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), 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 Dorothy Gillespie, Charles Brindley, Dolph Smith, Alan Lequire, Harold Gregor, and Sylvia Hyman; Broadway director Scott Ellis (1776) and Richard Maltby, Jr. (Fosse); poet Nikki Giovanni; stage combat director David Leong (Carousel); filmmaker Jay Russell (My Dog Skip); Broadway musical theatre stars 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 Girls, Desperate 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 2017 Tennessee Arts Academy.

Christine Brewer

Monday, July 10, 2017

1:15 PM

Grammy Award-winning American soprano Christine Brewer’s appearances in opera, concert, and recital are marked by her own unique timbre, at once warm and brilliant, combined with a vibrant personality and emotional honesty reminiscent of the great sopranos of the past. Named one of the top twenty sopranos of all time by BBC Music, her range, golden tone, boundless power, and control make her a favorite of the stage and a highly sought-after recording artist—one who is “in her prime and sounding glorious,” writes Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times.


On the opera stage, Brewer is highly regarded for her striking portrayal of the title role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, which she has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Théatre du Chatelet, Santa Fe Opera, English National Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Attracting glowing reviews with each role, she has performed Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at San Francisco Opera, Gluck’s Alceste with Santa Fe Opera, the Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten at Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Paris Opera, and Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring at Santa Fe Opera and the Los Angeles Opera. She created the role of Sister Aloysius in the world premiere of Doug Cuomo’s opera Doubt with the Minnesota Opera in 2013—a role that was performed by Meryl Streep in the film version of the story. Brewer reprised the role in August 2016 with the Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis.


Brewer has worked with many of today’s most notable conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, David Robertson, Christoph von Dohnányi, Sir Charles Mackerras, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Antonio Pappano, and Sir Simon Rattle.

Brewer’s discography includes more than twenty-five recordings. Her latest recording, Divine Redeemer, on Naxos contains selections with concert organist Paul Jacobs.


On April 29, 2015, Christine Brewer joined 140 other notable celebrities who received a bronze star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.


Last season, Brewer performed Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem with the Kansas City Symphony and Michael Stern. The work was performed in recital at McKendree University and Concord Trinity United Methodist Church, and in concert with the Holiday Brass Ensemble in St. Louis and the Masterworks Chorale and Children’s Chorus in Belleville, Illinois.

During the 2015 to 2016 season, Brewer toured with organist Paul Jacobs for concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the San Francisco Symphony, Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, Spivey Hall, and St. Louis Cathedral Concerts. She appeared in the Morgan Library in New York City with the George London Foundation and performed Alban Berg’s Altenberg Lieder with the St. Louis Symphony and David Robertson.


Brewer continues her work with sixth graders in Marissa, Illinois, in a program called Opera-tunities, which is now in its thirteenth year. She also works with voice students at Webster University in St. Louis, where she led a weeklong residency in February 2016 on African-American composers. The residency culminated in a recital with the students and Ms. Brewer.

Christopher Durang

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1:15 PM

Christopher Durang is one of America’s most prolific and celebrated playwrights. His play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the 2013 Tony Award for best play in addition to the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Outer Circle Critics Award, and the Drama Desk Award. He received Obie Awards for his plays Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and Betty’s Summer Vacation. Durang was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in drama for Miss Witherspoon and received a nomination for a Tony Award for best book of a musical for A History of the American Film. In 2010, he was presented with the very first Luminary Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards for his work off-off-Broadway. Durang won the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for Master American Dramatist in 2012. That same year, he was also inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Other works by Durang include Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge; the musical Adrift in Macao, with music by Peter Melnick and book and lyrics by Durang; Beyond Therapy; Baby with the Bathwater; The Nature and Purpose of the Universe; Titanic; The Idiots Karamazov, co-authored by Albert Innaurato and featuring Meryl Streep; Laughing Wild; ‘Dentity Crisis; The Actor’s Nightmare; The Vietnamization of New Jersey; Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them; and Naomi in the Living Room.

Durang is also a performer; he acted with E. Katherine Kerr in the New York premiere of Laughing Wild and with Jean Smart in the play’s Los Angeles production. He shared an acting ensemble Obie for The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Durang has performed his crackpot cabaret Chris Durang and Dawne with John Augustine and Sherry Anderson at the Criterion Center, Caroline’s Comedy Club, Williamstown Summer Cabaret, and the Triad. The show received a Bistro Award in 1996.

In the early 1980s, Durang and Sigourney Weaver co-wrote and performed together in their acclaimed Brecht-Weill parody, Das Lusitania Songspiel, and were both nominated for Drama Desk awards for best performer in a musical.

In 1993, Durang sang at the Manhattan Theatre Club with Julie Andrews in the five-person, off-Broadway Sondheim revue Putting it Together. He also played a singing congressman in the Encores’ presentation of Call Me Madam with Tyne Daly at City Center.

In movies, he has appeared in The Secret of My Success, Mr. North, The Butcher’s Wife, Housesitter, and The Cowboy Way, among others.

Durang has been awarded numerous fellowships and high profile grants including a Guggenheim, a Rockefeller, the CBS Playwriting Fellowship, and the Lecomte du Nouy Foundation grant. In 1995, he won the prestigious three-year Lila Wallace Readers Digest Writers Award; as part of his grant, he ran a writing workshop for adult children of alcoholics. In 2000, he won the Madge Evans and Sidney Kingsley Playwriting Award.

Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Durang has degrees from Harvard College and the Yale School of Drama. From 1994 to 2016, he and Marsha Norman were co-chairs of the Playwriting Program at Juilliard. He is a current member of the Dramatist Guild’s Council.