The Academy core faculty consists of twenty nationally recognized professors, academic instructors, and artists assembled from leading, universities, schools, and arts institutions from throughout the United States. A rigorous curriculum, cutting-edge methodology, and a unique philosophical perspective provide world-class instruction, community, and renewal to arts educators from across Tennessee and the nation.
Rob Amchin is a distinguished professor of music education at the University of Louisville, where he enjoys leading undergraduate and graduate classes in the school of music. His training includes studies at the Orff Institute in Salzburg, New England Conservatory of Music, Memphis State University, Hofstra University, Hamline University, and the University of Michigan. Amchin is on the faculty of numerous Orff Schulwerk summer teacher training courses. He is a member of the Kentucky Orff Schulwerk Association and the Quad State Orff Association. He is also a member of the National Association for Music Education, the American Recorder Society, and the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA). As an active member of AOSA, he is a regular clinician for their national conference and leads training events for many school districts and music education organizations. He is a regular clinician at the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) professional development conference. Among the many sessions he has presented during the past twenty-five years, one of his most popular is his evening of international folk dancing, which he has led for nearly fifteen years at KMEA’s annual conference. He has taught in Austria, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Israel, Poland, Russia, South Africa, and Singapore.
Lorelei Batisla-ong is associate professor of general music education at the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin Wallace University. She received a degree in music education from Southwest Texas State University, a master’s degree in instrumental conducting from Texas State University, and a PhD in music and human learning from the University of Texas at Austin. Batisla-ong has served on the board of trustees for the American Orff Schulwerk Association and is the Texas state director for the National Association for Music Education. She is the content coordinator and lead editor of Decolonizing the Music Room and is the coauthor of Elemental ‘Ukulele:Pathways and Possibilities. Her research and presentations include ʻukulele teaching, teacher noticing and cognition, teacher skill acquisition and development, equity in the classroom and teaching profession, and generally wondering why everything is the way it is and how it can be better.
Isolde Beebe has taught visual art for more than twenty years to children and adults. She has experience in different types of schools and settings. Her recent focus has been on the role sketchbooks play in helping students grow in their drawing skills, material experimentation, and overall creativity. She develops all her curriculum to help students find their own artistic voice by providing the tools professional artists use to develop their own style. Her favorite element of art is color, her favorite principle of art is pattern, and her favorite materials are gouache and fiber arts. Beebe takes inspiration from hikes and walks in the mountains near her home and feels most alive when in nature or creating art inspired by nature. Beebe teaches drawing and painting at Cascade High School in Everett, Washington, and was named Secondary Art Teacher of the Year by the Washington Art Education Association in 2020.
Jason Blair believes that the creativity of our children will change the world. He is a twenty-year veteran arts educator, and every day he is fortunate to learn from the creative geniuses that step into his art studio. He believes that we can empower students to tap into their creative potential if we as educators nurture our own growth as creative change agents. To empower creativity in his students, Blair believes that the educator must be the classroom creativity whisperer, building a community in which creativity is valued and thinking different is not just safe but celebrated. He has established himself as a creativity specialist, capable of cultivating the creative dispositions that will illuminate imaginative ideas and help inspire innovative practice. He received his degree in art education from The Ohio State University. Currently, he teaches art to students in elementary grades in Dublin, Ohio.
LaSaundra Booth is an accomplished arts leader, administrator, and teaching artist. She is the founder and executive director of the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra (WFCYO), a nonprofit organization that provides expert orchestral instruction and free instruments to youth living in rural and underresourced communities. Under her leadership, WFCYO grew from three students to more than four hundred within three years. In addition to working with youth, Booth is a lecturer for music education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In this role, she prepares the next generation of educators to lead culturally inclusive arts education programs. Booth serves on the National Association for Music Education’s Council for Orchestra Education, where she is heavily involved in implementing diversity initiatives for kindergarten through twelfth grade string orchestra classrooms.
Sindy Isabel Castro is a theatre maker and educator. She is cofounder of Jugando N Play, a theatre for young audiences. She graduated from the City University of New York and was awarded a distinguished thesis honorable mention from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) for her thesis “¡BE PREBEARED! TEATRO EN EDUCACIÓN—THEATRE IN EDUCATION.” Castro is a Lab Works artist at the New Victory Theater for2022–2023, an ensemble member of Emit Theatre, and a board member of the AATE.Castro is a teaching artist with Lincoln Center Theater, New York City Children’s Theater, the People’s Theatre Project, and Arts Connection in New York City. She is a mentor through the Arthur Miller Foundation and AATE. Castro strives to use theatre to create multilingual and multicultural spaces where young people are empowered to embrace their home languages and cultures. Her essay “A Translanguaging Stance on Theatre Education” was published in the book Applied Theatre with Youth: Education, Engagement, Activism in 2021.
Penelope Caywood teaches and directs at the University of Utah, where she is the artistic director of the youth theatre program. Youth Theatre is a Kennedy Center Partners in Education organization and provides multiple theatre and music residencies in elementary schools. It also provides professional development workshops for classroom teachers on arts integration, primarily in the Salt Lake City School District. Caywood has also lectured and presented her work across the state and in California, Florida, and Washington, DC. With her award-winning high school conservatory, she devises and creates new work every year. For the past eleven years, she has directed and choreographed Salt Lake Acting Company’s Theatre for Young Audience productions. She is the advocacy chair for Utah Advisory Council for Theatre Teachers and is on the board of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education. She was recently named the Utah Division of Arts and Museums Performing Arts Fellow for 2022.
Travis Cross serves as professor of music and director of bands at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he conducts the wind ensemble, leads the graduate wind conducting program, and chairs the music department. He was also associate dean for academic mentoring and opportunity during the initial years of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. He previously taught at Virginia Tech and at Edina High School in Minnesota. Cross earned doctor and master of music degrees in conducting from Northwestern University and the bachelor of music degree cum laude in vocal and instrumental music education from St. Olaf College. His principal teachers were Mallory Thompson and Timothy Mahr. Cross has appeared as a guest conductor, composer, and clinician in nearly forty states and in Canada, China, Korea, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates. He has also been the featured band clinician at the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic and Convention, and on several occasions he was featured at the Music for All National Festival and at the Midwest Clinic. Cross is a member of the Council of Korean Americans and a Yamaha master educator.
Dru Davison is an experienced arts leader and is an active researcher in areas of creative leadership, education policy, and program development. Davison serves as the chair of the Music Advocacy Task Force for the Tennessee Music Education Association and has consulted for the United States Department of Education’s Reform Support Network, the Insight Education Group, and the Tennessee Department of Education. He is past chair of the National Association for Music Education’s Council of Music Program Leaders, where he oversaw the revisions of Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Instruction. Davison taught instrumental music in rural and urban areas, was an adjunct jazz and saxophone instructor at Arkansas State University, and was a teaching fellow at the University of North Texas, where he received a degree in music education.
Derrick Fox is the director of choral activities and distinguished associate professor of music at the University of Nebraska–Omaha, where he recently received the 2022 Award for Distinguished Research or Creative Activity. His teaching and conducting experiences include upper elementary through collegiate choirs and community choirs. He has led choral concerts and residencies and has presented professional development workshops across the United States and internationally. His book, Yes You Can: A Band Director’s Guide to Teaching Choirs, is published by Carl Fischer. He launched the Derrick Fox Choral Series with MusicSpoke to publish works by and about marginalized and minority people. He created the Professional Choral Collective to collect and create music learning activities and teaching strategies for choral music educators around the world to use during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. He also partnered with the Country Music Association Foundation to create the Unified Voices for Music Education initiative. For more information, please visit https://www.drderrickfox.com/.
Internationally acclaimed technology educator, speaker, and author Barbara Freedman is an engaging and effective presenter and trainer. She has expertise in multimedia course design and technology integration for digital learning environments, including face-to-face, synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid. Celebrated as a teacher’s teacher, Freedman has developed courses and has trained educators in public and private schools, nonprofit organizations, and private industry. Freedman has been teaching electronic music and audio engineering at Greenwich High School in Connecticut since 2001 and is the author of the book Teaching Music through Composition: A Curriculum Using Technology published by Oxford University Press. She holds degrees from Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, City University of New York, and Mannes College of Music. Her philosophy is that technology is a tool to be utilized only if it makes learning easier or more engaging for both the student and the teacher. Freedman’s motto, “Teach music; the technology will follow,” has become the rallying cry for music technology teachers around the world. Check out this video about the Greenwich High School electronic music lab and recording studio.
Anne Grgich was born in Portland, Oregon, and has spent her whole life creating art in the Northwest. As a child, she exasperated her parents by taking books from the shelves and filling them with paintings. As a mature artist, some of her most popular works are based on the same principle. Grgich repurposes old library books into an unfolding series of complex canvases by adding collage, textural elements, and multiple layers of paints, while still allowing glimpses of the book’s original material to shine through. Grgich is one of the most original and innovative of the group of American artists known as Outsiders. In addition to profiles in many publications and to showings and exhibitions in this country and abroad, Grgich’s work is in the permanent collections of many international museums. She has curated more than fifteen exhibitions and is currently an online art teacher at Sonheim Studios.
Kristin Hunt is the assistant director of theatre in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in theatre at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As an interdisciplinary theatre researcher and practitioner, her research interests include the adaptation of ancient and classical performance modes in contemporary contexts, performance as activism, food in or as performance, and performance-based pedagogy. Her pedagogical practice focuses on applied theatre, theatre in education, theatre for social justice, and experimental performance. Her coauthored book, Drama and Education: Performance Methodologies for Teaching and Learning, was published by Routledge in 2015. Her translations and adaptations of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck and August Strindberg’s Miss Julie were featured at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.
Renee Redding Jones is a movement professional. She teaches movement for actors and dancers and is a certified movement analyst, choreographer, contemplative psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, and a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award–winning performer. As a teacher and choreographer, she currently works at the Atlantic Acting School and in the Classical Studio at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In addition to the drama department, Jones has served as an assistant professor in the dance department. In 2020, through the Tisch School of the Arts, she was nominated for the prestigious David Payne-Carter Award for Teaching Excellence. She earned a degree in dance from Sarah Lawrence College, a degree in physical education and dance from Morgan State University, and certification as a contemplative psychotherapist through the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science. Blending her skills in the arts and advocacy, Jones is an intimacy director and a teaching artist for Intimacy Directors and Coordinators.
Tyson Kaup is the founder and artistic director of the Performing Arts Company of Walla Walla and the president of Walla Walla Summer Theater. His recent directing credits include 9 to 5, Annie, The Rocky Horror Show, and Cabaret. Kaup’s producing credits include the New York City world premiere of Turtleback High by Kevin Dedes; the feature films March!, Solitary Child, and My Last Day with You; and many music videos and commercial productions. Kaup has performed on film and television, in Off-Broadway shows, and in many regional theatres around the country. His on-screen credits include Trouble Is, After Hours, The Snakehead, and 30 Rock. Favorite stage roles include Tennessee in Yank! at the York Theatre in New York City, Matt in Red Light Winter at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, and Andy in the national tour of Highlights for Children. Kaup is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied with the Atlantic Theater Company.
Thom Knab is a 2020 inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. He was honored as New York State Art Educator of the Year in 2018. Knab has served as a keynote speaker for several state conferences and has several publications to his credit in the magazine SchoolArts, including “BRAG: The Brick Room Art Gallery,” “The Roadrunner Art Walk," and “Copper Family Crests.” As an artist he has exhibited his work in four solo shows over the past five years. Knab has served as an art educator at Dodge Elementary in East Amherst, New York, since 1990, where he began a 1,000-square-foot art gallery called BRAG. He earned his degrees in art education from Buffalo State College and served as the National Art Education Association elementary division director from 2015 to 2017. He received both the National Elementary Art Educator and the Eastern Region Elementary Art Educator honors in 2018.
Sandy Knudson is the artistic director of Oklahoma Youth Sing! and successfully taught music in kindergarten through fifth grade for thirty years. She holds a master’s degree and Kodály certification from the University of Oklahoma. Since 1990, Knudson has served on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma Kodály certification program, where she teaches solfège, conducting, and choir. She is National Board certified in early and middle childhood music. Knudson presents at numerous state and national conferences and has conducted honor choirs in Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 2015, she conducted the National Children’s Choir for the Organization of American Kodály Educators and in 2018 was given their Outstanding Educator award. She earned an artist-teacher diploma under the mentorship of Doreen Rao at the Choral Music Experience Institute. She was recognized by the Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OMEA) as an exemplary teacher in 2010 and was inducted into the OMEA Hall of Fame in 2013. Knudson is active as a dance caller in Oklahoma and loves to foster community through dance.
Missy Lilje earned degrees in dance from the University of Michigan and from Arizona State University. She has performed the works of Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Paul Taylor, David Dorfman, Peter Sparling, Mark Haim, and more. She has choreographed more than thirty works for the contemporary concert stage, musical theatre productions, and children’s concerts. Lilje’s research on dance communities and how they relate to business practice was published in 2008. She regularly travels to present this work throughout the United States and in Europe. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Theatre at Michigan State University. For the past twenty-four years she has worked as artistic director and CEO for Happendance, a nonprofit dance education organization. In 2016 Lilje was elected to the board of education for the Lansing School District. She also enjoys serving as a special education paraprofessional at the Ingham Intermediate School District while studying to become a certified teacher.
Lori Santos grew up with a family interlaced in Hawaiian, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Taíno cultures. She has worked with Indigenous artists and art education communities worldwide, including Canada, Mexico, Tonga, Peru, and the United States. She earned her degree in art education with a specialization in art history of the Americas from the University of North Texas in Denton. Santos supports the inclusion of contemporary Indigenous artists to expand place-based concepts in art education. Her recent scholarship emphasizes Indigenous pedagogies and art as stories of place, identity, and environment. She is the founder of the Puzzle Peace Pledge Project.
Donna Woodley is a visual artist and art educator in Nashville, Tennessee. She has taught students in higher education for seven years and currently teaches courses in art foundations at Tennessee State University and Belmont University. Woodley earned a degree in painting from Lesley University’s College of Art and Design in 2016. She was a resident at Arrowmont’s Pentaculum 2022 and currently serves on the board for Tennessee Craft as a newly appointed member. Her art has been in galleries and universities alike, including Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, and Lipscomb University. She was named Nashville’s Best New Artist in 2016 by the Nashville Scene and was a featured artist for United States Congressman John Lewis. Her first solo show was held at the Gallery Luperca in Nashville, and her latest solo show is currently on display at the Nashville International Airport. The combination of figures and slightly humorous symbols in Woodley’s paintings have been exhibited globally and in numerous settings.