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 and Robert Bernhardt; 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 director Scott Ellis; (1776) 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); 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), 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 2019 Tennessee Arts Academy.

Anton Armstrong

Monday, July 15, 2019

1:20 PM

Anton Armstrong, Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College, is the fourth conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, a position he has held since 1990. Prior to this current appointment, Armstrong served on the faculty of Calvin College and led the Calvin College Alumni Choir, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, and the St. Cecilia Youth Chorale. He is editor of a multicultural choral series for Earthsongs Publications and co-editor, with John Ferguson, of the revised St. Olaf Choral Series for Augsburg Fortress Publishers. In June of 1998, he began his tenure as founding conductor of the Oregon Bach Festival Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy.

During the 2018–19 season Armstrong served as a member of the Choral Jury for the First Tokyo International Choir Competition in Japan and for the Busan International Choral Festival in Busan, the Republic of Korea. Armstrong has led choral festivals at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California; at Carnegie Hall in New York City; at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, California; and at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.. During the spring of 2019, Armstrong led the St. Olaf Choir on a concert tour of Norway. Since 1990, Anton Armstrong has served as artistic director of the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which currently features nearly 600 student musicians from five St. Olaf Choral ensembles and the St. Olaf Orchestra. The festival itself is one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States. During his career, Armstrong has been the recipient of numerous awards. In March 2007, Armstrong became the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the American Boychoir School, and in October 2009, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University. In June 2013, Armstrong received the Saltzman Award from the Oregon Bach Festival. In the fall of 2014, the St. Olaf Choir and Armstrong received a Regional Emmy for the Public Broadcasting Station’s television program Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir.

Alton Fitzgerald White

Thursday, July 18, 2019

1:50 PM

Alton Fitzgerald White captivates audiences whenever he performs. The triple talented singer, actor, dancer has starred in six Broadway shows. He made his Broadway debut as John in Miss Saigon, where his performance of the anthem “Bui Doi” brought nightly ovations. White then moved on to major roles in both the hit rock-opera The Who’s Tommy and the Leiber and Stoller musical revue, Smokey Joe’s Café. His starring portrayal of Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime: The Musical was a milestone in White’s career. His time in the role, which began with the pre-Broadway original company in Toronto opposite six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, continued during the critically acclaimed North American tour, and ultimately led him to Broadway, opposite Tony award winner LaChanze. White’s next major move took him on the road to originate the role of Mufasa in the first national tour of Disney’s The Lion King. After just over a year of touring, he joined the Broadway company, where he played the role of Mufasa for a record breaking five and a half years. In 2007, White performed the role of Mister in Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple opposite American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino. White’s many television appearances include episodes of Law and OrderMadam SecretaryBulland the recently released Fox network television special, Rent Live. He has featured roles in four upcoming films including The Goldfinch, in which he plays opposite actress Nicole Kidman. White has performed in concerts around the world and has become an in-demand motivational and keynote speaker. His CD, Disney My Way!, is filled with wonderfully reimagined Disney classics. In his recently released inspirational biography, My Pride: Mastering Life’s Daily Performance, White shares his secrets to fulfillment and joy in work and life.