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TAA Musings

“Musings” is a time of thoughtful inspiration and introspection built into the heart of the busy Academy schedule each day. All participants assemble to think about the role of the arts in education and in life. At each Musings session, an individual who is significantly involved in the arts acts as a muse and leads the group in examining the richness and depth that the arts add to the lives of all people.

2022 Tennessee Arts Academy Musers
July 11, 2022
1:20 pm

Throughout his distinguished career, Marvin Stamm has been praised for both the art and craft of his trumpet playing. Jazz critic, Leonard Feather said that “Mr. Stamm is an accomplished performer whose technical skill is used as a means to stimulating original ends.” While attending North Texas State University, Stamm was discovered by Stan Kenton. After graduation, he joined Kenton’s orchestra and toured with him as their jazz trumpet soloist, in addition to recording five albums with the group. From 1965 to 1966, Stamm toured worldwide with Woody Herman. In late 1966, Stamm settled in New York, where he quickly established himself as a busy jazz and studio trumpeter. He gained considerable recognition for his playing with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra and the Duke Pearson Big Band, as well his performances with Frank Sinatra and the Benny Goodman Sextet. He also did a number of recordings with various rock and rhythm and blues artists, including Paul McCartney, James Brown, Bette Midler, Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Barry Manilow, and the Rolling Stones. Eschewing the lucrative studio scene in the late 80s, Stamm focused his attention on his first love—playing jazz. Since then, he has been a member of John Lewis’s American Jazz Orchestra, the Bob Mintzer Band, the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, and Louis Bellson’s big band and quintet. Acknowledging his debt to the influence of former teachers and musicians, Stamm has spent a good deal of time and energy helping young music students develop their own voices. His involvement in jazz education has taken him to universities and high schools across the country and abroad as a performer, clinician, and mentor. Through this work, he continues to pass on the traditions that jazz represents. Over the years, Stamm has released numerous albums and CDs. He currently co-leads a quartet with pianist Mike Holober. The quartet includes drummer Dennis Mackrel and bassist Mike McGuirk.  Critical response to Stamm’s work has been highly enthusiastic. JazzTimes writes, “The Memphis native has chops and talent in abundance. He can burn on bebop changes, or mellow out on a ballad, all the time maintaining the lucid consistency that enthusiasm and experience engenders.” Jazz Review states, “It is a pleasure listening to the work of Marvin Stamm, anytime! Stamm is a musician's musician, performing flawlessly on his trumpet and flugelhorn.”

The appearance of Marvin Stamm is made possible by a generous gift from Country Music Association Foundation.

July 12, 2022
1:20 pm

Nikkolas Smith is a native of Houston, Texas. He received his master of architecture degree from Hampton University. After designing theme parks at Walt Disney Imagineering for eleven years, he is now an ARTivist, concept artist, children’s book author, film illustrator (Space Jam 2, Black Panther 2, and Judah and the Black Messiah), and movie poster designer (Black Panther, Soul, Beale Street, Southside with You, Dear White People, and Stranger Fruit). He is the author and illustrator of the picture books The Golden Girls of Rio, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, My Hair is Poofy and That’s Okay, and World Cup Women. His latest illustrated picture book, The 1619 Project: Born on the Water was created in collaboration with Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson and was number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Smith is a proud 2016 White House Innovators of Color Fellow. Smith’s most famous and recognized works focus on Artivism. As an illustrator of color, he creates captivating art that can spark conversations about social justice in today’s world and inspire meaningful change. Many of his viral and globally published sketches are included in his latest book Sunday Sketch: The Art of Nikkolas, a visual journey on life and a collection of more than one hundred sketches he’s done in the last five years. His works have been featured in Time magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, People, CNN, Buzzfeed, NPR, the Academy of Motion Pictures, The Guardian, ABC, NBC, KCET, and many other publications and media sites. His art has been shared on social media by Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Van Jones, Shaun King, Rihanna, Colin Kaepernick, Janet Jackson, Viola Davis, Jamie Foxx, Erykah Badu, Lupita Nyong’o, Kendrick Lamar, Ava Duvernay, Common, Simone Biles, Mark Ruffalo, and many others. Smith often speaks at schools, and conferences such as TEDxWatts, and leads workshops in digital painting character and movie poster design. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

The appearance of Nikkolas Smith is made possible by a generous gift from Pinnacle Financial Partners.

July 13, 2022
1:20 pm

One of the brightest stars on stages in the United States and abroad, charismatic soprano Harolyn Blackwell has been hailed by audiences and critics alike as a “model of agility, spunk, charm, and silvery tone.” Recognized for her expressive and exuberant performances, as well as for her radiant voice, she continues to make a wide and varied career on the opera, concert, and recital stages of the world.

Blackwell began her career on Broadway in Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Shortly after, she was selected as a finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, and her career path changed from the musical theatre to opera. At the Metropolitan Opera, Blackwell has appeared in numerous productions, including Le Nozze di Figaro, Manon, Die Fledermaus, and La Fille du Régimen. She has also performed with many national and international opera companies and at festivals around the world, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Teatro Colon de Buenos Aires, Opera Orchestra of New York, and New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival. An accomplished recitalist, Blackwell has performed in several acclaimed concert series, including London’s Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, the Library of Congress, and the Kennedy Center’s Fortas Chamber Series. She has also appeared in a number of nationally televised concerts such as the Grammy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Memorial Day and Fourth of July Concerts on PBS, and the PBS Live from the White House concert. Blackwell has received numerous awards and honors. Most recently, she was the recipient of the National Opera Association’s Lift Every Voice Legacy Award. Her recordings include performances of her numerous Broadway and opera roles, in addition to three solo albums.

Blackwell is currently a voice faculty member at Manhattan School of Music, New York University Steinhardt, and Barnard and Columbia University. Previously, she was a member of the voice faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University. As an advocate for arts education, Blackwell is a board member of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Voice Foundation, and the Martina Arroyo Foundation. She is a member of the artists committee for the Kennedy Center Honors and has also served on the artists selection committee for the Marian Anderson Competition.

The appearance of Harolyn Blackwell is made possible by a generous gift from Tennessee Book Company.

Kate Baldwin, Luke Frazier, Aaron
July 14, 2022
1:50 pm

Kate Baldwin starred as Irene Molloy opposite Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce and Gavin Creel in the hit Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, for which she was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle awards. She originated the role of Sandra Bloom in Big Fish on Broadway and earned accolades for her work as Leslie Lyntonn Benedict in Michael John LaChiusa’s Giant. She received a Drama Desk Award nomination for her role as Jen in Keen Company's revival of John & Jen and garnered critical acclaim and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Superhero at Second Stage. Her starring role in the 2009 revival of the hit musical Finian’s Rainbow, which drew Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle Award nominations, put her on the map as “a real musical theatre star,” according to the New York Post. Additional stage appearances include Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway, the star role in The King and I at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and South Pacific at Arena Stage, for which she earned a Helen Hayes Award nomination. In spring 2022, Baldwin drew rave reviews for her portrayal of Francesca Johnson in The Bridges of Madison County opposite Aaron Lazar and directed by original cast member Hunter Foster. Baldwin has performed in concert with the Boston Pops, the National Symphony, the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center, and at the Kennedy Center.  Her concert work also includes several appearances with Stephen Sondheim in his critically acclaimed evening, “A Conversation with Stephen Sondheim.” On television, her work includes a guest star role on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU and a featured role in the PBS filming of Stephen Sondheim’s Passion and the Disney + series Just Beyond. Baldwin’s albums include, Let’s See What Happens, featuring Lane and Harburg songs, and She Loves Him, which celebrates the work of lyricist Sheldon Harnick. In 2023, she looks forward to playing Lucille Larusso in the new Broadway musical version of The Karate Kid.

July 14, 2022
1:55 pm

Aaron Lazar is thrilled to be reunited with his dear friend Kate Baldwin after the two recently starred in The Bridges of Madison County, directed by Hunter Foster. On film, Lazar has worked with acclaimed directors Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wallstreet), Shawn Levy (This is Where I Leave You), Mary Harron (The Notorious Bettie Page), and The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame). On television, he was recently one of the stars of Filthy Rich on FOX and has had leading roles on Quantico, The Strain, and Girl Meets World. Lazar has starred in eleven Broadway productions. He debuted in The Phantom of the Opera; originated roles in the world premieres of A Tale of Two Cities, Impressionism, and The Last Ship; starred in the revivals of A Little Night Music and Les Miserables, for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination; and romanced audiences in The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center and Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. Most recently, he starred as Larry Murphy in the first national tour of the Tony Award-winning smash Dear Evan Hansen. Lazar has been a guest artist with some of the world’s top symphonies, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra at Masada. His acclaimed solo concert From Broadway to Hollywood has played cabaret clubs and performing art centers around the United States. As a producer, Lazar’s projects include the album Broadway Lullabies; the development of a limited television series with Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas, Casino), which is based on the book City For Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York; and his Broadway-themed destination venue, Living Broadway that is currently in development with World Heritage Exhibitions and the design firm Mycotoo. Lazar is proud to be an honorary board member of the Tennessee Arts Academy. AaronLazar.com @aaronscottlazar on Instagram.

July 14, 2022
2:00 pm

Luke Frazier believes that the future of orchestral music depends on breaking down barriers between orchestras and audiences. In addition to musical excellence, the most important priority for a modern conductor is creating diverse and engaging programming that brings communities together through the joy of music. Conductors are a bridge between audiences and orchestras. This is a responsibility that Frazier takes to heart.

In 2015, Frazier started the American Pops Orchestra to present a broad array of popular and classical music in innovative ways and to draw new audiences into the orchestral world. Recently, the orchestra has been featured in more than twelve national broadcasts on PBS with programs ranging from American Roots to a complete re-imagining of the musical Wicked. Artists such as Midori, Patti Labelle, Joshua Bell, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Josh Groban, and many more have joined the orchestra to share music with audiences across the country, completely free of charge.

Creating opportunities for the next generation of music makers and music lovers is always a priority for Frazier. Each year, he spends at least three weeks hosting free elementary school tours, as well as finding outstanding college vocalists through the orchestra’s NextGen Vocal Competition. In addition to his work with APO and PBS, he serves as the principal pops conductor for the National Philharmonic and maintains a busy schedule as a guest conductor and pianist. This season includes appearances conducting classical and popular music in venues from Lincoln Center to the Smithsonian and Feinstein’s 54 Below to the Kravis Center. Frazier is also in high demand as a clinician, speaker, and panelist for educational organizations across the country.

The appearance of Kate Baldwin, Aaron Lazar, and Luke Frazier throughout the Academy week is made possible by a generous gift from Pat and Thane Smith.

Past Tennessee Arts Academy Musers

Well-known Musers who have spoken at the Tennessee Arts Academy in the past include Broadway composers Charles Strouse (Annie), Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family) and Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls); concert pianist Lorin Hollander; lyricists Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), Dean Pitchford (Fame), and Joe DiPietro (Memphis); costume designer Patricia Zipprodt (My Fair Lady); authors Wilma Dykeman and Will D. Campbell; theatre critic John Simon; conductors Michael Stern, Isaiah Jackson, Giancarlo Guerrero, Anton Armstrong, and Robert Bernhardt; author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot); educator Graham Down; Emmy and Tony award-winning actress Cherry Jones; Shakespearean directors Adrian Hall and Tina Packer; Hollywood composers Richard Sherman (Mary Poppins) and George S. Clinton (Austin Powers); visual artists Audrey Flack, Dorothy Gillespie, Jon Moody, Charles Brindley, Dolph Smith, Alan Lequire, Harold Gregor, and Sylvia Hyman; Broadway directors Scott Ellis (1776), Jeff Calhoun (Newsies), and Richard Maltby, Jr. (Fosse); opera stars Mignon Dunn and Christine Brewer; New Yorker cartoonist Robert Mankoff; poet Nikki Giovanni; Tony award-winning playwright Christopher Durang (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike); bandleader and musician Doc Severinsen (The Tonight Show); classical composer Libby Larsen; scenic and costume designer Tony Walton; stage combat director David Leong (Carousel); filmmaker Jay Russell (My Dog Skip); three-time Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County); Broadway musical theatre stars Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), Stephanie J. Block (Wicked) Marin Mazzie (Ragtime), Jason Danieley (The Full Monty), Rebecca Luker, (The Secret Garden), Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King), Laura Osnes (Cinderella), and Aaron Lazar (The Light in the Piazza); television writer and producer Marc Cherry (Golden Girls, Desperate Housewives); author, composer, and lyricist Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and many others.

Please check back regularly for updates and information about the 2022 Tennessee Arts Academy.