Performances are an integral part of the Tennessee Arts Academy experience. At Sunday’s opening Overture Celebration and at the Wednesday evening Bravo Banquet, world-class artists perform for TAA participants. Regional theatre, dance, and music soloists and ensembles are showcased each day during a thirty-minute presentation in the Massey Performing Arts Center. A diverse group of local artists and performing groups are featured as part of every special event function held throughout the Academy week.
Young Concert Artists on Tour features three extraordinarily talented musicians: clarinetist Narek Arutyunian, pianist Ying Li, and flutist Anthony Trionfo. Their program for TAA will feature solo works, duets, and trios. TAA is honored to host this one-of-a-kind concert to celebrate our return to live performances. Here is more about each artist.
Clarinetist Narek Arutyunian is an artist who was described as reaching “passionate depths with seemingly effortless technical prowess and beguiling sensitivity” in a review from The Washington Post. As First Prize Winner of the Young Concert Artists International auditions, Arutyunian was presented in debut recitals in New York City at Merkin Concert Hall and in Washington, D.C., at the Kennedy Center to rave reviews. In addition to solo recitals, he is a frequent soloist with orchestras around the world and has performed with the Boston Pops, Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Alice Tully Hall, Prague Radio Symphony, the Kaliningrad Philharmonic, and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, among others. Arutyunian also consistently receives acclaim for his educational outreach programs in New York City public schools and around the country.
Pianist Ying Li comes from Yantai, China. She is the winner of the 2021 Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International auditions and the inaugural Antonio Mormone International Prize in Italy. She has received top awards in numerous national and international competitions, including first prizes at the Sarasota Artist Series Piano Competition, Brevard Music Festival solo and concerto competitions, and the International Liszt Piano Competition for Young Pianists. Ying has performed with many orchestras including L’Accademia Orchestra del La Scala in Milan, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Brevard Music Festival Orchestra. As an avid chamber musician, Ying has appeared at prestigious festivals including the Verbier Festival Academy, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.
Flutist Anthony Trionfo was recently praised as a “breezily virtuosic flutist” by the New York Times after his New York concerto debut with a performance of the Ibert Flute Concerto with the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s in May 2019. In 2018, he debuted in the Young Concert Artists series at the Merkin Concert Hall in New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Trionfo took the stage for the first time at fourteen in performance with the Las Vegas Philharmonic as a winner of their Young Artist Concerto Competition. During his teen years, he also performed with the “President’s Own” Marine Band and won the Alexander & Buono International Flute and National YoungArts Foundation Competitions. In addition to more formal performances, Trionfo is committed to community outreach and teaches through the Jumpstart program in Los Angeles.
Narek Arutyunian Ying Li, and Anthony Trionfo appear by arrangement with Young Concert Artists, Inc., YCA.org
The Young Concert Artists on Tour performance is made possible by generous gifts from Country Music Association Foundation and Amy Savell, in memory of Sara and Las Savell.
¡José! is New Ballet Ensemble and School’s latest touring show. It is based on the life and work of the great Mexican dancer and choreographer José Arcadio Limón (1908–1972), who developed what is now known as the Limón technique. Inspired by the book José! Born to Dance, this show is a program that features various modern dance, music, and art genres, including flamenco, Spanish guitar, and modern art. All of these artistic elements inspired Limón on his journey to become one of the most influential modern dance choreographers of his time. During his life, he founded the José Limón Dance Company in the 1940s, followed by the José Limón Foundation in 1968, which he built to carry on his work.
About New Ballet Ensemble
Founded in 2001, New Ballet Ensemble and School is a thriving after-school dance program in the heart of midtown Memphis. Dancers from all over the Mid-South attend the school to train and explore cultural forms of dance while participating in a strong, college and career-ready classical ballet curriculum. Five out of the six salaried teaching artists and trainees, who are also key staff, have been involved with New Ballet since childhood. They provide programming to Shelby County Schools, including those they attended as children. New Ballet collaborates with education partners through school residencies and invests in other active community partnerships to reach students and audiences of all ages. In 2014, New Ballet was one of twelve organizations nationwide to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. This award recognizes the country’s best creative youth development programs that use engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase self-direction, academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment.
The performance of ¡José! by New Ballet Ensemble and School is made possible by a generous gift from Jeanette and Bill Watkins.
The Nashville African American Wind Symphony was founded in September of 2020. The original vision evolved from creating a community band to creating a vital cultural experience within the African American community and beyond. This led to the desire to establish a world-class wind band ensemble that provides exceptional music education, training resources, and exposure to performing arts entertainment for young musicians. With the goal of increasing African American representation in the formal wind band community, the symphony will give young musicians the opportunity to see themselves in the concert chair. Performance opportunities in inner-city schools with a high percentage of Black students will also help encourage students to participate in their own school band programs.
On June 19, 2022, the Juneteenth holiday, the sixty-five member Nashville African American Wind Symphony made its debut in Belmont University’s McAfee Concert Hall. The symphony will launch its Youth Initiative Program during the 2022–2023 school year.
About the Conductor and Board Chairman
Bruce V. Ayers, Jr., is the founder and conductor of the Nashville African American Wind Symphony. A native of Dover, Delaware, he currently serves as a professor of music and instructor of applied euphonium at Tennessee State University in Nashville. Previously, Ayers served as the director of bands at the Grammy award-winning Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville. The Nashville African American Wind Symphony six-member board of directors is led by its founding chairman and director, Reginald McDonald. To follow the story of NAAWS, visit NAAWSMusic.org and @naaws_music on all social media platforms.
The performance by the Nashville African American Wind Symphony is made possible by a generous gift from Bobby Jean Frost, in memory of Donna Frost and the Lingner Gift Fund, in memory of Marilee Kester Stites.
Fresh from their critically acclaimed run in The Bridges of Madison County, two-time Tony nominee Kate Baldwin and Broadway and television star Aaron Lazar will bring their “glorious soprano” and “soaring tenor” voices together in a brand new show, All For You. The show will premier at the Tennessee Arts Academy before traveling to New York City, where it will play for an extended run at Feinstein’s 54 Below. Called an “unstoppable pair” with “blazing chemistry,” Baldwin and Lazar will perform songs from The Bridges of Madison County, reprising their roles as Francesca and Robert, while also exploring other favorites from shows past, present, and future. Joining them will be ground-breaking maestro Luke Frazier and members of the American Pops Orchestra, who will come together as one of the biggest instrumental ensembles to ever grace the TAA Bravo! stage. Get ready to spend the evening with two of the most romantic and versatile voices on Broadway. All For You will be the highlight of the Academy week!
About the Performers and Musical Director
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.
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 Wall Street), 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.
Luke Frazier, Musical Director
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.
The stakes are higher than ever in this dynamic stage musical, as SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom face total annihilation of their undersea world. Chaos erupts. Lives hang in the balance. But just when all hope seems lost, a most unexpected hero rises to take center stage. The power of optimism really can save the world. The SpongeBob Musical is based on the beloved animated series created by Stephen Hillenburg and features a book by Kyle Jarrow, with original songs by numerous artists including Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, and Plain White T’s. Additional lyrics and music are by Jonathan Coulton and Tom Kitt, respectively. The musical production was conceived by Tina Landau.
About Nashville Children’s Theatre
With the goal of fostering cultural curiosity in children, Nashville Children’s Theatre (NCT) provides transformational theatrical experiences to more than eighty thousand audience members each year. Their productions reflect an evolving community, instill profound empathy, and foster personal discovery. Founded in 1931, NCT is the oldest professional equity children’s theatre in the nation and the largest theatre company in Middle Tennessee. Ranked as one of the top five children’s theatres in the country by Time Magazine, NCT productions are, according to theatre critic Jeffrey Ellis, “remarkable … proving that the company continues to set the standard to which others may aspire … the region’s flagship professional theatre company.” Ernie Nolan is NCT’s executive artistic director.
The performance of The SpongeBob Musical by Nashville Children’s Theatre is made possible by a generous gift from Pat and Thane Smith.