Musers

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); 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, 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); 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) 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 2018 Tennessee Arts Academy.


Libby Larsen

Monday, July 9, 2018

1:15 PM



Libby Larsen is one of America’s most prolific and most performed composers alive today. During her career, she has created an impressive catalogue of more than five hundred works spanning virtually every genre—from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and more than twelve operas. Her music has been praised for its dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit. Constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras worldwide, Larsen has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.


Larsen has been hailed by USA Today as “the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively,” and by Gramaphone as “a composer who has made the art of symphonic writing very much her own.” The Wall Street Journal has written that “Libby Larsen has come up with a way to make contemporary opera both musically current and accessible to the average audience.”


Larsen has received numerous awards and accolades, including a 1993 Grammy as producer of the CD The Art of Arlene Augér, an acclaimed recording that features Larsen’s work “Sonnets from the Portuguese.”  Her opera Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus was selected as one of the eight best classical music events of 1990 by USA Today. She is the first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra, and her many commissions and recordings are a testament to her fruitful collaborations with a long list of world-renowned artists.


As a past holder of the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education at the Library of Congress in 2003–2004, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Peabody award, Larsen is a vigorous, articulate champion of the music and musicians of our time. In 1973, she and Stephen Paulus co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum—now called the American Composers Forum—which has been an invaluable advocate for composers during a difficult, transitional time for the American arts. Consistently sought-after as a leader in the generation of millennium thinkers, Larsen’s music and ideas have reenergized the concert music tradition and the composer’s role in it.



Jon Moody

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

1:15 PM


Jon Moody is an artist and athlete known for his innovative portraits and incredible taste. Moody uses his abilities to provoke thought while aiming to break the myth that one is either an athlete or an artist. His emotionally charged artwork brings awareness to social, economic, and world issues.


A native of New Orleans, Moody comes from a family of overachievers and is always striving to positively influence others. His mother is a teacher, and his father is a NASA mechanical engineer. Moody has had an interest in drawing and painting since he was young. During high school, he spent half his time each day at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Also a gifted athlete, Moody eventually had to make a choice between his more creative side and his love of sports. Realizing that his artwork gave him a larger audience to express his thoughts and ideas, Moody chose to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he received a bachelor of fine arts in visual effects and a master of arts in painting. While in college, he ran track, and today continues his interest in athletic pursuits.


Moody’s murals have generated great enthusiasm from many different admirers. His work has been featured in the White House, seen at NAACP events, and has been purchased by many well-known individuals. In a personal letter to Moody, Vice President Joe Biden thanked him for his work as an artist and urged him to continue using his artistic abilities to change the world for the better. Moody has created unique artwork for numerous celebrities, including Cardi B, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and Anthony Anderson.


Moody’s work was chosen to appear on the sets of the hit shows Empire and Star. Pepsi included Moody in a commercial celebrating athletes and artists and featured his artwork on one of its Pepsi cans. Moody currently appears on Bravo’s reality show Southern Charm, New Orleans. His goal is to inspire everyone—not just other athletes—to become global ambassadors for change.



Tony Walton

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

1:15 PM



Tony Walton is an award-winning director, production designer, and costume designer for Broadway, Off-Broadway, film, television, ballet, and opera. During his career, he has been honored with numerous accolades and awards for his work. He has received sixteen Tony Award nominations for his Broadway sets or costumes, including those created for Pippin, House of Blue Leaves, and Guys and Dolls, which all won Tony Awards. Among his twenty films, Mary Poppins, The Boy Friend, The Wiz, and Murder on the Orient Express earned him five Academy Award nominations. He won an Oscar for his work on Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz and an Emmy for Death of a Salesman. Two of his more recent projects include the Broadway set designs for Annie Get Your Gun and A Tale of Two Cities.


Walton was the production designer for Madison Square Garden’s A Christmas Carol for ten years as well as for Julie Andrews’ 2003 revival of The Boy Friend. His graphic work includes a great many illustrations for books and magazines; caricatures for the publications Playbill, Theatre Arts, and Vogue; and posters for many Broadway, Off-Broadway, and West End shows. During the last twenty-two years, Walton has directed and designed theatre productions of Wilde, Shaw, Coward, and others for New York’s Irish Rep, San Diego’s Old Globe, Sarasota’s Asolo Rep, East Hampton’s John Drew Theatre, and the Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor.


As a producer, Walton has co-presented six plays or musicals in London—three of which were in association with the legendary Hal Prince. His designs for opera have been seen at London’s Theatre Royal Covent Garden, the Sadlers Wells Opera Company, and throughout Europe and America. His many ballet designs include the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s St. Louis Women, which was performed at the Lincoln Center; the American Ballet Theatre’s Peter and the Wolf and Sleeping Beauty, which were both performed at the Met; and many ballets for the San Francisco Ballet Company and other dance companies throughout the United States.


Born in Walton-on-Thames, England, he has lived in New York City for more than fifty years with his wife, author Gen LeRoy Walton. The pair has two daughters and five grandchildren. In 1991, Tony Walton was elected to the Theatre Hall of Fame. 


Laura Osnes

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1:50 PM




The very talented Laura Osnes is one of Broadway’s leading ladies. She recently completed a starring run in the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Bandstand for which she received Drama Desk and Drama League nominations.


For her title role as Cinderella in the Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Osnes won the Drama Desk Award and received Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, and Astaire nominations. She received another Tony Award nomination for her leading role as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde, after creating the role at Asolo Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse. Additional roles she has played include Hope Harcourt in the Tony Award winning revival of Anything Goes, Nellie Forbush in Lincoln Center Theater’s production of South Pacific, and Sandy in the most recent revival of Grease. Osnes has also performed in Crazy For You, The Blueprint Specials, The Threepenny Opera at the Atlantic Theater Company, and New York’s City Center Encores! She has appeared in productions of The Band Wagon, Randy Newman’s Faust, Pipe Dream, and The Sound of Music in concert at Carnegie Hall. She played in Carousel opposite Steven Pasquale at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and in Broadway: Three Generations at the Kennedy Center.


On television, she has been seen on the CBS series Elementary, Live From Lincoln Center: Bernstein On Broadway, and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert. She also appeared in HBO’s documentary Six by Sondheim, the pilot The Miraculous Year, and in the Kennedy Center Honors salutes to Barbara Cook and Dustin Hoffman. Osnes’s many concerts and cabarets include performing with Michael Feinstein, the New York Philharmonic, the New York Pops, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Boston Pops, the San Francisco Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra. She has also appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Café Carlyle, 54 Below, Lincoln Center, NJPAC, the Smith Center in Las Vegas, and the Minnesota Orchestra Hall. In addition to appearances on several cast recordings, Osnes has two solo albums—Dream a Little Dream: Live at the Café Carlyle and If I Tell You: The Songs of Maury Yeston.