met his wife of thirty years, Debbie Greenspan, who sang in the symphony chorus and also with the New Orleans Opera chorus. In 1994, the couple moved to Nashville where they both began performing with the Nashville Symphony Chorus and the Nashville Opera Ensemble. Watts sang with the symphony chorus for sixteen years and served a term as its president. He also performed in twenty-five productions of the Nashville Opera Ensemble and now serves as a board member and secretary of the Nashville Opera Association. Since 1999, Watts has served on the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation Board of Directors. Debbie now serves as president of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and is a nurse practitioner at the Veterans Administration Hospital.


Joe West is a Grammy award-winning producer, mixer and hit songwriter.

As a songwriter he has had multiple #1 singles as well as cuts with Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Jimmy Wayne, Warrant and many others. His music has been featured in more than one hundred network, cable and feature films.

West also has a long and distinguished list of production and mixing credits that include among others: Joey + Rory, Emmy Lou Harris, Warren Zevon, Shakira, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Wayne, James Otto, Mercy Me, Steve Earle, Mathew Sweet, Indigo Girls and many more Grammy award-winning and multi-platinum selling artists.

West produced and mixed the Grammy award-winning "Best Roots Gospel Album" in 2017 and "Hymns That Are Important to Us" by Joey + Rory. It was the second biggest-selling country record of 2016, and received a Grammy award, Dove award, Billboard award and ICMA award. West wrote, produced and mixed Jimmy Wayne’s three-week #1 smash hit and title track "Do You Believe Me Now". Toby Keith took West’s song, “American Ride” all the way up the charts to #1 for two weeks while Keith Urban took West’s song “Without You” to the top of the charts, marking West’s third #1 song in three years. West’s song “Right Back Atcha” was released as a Tim McGraw single. He also has two songs on Tim McGraw’s #1 record “Emotional Traffic.”

West’s private studio is a timber frame barn structure located on a secluded fifteen-acre farm in the heart of the music community of Franklin, Tennessee, and was recently featured in Mix Magazine.


André Yovanovitch is a former financial services and investment professional with more than thirty years of industry experience, having recently served as director and vice president of business development for PNC Bank.  In this position, he consulted with institutional clients locally and nationwide, which included universities, foundations, endowments and other non-profit entities as well as Fortune 1000 for-profit corporations. Yovanovitch identified and provided insight for his clients’ investments and ancillary needs and provided solutions for their corporate or charitable assets.  Prior to his role with PNC, he was senior vice president and regional sales manager for the southeastern United States at Pacific Financial Group, based in Seattle, Washington. Yovanovitch has also held leadership roles with BB&T Capital Management Group, Avondale Partners, LLC and SunTrust Equitable Securities, Inc. He has spent his entire professional career serving the local community in Nashville, Tennessee.

Outside of his professional work, Yovanovitch has served as a board of directors member of Children’s House Montessori School and the Nashville Youth Hockey League. He also coached ice hockey for sixteen years, most recently as the head coach for Franklin High School. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University where he earned bachelor degrees in psychology and in human development. He lives in east Nashville with his two dogs, Daisy and Fenway, where he remains active in the community.

TAAF Advisory Council

Kem Hinton, FAIA, is a founding partner with Seab Tuck in Tuck-Hinton Architects. Established in 1984, the firm has become one of the most highly respected design studios in the region. Hinton is a design principal and works directly with clients to formulate effective and successful solutions for their planning and building needs. He is particularly interested in place making that is appropriate, effective, compelling, symbolic, and memorable. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and worked briefly with the distinguished Philadelphia firm of Venturi & Scott Brown. He holds membership in the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, is licensed throughout the Southeast, and is a LEED Accredited Professional. In addition to professional affiliations, he is active with numerous civic and community organizations, notably Leadership Nashville. Hinton received a Fellowship Artist Award from the Tennessee Arts Commission and was recognized by Progressive Architecture and the Architectural League of New York. Hinton was lead designer of the Tennessee Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville, and composed a book documenting the monumental endeavor entitled A Long Path: The Search for a Bicentennial Landmark. In 2004 he was selected as a Peer Professional in the GSA National Design Excellence Program. His outside interests include drawing, photography, history, and hiking.


Dr. Dan Lawson currently is director of schools for the Tullahoma City School System, a position he has held for the past nineteen years. In addition to his responsibilities as school superintendent, Lawson also serves as an adjunct professor of education at Middle Tennessee State University where he teaches graduate courses in educational leadership. He has served as state president of the Association of Independent and Municipal Schools, and state president of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. Lawson has received a number of honors and awards during his career, including Tennessee School Superintendent of the Year, Tennessee Music Education Association Administrator of the Year, and Tullahoma Business Professional of the Year. At a time when school systems across Tennessee are narrowing their curriculum to include only subjects covered by high-stakes testing, he remains an influential voice for a balanced curriculum that offers sequential arts education for all students. Under his leadership, Tullahoma was the first school system to implement the Fine Arts Student Growth Measures throughout the system. Realizing the value of professional development, each year Lawson offers a full scholarship to any fine arts educator in his district who wishes to attend the Tennessee Arts Academy. He describes his major personal achievement as “securing a marriage license with Karen Lawson and helping to produce three children I hope can someday provide for themselves.”


Hope Stringer is an active community volunteer in Nashville, Tennessee and is a Metro Arts Commissioner. She is the past chair and current member of the board of the Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park. She is leading the capital campaign for the renovation of the park. Her past board positions include the executive committees of Adventure Science Museum and The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson. She has also served as chair of the board of Congregation Micah and the Legal Aid Society Community Board. She is a member of Cheekwood’s Art Committee and has served on numerous other committees for non-profit organizations. Hope and her husband Howard are art collectors with a wide range of interests. They received the Human Relations Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice in 2001, and she was named to the Academy of Women of Achievement of the YWCA in 2013.


Bennett Tarleton is a retired executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. Since his retirement, he has consulted with The Family Center and has held positions with several other non-profits organizations. These posts include interim managing director, Nashville Children’s Theatre; senior Development Officer, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art; audience development director, Nashville Repertory Theatre, and executive vice president for Institutional Advancement, Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

He currently serves on the board of the W.O. Smith Music School. He has served on the board of directors for The Children's House; National Assembly of State Arts Agencies; Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Southern Arts Federation, chairman; Harvard University Alumni Association, and Cheekwood.

Born in Wadesboro, North Carolina, Tarleton received his bachelor of arts in English Honors from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master of arts in teaching from Harvard University before teaching secondary English in Great Neck, New York. He then served as an administrative assistant in the office of the dean of students, University of Missouri; Curriculum Developer and Coordinator, Central Midwestern Regional Learning Center; coordinator, National Aesthetic Education Learning Center at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; director, Alliance for Arts Education; executive director, Dance St. Louis and also served as an arts consultant for major institutions and organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tarleton lives in Nashville and is married to the former Victoria Jane Smith. His children are Kate Meriwether (Jonathan) and Will Tarleton (Christie). His grandchildren are Grace and Jameson Meriwether. He is a communicant at St. George’s Episcopal Church where he serves as a Lay Eucharist Minister and as a member of the In Excelsis Music Committee.

TAAF Executive Director & Executive Assistant
Executive Director

E. Frank Bluestein is the 1996-1997 Disney National Performing Arts Teacher of the Year and the 1994 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. In October of 1998, USA Today named Mr. Bluestein as one of the top 40 teachers in the United States. Mr. Bluestein is a past winner of the American Theatre Association's John C. Barner Award, a national award given to one secondary school teacher whose theatre program is judged most exemplary for the year.  He has served as an arts advisory panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the College Board Arts Advisory Committee, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Mr. Bluestein is a former president both of the Tennessee Alliance for Arts Education and the Germantown Arts Alliance. He currently serves as executive director for Tennessee Shakespeare Company and executive director of the Tennessee Arts Academy. He has twice been named to Memphis Magazine's Who's Who in Memphis poll, and was presented a community service award for his accomplishments in education by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Until his retirement in 2013, Mr. Bluestein served for thirty-seven years as the chairman of the Germantown High School Fine Arts Department in Germantown, Tennessee. He was the founder and artistic director of the school's theatre, the Poplar Pike Playhouse, and also served as executive producer for Germantown Community Television (GHS-TV), the school's nationally recognized three-million dollar educational television facility. In 1984 he helped the Germantown High School Department of Fine Arts become one of eight secondary schools in the nation to be chosen to receive the prestigious Rockefeller Brothers Fund Arts in Education Award. Graduates from his program include Saturday Night Live star Chris Parnell; film, television and stage actress Missi Pyle; Emmy-winning casting director Scott Genkinger (Desperate Housewives & NYPD Blue); NPR reporter Debbie Elliott; and Blue Man Group actor Wes Day.

Mr. Bluestein has served as a director of shows at Opryland, USA, and wrote and directed the national touring production of Beale Street Saturday Night starring blues legend Joyce Cobb. In September of 2013, he was inducted into the Educational Theatre Association’s Hall of Fame in Minneapolis. Mr. Bluestein is a frequent speaker and writer on arts related issues.

Executive Assistant

Melody Hart serves the TAAFoundation as its executive assistant. Melody earned a bachelor of music degree in bassoon performance from Ball State University in Indiana. After graduation she moved to Nashville and worked for Badger-Bogle, Architects as executive assistant and bookkeeper from 1993 to 1998. She then began working with her husband, photographer Scott Schrecker, as office manager and bookkeeper. Hart also played bassoon for the Belmont University orchestra for several years and currently subs for them and other Nashville area orchestras on occasion. She plays bassoon with First Baptist Nashville’s sanctuary orchestra, teaches private bassoon lessons in her spare time, and enjoys performing duets with her daughter Sammy, who is a harpist. Hart also enjoys teaching the arts to her son Scotty.

TAAF Honorary Board of Directors
Stephanie J.

Tony Award Winning Broadway Musical Theatre Actor and Vocalist (Wicked, Falsettos, Anything Goes, The Cher Show)


Grammy Award-winning Opera, Concert, and Recital Artist


Professional Musician (Triple Play; The Brubeck Brothers Quartet) and Composer

George S.

Hollywood Film Composer (Austin Powers, Cheech and Chong)


Broadway Musical Theatre Actor and Vocalist (The Full Monty, Next to Normal)


Tony Award Winning Broadway Writer and Lyricist (Memphis, All Shook Up, Nice Work If You Can Get It)


Photorealist, Sculptor and Painter


American Pops Orchestra Conductor, Washington, DC


Nashville Symphony Conductor


Tony and Emmy Award Winning Writer, Composer and Lyricist, (Mystery of Edwin Drood, Where the Truth Lies, Accomplice, Solitary Confinement, The Nutty Professor, Escape)


Tony and Emmy Award winning Actress (24; Doubt, The Heiress); founding member of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge MA


Grammy Award Winning Classical Composer


Broadway Musical Theatre Actor, Film and Television Star and Vocalist (The Last Ship, Light in the Piazza, Mamma Mia!, Filthy Rich)


Broadway Fight Master, Virginia Commonwealth University Theatre Chair


Award Winning Composer, Lyricist, Performer, Producer and Writer (The Addams Family, Big Fish, I Am Anne Hutchinson/I AM Harvey Milk)

Maltby Jr.

Tony Award Winning Director, Lyricist, Producer and Writer (Fosse, Ain’t Misbehavin’)


Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Golden Globe Award Winning Broadway and Hollywood Lyricist and Writer (Fame, Footloose); Award winning Children's Books Author


Hollywood Film Director (My Dog Skip, Tuck Everlasting, Ladder 49, The Water Horse)


Professional Musician, Songwriter, Singer; former President of the Nashville Symphony Chorus


Musician and Bandleader (The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson)


Oscar and Grammy Award Winning Walt Disney Composer and Lyricist, (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, It’s A Small World)


Award Winning Photojournalist; Author; Photographer for the Academy Awards; National “Pictures of Hope” Student Photography Project Founder


Theatrical Rights Worldwide CEO and President


Director of the San Francisco School for the Performing Arts


Music Director and Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony; Founding Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the IRIS Orchestra, Germantown TN


Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award Winning Composer (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, Applause)


Professional Violinist, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur

Alton Fitzgerald

Broadway Musical Theatre, Film and Television Actor, Vocalist, Author (The Lion King, Smokey Joe’s Café, Ragtime, The Color Purple)

Tennessee Arts Academy • Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation
615-460-5451 • 1900 Belmont Blvd. • Nashville, TN 37212 • taa@belmont.edu