Musers & Performers

“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. Well-known Musers who have led these sessions 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 GirlsDesperate 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 2021 Tennessee Arts Academy.

Gabriela Lena Frank

Monday July 12, 2021

1:00 PM

Identity has always been central to the music of composer and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian and Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian and Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Frank currently serves as composer-in-residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Washington Post has named her as one of the thirty-five most significant women composers in history.

Inspired by the works of Béla Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank has traveled extensively throughout South America in creative exploration. Her music often reflects her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also reflects her studies of Latin American cultures. She also incorporates poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. Frank says that there is usually a story line behind her music—such as a scenario or character. While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from the music itself, Frank’s program notes are designed to enhance the listener’s experience. Her compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist. In addition to her work as a composer, she is a sought-after performer who specializes in contemporary repertoire.

In 2020, Frank was a recipient of the prestigious 25th anniversary Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanity category with an unrestricted cash prize of 250,000 dollars, a meaningful portion of which was donated to the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. The award recognized her for breaking gender, disability, and cultural barriers in the classical music industry, and for her work as an activist on behalf of emerging composers of all demographics and aesthetics. Winner of a Latin Grammy and nominated for Grammys as both a composer and a pianist, she also holds a Guggenheim Fellowship and a USA Artist Fellowship, which is given each year to fifty of the country’s finest artists. Frank has been the subject of several scholarly books and numerous television documentaries. She is regularly commissioned by luminaries such as cellist Yo Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the King’s Singers, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano with guitarist Manuel Barrueco, Brooklyn Rider, and conductors Marin Alsop and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In the 2018–19 school year, she also became visiting artist-in-residence at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, adding to her long list of residencies at universities and conservatories through the United States.

Civic outreach is an essential part of Frank’s work. She has volunteered extensively in hospitals and prisons, with her current focus on developing the school music program at Anderson Valley High School, a rural public school of modest means with a large Latino population in Boonville, California.

The appearance of Gabriela Lena Frank is made possible by a generous gift from the Country Music Association Foundation.

Beverly McIver

Tuesday July 13, 2021

1:00 PM

Beverly McIver is a significant presence in contemporary American art and has charted a new direction as an African American woman artist. She is committed to making art that consistently examines racial, gender, social, and occupational identities.

McIver was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is the youngest of three girls. Her oldest sister Renee is mentally disabled and is a frequent subject of the artist, as are other family members. Raising Renee, a feature-length documentary film produced in association with HBO by Academy Award-nominated and award-winning filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, tells the story of the impact of McIver’s promise to care for her sister when their mother dies. The film, which is available on Amazon Prime, played in festivals around the country and was nominated for an Emmy Award.

McIver’s work is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Asheville Museum of Art, the Crocker Art Museum, the Nelson Fine Arts Center Art Museum at Arizona State University, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the Cameron Art Museum and the Mint Museum, as well as significant corporate and private collections.

McIver’s recent honors include a yearlong residency at the American Academy in Rome, where she was featured in Beverly McIver e il colore nero, a documentary for Italian television. In 2017, she received the lifetime achievement award from the Anyone Can Fly Foundation in a ceremony hosted by artist Faith Ringgold. McIver has received numerous grants and awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard University, a Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Award, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, and a Creative Capital grant. McIver is currently the Ebenshade Professor of the Practice in Studio Arts at Duke University. In 2021, she is curating a show of contemporary African American artists working in North Carolina for Craven Allen Gallery in Durham, North Carolina. In 2022, a career survey of the artist’s work will begin at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art before touring the country.

The appearance of Beverly McIver is made possible by generous gifts from Pinnacle Financial Partners. Solie Fott, and Rena Elzy.

Rick Elice

Wednesday July 14, 2021

1:00 PM

Rick Elice is a Broadway script writer, Hollywood screenwriter, and author who has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career. Elice’s first Broadway credit, Jersey Boys, which he co-authored with Marshall Brickman, won the Tony Award, the Grammy Award and the Olivier Award for Best Musical, and is in the record books as the twelfth longest-running show in Broadway history. The Addams Family, which Elice wrote with Marshall Brickman and Andrew Lippa, regularly tops the charts as the most licensed musical in North America. His first play, Peter and the Starcatcher, which was directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, set a record in 2012 for the most Tony Award nominations for an American play in Broadway history (a record it held until this year). In all, the play won five Tony Awards. Elice also wrote the double Tony Award winning smash Broadway hit The Cher Show. His recent world premiere musicals include My Very Own British Invasion at the Paper Mill Playhouse; Dog and Pony at the Old Globe, directed by Roger Rees; and Turn of the Century, co-authored with Marshall Brickman and directed by Tommy Tune. 

Elice’s current projects include the musicals The Princess Bride for Disney Theatrical Productions; Smash for Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron, and Steven Spielberg with Bob Martin; Monopoly for Hasbro, with David Rossmer and Dan Lipton; and Mad Season, with Rob Thomas, Matt Serletic and Matt Walden of Matchbox Twenty. Elice is also working on adapting Sara Gruen’s popular novel Water for Elephants for the stage with the acclaimed theatre collective PigPen. In addition, he and Benjamin Scheuer, recipient of the 2021 Ed Kleban Award, are writing Treasure, a musical about the rivalry between Charles Darwin and Peter M. Roget, not to mention love, death, madness and the creation of Roget’s Thesaurus. 

Elice was born in New York City and was the salutatorian graduate of Francis Lewis High School in Queens, New York. He earned degrees from Cornell University and the Yale Drama School, and from 1980–1981, he was a teaching fellow at Harvard University. He is a charter member of the American Repertory Theater and a trustee for The Actor’s Fund. From 1982–1999, as creative director at Serino Coyne Inc., he produced ad campaigns for some three hundred Broadway shows, from A Chorus Line to The Lion King. From 1999–2009, he served as a creative consultant for the Walt Disney Studio.  

Elice’s book, Finding RogerAn Improbably Theatrical Love Story, is a tribute to his late husband, Roger Rees, and is published by Kingswell. 

The appearance of Rick Elice is made possible by a generous gift from Tennessee Book Company.