We'd love to hear from you!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

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.

2024 Tennessee Arts Academy Musers
Chase Hall-Photo Credit for Headshot for Derek Fordjour
July 15, 2024
1:20 pm

Bill Barclay is the former director of music at Shakespeare’s Globe and the current artistic director of both Concert Theatre Works and Music Before 1800, New York City’s oldest early music presenter. His Broadway and West End credits include: Farinelli andthe King, Twelfth Night, and Richard III, all starring Mark Rylance. Barclay's original music has been performed live in 197 countries and forty-two US states, before President Obama, for the Olympic Torch, at the United Nations, and three times for the British royal family. Called a “personal polymath” by the London Times, Barclay regularly works as a director, writer, composer, actor, producer, and conductor. He is the creator and director of several of the most important concert events in the last ten years, including The Chevalier (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Music of the Baroque, Harlem Chamber Players, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Chautauqua, Caramoor, and others); Secret Byrd (St Martin-in-the-Fields and international twenty city tour); Peer Gynt (Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra); and Antony & Cleopatra (Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Virginia Symphony Orchestra). Barclay has received commissions on five occasions from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A contributor to The Guardian, Barclay has published works on the music of Shakespeare by both Cambridge and Oxford University Presses, and lectures on Shakespeare and the music of the spheres around the world. He frequently collaborates with early music ensembles and regularly appears in major festivals throughout the world. Barclay has collaborated with soloists such as Yo-Yo Ma and John Williams, and dozens of the world’s most prominent conductors. Recent collaborations include Mozart’s Last Year with the National Symphony Orchestra, Apollo Resurrected with United Strings of Europe and Gandini Juggling, and Beyond Beethoven 9 produced by Carnegie Hall with Marin Alsop and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. He has created works of concert-theatre in some of the world’s most iconic places: the Hollywood Bowl, Kennedy Center, Southbank Centre, Washington National Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe, Hampton Court and Buckingham Palace. Barclay has directed the Silkroad Ensemble on tour, conducted City of London Sinfonia on tour, and composed the historic Hamlet, Globe-to-Globe, which toured to every country on earth.

Chase Hall-Photo Credit for Headshot for Derek Fordjour
Alitha Evelyn
July 16, 2024
1:20 pm

Alitha Evelyn Martinez never wanted to do anything but draw comic books. She says “I had a choice: I could strive to become a teacher and help others to achieve or pack my duffel bag and guitar and move to New York City. I did the latter without knowing what would happen, or where to go. But when you’ve got a story to tell, no one and nothing can stop you.” Her professional career began in 1999 when she was penciling Iron Man for Marvel Entertainment. Martinez then had the opportunity to work on titles like X-Men: Black Sun, Marvel Age Fantastic Four, Black Panther: World of Wakanda, X-Men Gold Annual, Moon Girl, Mark Morales Spiderman, Batgirl, and many, many more. More recently she has worked on It’s a Bird, Sensational Wonder Woman, and Nubia & the Amazons for DC comics. Martinez has done larger projects that required more than just penciling and inking in graphic novels, like Vampire: My Boyfriend Bites, Kung Fu Masters, and Quest for Dragon Mountain for Lerner Publications. Over the course of her career she has worked for all the major comic book publishers, including Marvel, Image Comics, and Archie Comics.

Martinez is a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has achieved her life-long dream of being a writer, having completed two stories for Epic Publications. She has also created political cartooning for the New York Post. In her spare time, she works on creator-owned titles Yume and Ever and Foreign, which she publishes through her company, Ariotstorm Productions. Martinez participates in the United States Department of State Speaker Program, teaching comic book workshops and bringing the art of storytelling to people all over the world.

In 2018, Martinez won an Eisner Award (Will Eisner Comic Industry Award) for Black Panther: World of Wakanda. She also won the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book in 2018.

Chase Hall-Photo Credit for Headshot for Derek Fordjour
July 17, 2024
1:20 pm

Jerry Zaks began his career as an actor appearing in plays and musicals across the country. Most notably, he appeared in the original production of Grease and the original cast of Tintypes. He recently directed his twenty-sixth Broadway show, The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. His production of Mrs. Doubtfire is currently running at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre and on tour in the United States.

Zaks has received four Tony Awards for directing and has been nominated eight times. He's also received four Drama Desks, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, and an Obie. His credits include Hello, Dolly! (starring Bette Midler), A Bronx Tale (both the play and the musical), Meteor Shower, Nantucket Sleigh Ride, Shows For Days, Sister Act, The Addams Family, Guys and Dolls, Six Degrees of Separation, Lend Me a Tenor, House of Blue Leaves, The Front Page, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Smokey Joe’s Café, Anything Goes, La Cage aux Folles, Little Shop of Horrors, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Foreigner, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, and the original production of Assassins.

Zaks began his career directing the extraordinary plays of Christopher Durang including Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Beyond Therapy, Baby with the Bathwater, and The Marriage of Bette and Boo. He directed the award-winning film Marvin’s Room, starring Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton, and Who Do You Love, which was featured in the Toronto Film Festival. Zaks is a founding member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City. In 1994, he received the SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers) George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. 

Zaks graduated from Dartmouth College in 1967, received an MFA from Smith College in1969, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Dartmouth in 1999. In honor of his lifetime achievement in the American theater, Jerry Zaks was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2013.

Chase Hall-Photo Credit for Headshot for Derek Fordjour
July 18, 2024
1:50 pm

Mandy Gonzalez is an accomplished actor on the stage, in film, and on television. She possesses one of the most powerful and versatile contemporary voices of our time. Gonzalez has starred on Broadway in the megahit Hamilton as Angelica Schuyler. She also originated Nina Rosario in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, In the Heights, for which she received a Drama Desk Award. Gonzalez also starred as Elphaba in the Broadway production of Wicked, blowing the roof off of New York’s Gershwin Theatre each night as she belted out the signature song, “Defying Gravity”. Gonzalez received an OBIE Award and overwhelming critical praise for her performance in the Off-Broadway production of Eli’s Comin’. Television viewers have had the pleasure of seeing her in recurring roles in the hit series Madam Secretary, Bull, Quantico, and alongside Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building. Equally at home on the big and small screens, she has appeared in Across the Universe, directed by Julie Taymor; in After starring opposite Pablo Schreiber; and in Man on a Ledge with Sam Worthington. Gonzalez can also be heard as the voice of Mei in Disney’s Mulan 2 and as the voice of Mother Rose on the Disney+ and Disney Jr. series Alice’s Wonderland Bakery.

A frequent concert soloist, Gonzalez has performed with symphony orchestras around the world. Some her highlights include Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and Atlanta Pops, to name a few. She released her debut album Fearless as a Warner Music East West artist.

Gonzalez is deeply committed to advocating for underserved communities and schools. She serves on the boards of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, where she actively promotes awareness and fundraising efforts. Her dedication to giving back is evident in her fearless work for these organizations. In her quest to create positive change, Gonzalez is the proud founder of #FearlessSquad, a social media movement for inclusiveness and positivity. Gonzalez is also an accomplished author who recently published her young adult series, Fearless, with Simon & Schuster.

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); Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim; costume designer Patricia Zipprodt (My Fair Lady); authors Wilma Dykeman and Will D. Campbell; theatre critic John Simon; conductors Michael Stern, Isaiah Jackson, Luke Frazier, 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, Derek Fordjour, Dorothy Gillespie, Jon Moody, Beverly McIver, Nikkolas Smith, 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, Harolyn Blackwell, and Christine Brewer; New Yorker cartoonist Robert Mankoff; musical book writer Rick Elice (The Cher Show); 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 composers Libby Larsen, Jennifer Higdon, and Gabriela Lena Frank; scenic and costume designer Tony Walton; writer, musician, composer, and lyricist David Yazbek; 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 Joshua Henry (Hamilton), Kate Baldwin (Hello, Dolly!); 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 2024 Tennessee Arts Academy.