Musings and Performance Sessions

(All Times Listed Are Central Daylight Time)

Sunday Afternoon Performance with Steven Banks

Steven Banks


July 11, 2021 2:30 PM

Recognized for his “glowing mahogany tone” (Seen and Heard International) and his “breathtaking” performances (Classical Voice of North Carolina), Steven Banks is establishing himself as an important young artist on the saxophone, which is rarely heard as a solo concert instrument. In 2019, Steven Banks captured first prize at the Young Concert Artists International auditions. This makes him the first saxophonist to earn a place on the Young Concert Artists roster in its sixty-year history. This season, Banks will make his New York debut at Merkin Concert Hall.

Banks has performed as a concerto soloist with the Durham Symphony and the North Carolina Symphony, and he regularly gives recitals at universities and appears on music series across the United States. His appearances this season will include performances with the Oregon Mozart Players, Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota, Mary Baldwin University, Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Port Washington Library, and Tannery Pond. In addition to his solo work, Banks has an ongoing relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra, appearing with the ensemble under various conductors, including Alain Altinoglu, Roderick Cox, Jahja Ling, Matthias

Pintscher, and Franz Welser-Most. He appears on a Naxos recording as baritone saxophonist of the award-winning Kenari Quartet. As a jazz performer, he has played alongside musicians affiliated with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Buddy Rich Big Band, and Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Banks is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in music education and performance, as well as newly commissioned works in the classical realm. In 2017, he gave a talk at the TEDxNorthwesternU conference that included ideas about how to change institutionalized prejudices against women and people of color. He has also written and given guest lectures on the history of black classical composers. As assistant professor of saxophone at Ithaca College, in Ithaca, New York, he makes a concerted effort to ensure that all music students feel supported in their everyday studies. Steven Banks appears by arrangement with Young Concert Artists, Inc.

Please click here for program information regarding the Steven Banks Arts Academy performance.

About the Zorá Quartet
Named “the future of chamber music” in a concert review in Oregon Arts Watch, the Zorá Quartet leapt to national attention in 2015 when they won three major awards: the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the Grand Prize and Gold Medal of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in California. The quartet formed at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music under the tutelage of the Pacifica String Quartet. “Zorá” means “sunrise” in Bulgarian. Zora Quartet appears by arrangement with Young Concert Artists, Inc.

About Xak Bjerken, accompanist
Pianist Xak Bjerken has appeared with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, the Schoenberg Ensemble, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Disney Hall. He is a professor of music at Cornell University, where he co-directs Mayfest, an international chamber music festival, with his wife, pianist Miri Yampolsky.

The performance by Steven Banks is made possible by generous gifts from Country Music Association Foundation; and Sara Savell, in memory of Las Savell.

Monday Afternoon Musing with Gabriela Lena Frank

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.

Tuesday Afternoon Musing with Beverly McIver

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 Ellzy.

Wednesday Afternoon Musing with Rick Elice

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 Roger: An 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.  

Wednesday Evening Special Performance

BRAVO!! A Virtual Evening with Stephen Sondheim and Friends

Hosted by Aaron Lazar Honoring America’s Arts Teachers

July 14, 2021 7:30 PM

Broadway, film, and television star Aaron Lazar will host a one-hour special program exclusively for Tennessee Arts Academy participants on Wednesday, July 14. Bravo!! A Virtual Evening with Stephen Sondheim and Friends, hosted by Aaron Lazar: Honoring America’s Arts Teachers will feature an exclusive interview with musical theatre legend Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim will discuss his life, his shows, and the creative forces that have inspired and shaped his career. In tribute to Sondheim, Lazar will be joined by several Broadway stars who will relate their own special Stephen Sondheim moment and sing a Sondheim melody in honor of the famed composer. Tennessee Arts Academy educators will provide Aaron with questions to ask throughout the evening. They will also share their own unique perspective on the training they have received at the Academy and the impact it has had on their teaching and, in turn, on their students.

Bravo!! A Virtual Evening with Stephen Sondheim and Friends, hosted by Aaron Lazar: Honoring America’s Arts Teachers is an exclusive event for the 2021 Tennessee Arts Academy.

This very special evening is generously sponsored by Pat and Thane Smith.

Introducing Our Special Guest...

Broadway Composer

Stephen Sondheim!

Stephen Sondheim is one of the most significant figures in twentieth-century theater. During his almost seventy-year career, his reinvention of the American musical has helped to bring new vitality, complexity, and sophistication to the form. The breadth and depth of his works explore the human experience with remarkable clarity and understanding. His innovative and award-winning music and lyrics are singular in their ability to create an emotional connection to the characters and the stage shows in which they appear.

Sondheim's best-known works include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984) and Into the Woods (1987). He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959) Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965), and additional lyrics for Candide (1973). Anthologies of his work include Side By Side By Sondheim (1976), Marry Me a Little (1981), Putting It Together (1993/99), and Sondheim on Sondheim (2010). For films, he composed the scores of Stavisky (1974), co-composed the score for Reds (1981) and wrote songs for Dick Tracy (1990) and the TV production Evening Primrose (1966). He co-authored the film The Last of Sheila (1973) and the play Getting Away with Murder (1996).

Sondheim has received an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) and a special Tony for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and a Laurence Olivier Award. In 1983, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which awarded him the Gold Medal for Music in 2006. In 1990, he was appointed the first Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University. Additional awards he has received are a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 at the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts in 1996, the MacDowell Medal in 2013 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. He is on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, the national association of playwrights, composers, and lyricists, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981. In 1981, he founded Young Playwrights Inc. to develop and promote the work of American playwrights eighteen years and younger. His collected lyrics with attendant essays have been published in two volumes: Finishing the Hat (2010) and Look, I Made a Hat (2011). In 2010, the Broadway theater formerly known as Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed in his honor.


Our Host

Broadway, Film, and Television Star

Aaron Lazar

Since his 2005 critically acclaimed performance as Fabrizio Nacarelli in the Tony Award winning hit The Light in the Piazza, Aaron Lazar has established himself as Broadway’s most versatile leading man. His eleven Broadway production appearances include playing opposite seventeen-time Grammy Award winner Sting in the latter’s epic musical The Last Ship; originating roles in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury; the world premiere of Impressionism with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen; and the world premiere of A Tale of Two Cities. Lazar appeared in Sir Trevor Nunn’s revival of Oklahoma!; starred in the first Broadway revival of Les Miserables; performed the role of Sam in the global phenomenon Mamma Mia!; and made his debut in the longest-running show in Broadway history, The Phantom of the Opera. Most recently, Lazar starred in the first national tour of Dear Evan Hansen as Larry Murphy.

Lazar’s film credits include The Wolf of Wall Street (opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie); This is Where I Leave You (as Tina Fey’s workaholic husband Barry); J. Edgar (as Prosecutor Wilentz); and the recent blockbusters Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game. On television, Lazar has appeared in more than a dozen shows for the major networks including Quantico, The Strain, Disney’s Girl Meets World, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, The Following, New Amsterdam, All My Children, and many others. This past season, Lazar starred opposite Kim Cattrall in the one-hour gothic-soap Filthy Rich.

Lazar’s symphony credits include Billy Bigelow in Carousel with the Boston Pops, Lt. Cable in South Pacific at the Hollywood Bowl, Paul in Company (live with the New York Philharmonic), and multiple appearances with both the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Other notable appearances include the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra at Masada and the English National Opera Orchestra at the Coliseum in London’s West End. Lazar’s voice can be heard on numerous Broadway cast albums and dozens of television commercials. He is an honorary board member of the Tennessee Arts Academy Foundation, as well as an alumnus of Duke University and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Lazar is the proud father of two boys—Julian and Adrian.

A Virtual Evening With Stephen Sondheim And Friends, hosted by Aaron Lazar: Honoring America's Arts Teachers is made possible by a generous gift from Pat and Thane Smith.

Thursday Afternoon Performance with Ballet Memphis

Three by Ballet Memphis

Professional Ballet Company

July 15, 2021 1:00 PM

In this program for the Tennessee Arts Academy, Ballet Memphis will perform three works—the duet from Water of the Flowery Mill, highlights from the ballet Paquita, and Being Here with Other People. The first work, Water of the Flower Mill, was choreographed by American choreographer Matthew Neenan for Ballet Memphis in 2010. Danced to music by Tchaikovsky, the piece was inspired by the 1944 painting of the same name by artist Arshile Gorky. Paquita, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa with music by Ludwig Minkus, is a three-act ballet that tells the story of Paquita, a young woman who falls in love with a noble man. The ballet is rarely performed in its entirety in the West; however, the third act remains a staple in the repertoire of ballet companies across the world. No longer performed as a narrative work, the dance is now used as a vehicle for virtuosity, artistry, and exceptional corps de ballet work. Being Here with Other People was choreographed by Ballet Memphis’s artistic director Steven McMahon in 2009. The dance is a response to the joyous music of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major. After the program, McMahon will host a question and answer session for the audience. Click here for complete program information.

Ballet Memphis aspires to reveal and celebrate the universality of the human experience through dance. The company performs classical ballet and is a leader in the creation of new work that builds American dance using the catalog of American music, often finding inspiration in the Memphis sound. The Ballet Memphis School offers ballet training for students ages three and older, while adult students enjoy ballet, tap, and Pilates classes. Ballet Memphis is entering its thirty-fifth season.

The appearance of Ballet Memphis is made possible by generous gifts from Bobby Jean Frost, in memory of Donna Frost; the Lingner Gift Fund; and Bill and Jeanette Watkins.

Friday Afternoon Performance with Cumberland County Playhouse

Producing Theatre During a Global Pandemic: Scenes from Three Cumberland County Playhouse Productions

July 16, 2021 1:00 PM

In 2020, the pandemic brought many changes to Cumberland County Playhouse’s original season lineup. The topical Alabama Story, for example, was a small cast show that the Playhouse decided to perform for both a limited in-person and live-stream audience simultaneously. Coming out of the pandemic, the Playhouse’s theme of “rebuild and renew, recommit to the community we share, and redefine the stories we tell,” helped drive the company’s decision to include the Pulitzer Prize winning Driving Miss Daisy and Godspell, a musical that celebrates love and community, in its 2021 season. Academy participants will be treated to scenes from all three of these productions, which Cumberland County Playhouse’s producing director Bryce McDonald will introduce and members of the company will perform. After the performances, McDonald and artistic director Britt Hancock will hold a question-and-answer session.

The Cumberland County Playhouse is the only major non-profit professional performing arts resource in rural Tennessee and one of the ten largest professional theatres in rural America. It serves more than eighty thousand visitors every year and has two indoor stages, one outdoor stage, theatre for young audience productions, a comprehensive education program, and a concert series. The Cumberland County Playhouse provides arts opportunities to a vast region that is under-served by other arts resources, including rural East and Middle Tennessee, North Georgia, Northern Alabama, Southern Kentucky, and metropolitan Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville.

The appearance of Cumberland County Playhouse is made possible by a generous gift from Pat and Thane Smith.

Tennessee Arts Academy

Belmont University / 1900 Belmont Blvd. / Nashville,TN 37212

Email: / Phone: 615-460-5451

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