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Faculty & Staff

Collierville Arts Academy is home to an outstanding variety of professional instructors.
We have a combined experience level of more than 100 years in the performing arts,
fine arts, and martial arts...we think that is really impressive and hope you do as well!
After all, we are some pretty cool people to know, too!

Give our office a call at 901-861-7001 and schedule a time to come visit Collierville Arts Academy.

Collierville Arts Academy staff includes nationally recognized, certified, and award-winning teachers in a variety of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, and fitness. Among our staff you will find professional dancers and choreographers, certified certified personal trainers, professional musicians and fine artists.

Our instructors' skills, talents, and dedication are at the cornerstone of the learning experience for our students.  Collierville Arts Academy staff members annually attend conferences, workshops, and training seminars in their disiciplines and stay on the cutting-edge of their fields.
Every season we host amazing master teachers and performing artists from Broadway Touring Companies.  Our students have the opportunity to attend master classes and training workshops with Broadway stars.  Our past Master Class Series have included performing artists from Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Newsies, The Sound of Music, Beautiful: The Carole King Story, Chorus Line, and more.

This season we are hosting Master Classes with School of Rock, On Your Feet, and Hamilton!  

CAA dance program and music program alumni can be found performing on Broadway, DisneyWorld, and American Ballet Theatre Company and more. Our fine artists and musicians are recognized with awards on the local, state, regional, and national levels. When you train with Collierville Arts Academy, you are training among some of the very best talent in the region.

Our recent graduating classes included students attending college on scholarships including Boston College, Belhaven University, Indiana University, University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, Colorado State, Murray State, University of Tennessee Knoxville, University of Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee State University, the US Air Force Academy and West Point.

Julie Hunt Knowles

Academy Director
Dance Instructor, Choreographer
Personal Trainer

Is a native Memphian, a graduate of Lausanne Collegiate School, and holds a BA degree in Communications from Memphis State University. Julie began dancing with the Bischoff-Carroll Dance Centre in the 70s under the direction of Jane Bischoff and Kim Carroll. She also studied with Michael and Judy Tevlin, the founding directors of the Memphis Ballet. At 15, she joined the Memphis Ballet Company under the direction of the Tevlins, and she completed her Royal Academy of Dancing advanced examinations and Dance Education Syllabus with Honours under Mignon Furman. She went on to perform with other companies including Tennessee Ballet, Lafayette Festival Ballet, Huntsville Ballet, Birmingham Ballet and Joffrey II. As a jazz and tap dancer she has performed in professional theatre and industrial shows. She was personally selected by the legendary godfather of modern jazz dance, Gus Giordano, to dance with the Giordano Jazz Dance Company in Chicago. Julie has also has been featured as a principal actress for API, CBS Television, NETWorks, and Blink Multimedia.
During the late 80s and into the early 90s, Mrs. Knowles was a Production Director for artists such as Pat Metheny, Richard Marx, REO Speedwagon, The Call, The Smithereens, Cheap Trick, Jay Leno, Bobcat Goldthwait, REM, Michael Winslow, Najee and others.
As an instructor, Julie’s students have gone on to dance with American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, and Houston Ballet. In addition to her students’ classical dance success, you will find CAA dancers performing at DisneyWorld, on Broadway and in professional careers including entertainment law, event production, and managing their own studios. Mrs Knowles is proud to be an official teaching instructor licensed by the Royal Academy of Dancing and will be offering her students RAD examination opportunities in the coming season.
Mrs Knowles has been married to Tom Knowles for 28 years and together they have four amazing children!

Thomas M.  Knowles

Academy Director
Martial Arts, Fencing
Music Instructor

THOMAS M. KNOWLES is the Director of Fencing and Martial Arts at Collierville Arts Academy. Coach Knowles is the Vice Chairman of the USA Fencing Tennessee Division. He has been teaching people how to wield weapons since 1991 and he estimates that he has probably taught more than 3,000 people how to fence over the years. He conducts the martial arts, historical padded weapons, stuntfighting, and modern fencing programs for young and mature, male and female students.
As an Adjunct Professor at the University of Memphis, Coach Knowles teaches the for-credit Modern Fencing Class and a for-credit Padded Weapons class. He is a member of the US Fencing Association, US Fencing Coaches Association, and the US Chanbara Federation.  Coach Knowles also actively competes in the Modern Fencing arena. In March 2011, he won 1st place in Foil and Epee in the Tennessee Division Fencing Championship, qualifying to compete in the annual US National Fencing Championships in July 2011. At the 2011 US Nat Fencing Championships, Mr. Knowles strove mightily over four days of intense fencing, attaining his best results to date: 12th in the nation in Division II Men's Epee, 8th in the nation in Division III Men's Epee, 15th in the nation in Veteran's 40 Men's Foil, and 5th in the nation in Veteran's 40 Men's Epee.
At the high school and middle school levels, Coach Knowles is seeking to develop Fencing as a viable and popular youth sport in the MidSouth region. He is the Fencing Coach for the Tennessee State Epee Team Champions: Christian Brothers High School (Memphis) as well as coach of the fencing programs for St. George's School in Collierville, TN, and the Memphis Home Education Association (MHEA). 
Sensei Knowles oversees the Martial Arts classes at CAA. These include the Little Tigers and Tigers Karate Programs and the BattleMasters™ Padded Weapons Program. He has a personal belief that within each of us is an inner hero that is normally dormant but accessible should the need arise. Developing the attributes and abilities that enable the proper and just activation of the hero-persona is not a common pursuit in a contemporary society of quick-fixes and 'give-it-to-me-now' mindsets. Sensei Knowles seeks to provide opportunities to reveal and release the inner hero within each of us in the hopes that the world can thereby become a better place. It is his personal opinion that there are already plenty of villains.
Mr. Knowles may often be found in the community demonstrating the historical authenticity and modern concepts that make up fighting with an edged weapon. Past public appearances have included:  The Collierville Fair on the Square
University of Memphis: Don Giovanni, Fight Choreographer, Comcast Fun Day, Westminster Academy,  St George's School,  Sheraton Casino,
Pink Palace Museum, Woodland Presbyterian Day School, Macon Hall Elementary School, Presbyterian Day School, Grace-St. Luke's Canterbury Festival,  Malco Theatres: as Zorro; Southaven, MS Public Library, Memphis University School for Boys, Lausanne Collegiate School, The National Ornamental Metal Museum, Colonial Hills Church.
As co-owner of Collierville Arts Academy, Mr. Knowles also teaches music arts programs as well as the sword arts. As a musician he has played piano, french horn, trumpet, and guitar. After studying classical guitar under John Stover and then Lily Afshar at the University of Memphis, Mr. Knowles earned a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis on Recording Technology. Also, he has served locally as a music director and worship leader at several local churches and is a Christian singer/songwriter in the CCR format.
Mr. Knowles has worked as a recording engineer in the music industry, a staff member at WKNO public television, a video editor for commercial production houses, and editor for FOX news.
His theatre background is extensive and includes work on productions for high schools, colleges, and universities. He has also worked in outdoor theatre with productions of Blue Jacket and Annie Get Your Gun in Xenia, Ohio.  He feels truly blessed to be married for twenty-eight years to an incredible lady and is the father of four exceptional children.

Abby Pohlman
Dance Instructor, Choreographer
Ms. Pohlman is a native of Germantown, TN and began dancing at the age of 3. She comes from a long family history of dancers including her sister, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. 
Abby trained locally with Dance Dynamics, Classical Ballet under the direction of Pat Gillespie, and Ballet Memphis. Upon completing high school, Ms. Pohlman attended Middle Tennessee State University and was a member of their MTSU Dance Company. Ms. Pohlman has attended several SERBA (Southeastern Regional Ballet Association) conferrences and taught with the Lausanne Colliegiate School Summer Program, The Goddard School in Collierville, TN and St. George’s Independent School extra-curricular programs. 

Ms. Pohlman serves as a rehearsal coach with the Collierville Ballet, a regional non-profit youth ballet company. Ms. Pohlman holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree degree from the University of Memphis and is currently working towards her Master’s degree. Abby is thrilled to be a dance instructor at Collierville Arts Academy and enjoys sharing her love for the dance arts with all of her students.  

Catherine Knowles

Fine Arts Instructor
Ms. Knowles is a professional artist and illustrator from Memphis, TN and the director of graphic design for the University of Memphis' Athletic Program.

As life-long artist, Catherine enjoys all things creative including dance, theatre and music, and all of the fine arts. She is a published professional and regularly enjoys doing commissioned art work. You can often find her work on display locally and regionally at craft and art shows and comic cons.

Recently Ms. Knowles served as the lead art designer on a live-event featuring animation for a cartoon voiced by actor John DeLancie (Star Trek’s Q character). In 2015, Ms. Knowles' work was featured in the 32nd Annual Juried Student Exhibition at the University of Memphis Museum and she is the recipient of several art scholarship awards. In 2016, Ms. Knowles was one of seven nationally recognized graphic designers featured in the UCDA Magazine for her Design in Education Project.

She was a Helen Hardin Honors Program Senior Student at the University of Memphis, where she completed her B.F.A. degree in graphic design in 2017.  

In 2017, Ms. Knowles' artwork was selected to be used on the back of the USA Quarter coin design for 2019.

Now in her eighth year of teaching, she enjoys encouraging children to explore their own unique abilities through creativity in art projects and loves to instill a joy for art in her classes for all ages.

Victoria Knowles

Dance & Fine Arts Instructor
Victoria is an accomplished and award winning performing artist and visual artist who enjoys working with children of all ages.  She teaches drawing, anime, cartooning, and animation to children at all skill levels at Collierville Arts Academy.

Victoria enjoys all things creative including dance, theatre and music, and all of the fine arts. She is a published professional and regularly enjoys doing commissioned art work. You can often find her work on display locally and regionally at craft and art shows and comic cons.  

Victoria also conducts cartooning, anime, and illustration workshops at local libraries, schools, and festivals for students of all ages.  When she is not teaching an art class or playing the guitar, you will find her dancing with the Collierville Ballet Company where she is a senior member of the Company with eleven years of experience.

Brian Costner

Piano, Guitar Instructor, Dance Class Pianist
Brian Costner began music lessons at the age of 6, and has been playing ever since. Starting out on piano for 10 years, he also took up guitar lessons, then bass lessons. He has been performing with numerous bands and artists since the mid-90s, including the Father Ryan High School jazz band, the Purdue University Latin Percussion Band, and an assortment of creative projects in Nashville and Memphis, TN.  

Mr. Costner has been teaching music lessons for 20 years, whether on piano, guitar, or bass. His classes incorporate reading sheet music, learning music theory and finger exercises, as well as learning to play by ear. He enjoys sharing his love of music and learning with all his students, and tailors his lessons to meet his students’ musical desires while challenging them too.

In addition to teaching music, you can even find Brian playing beautiful music for our dance classes, receptions, and performances too!

Tony Cupido

Fine Arts Instructor

Tony Cupido is originally from San Fernando Valley, California and now lives in Germantown, TN.  He has a terrific talent for instructing students of all ages and loves to help teach others how to cultivate their drawing and painting skills.  His quiet and patient manner makes him a favorite with his students too!  In addition to fine arts, Tony loves music and playing the guitar.  He is also an avid singer with a terrific tenor voice and he enjoys singing with his church choir.  
You will often see Tony at our front counter, working on the computer and you can find him working behind-the-scenes as a member of our production crew for performances too.
Currently Tony is completing his degree program in Computer Science with a concentration in cybersecurity at the University of Memphis.  

Elizabeth O'Connell

Dance Instructor

Mrs O’Connell received her training at the Princeton Ballet School and in summer study at North Carolina School of the Arts and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. She has also studied with Risa Gary Kaplowitz, Elisabeth Carroll, and in NYC with Nancy Bielski. She has performed in New York City and the NY metropolitan area with Classics Dance Theater, Metropolitan Repertory Ballet, Princeton Ballet II, and as a guest artist. She has been a company member of The Metropolitan Ballet of Minneapolis and Continental Ballet. Ms. O’Connell was the artistic director and main ballet instructor at Betty Jo’s Dance Center in Apple Valley, MN and a company class teacher for Continental Ballet company in Bloomington, MN. Mrs. O’Connell loves to share her joy of dance with students and is proud to be on the staff at Collierville Arts Academy.

Julie Christen

Fine Arts Instructor

Julie Christen has a passion for helping people discover, or re-discover, their creativity in many forms, including singing and arts & crafts. Julie has been singing nearly all her life, starting in choirs when she was 5. For over 35 years, Julie has performed in various choirs and chorale assembles.  Julie studied voice at Memphis State University with Pam Gaston; and graduated with a Music Business degree.  In 2007, Julie returned to the stage singing lead and backups in a local classic rock variety band. Julie Christen's singing is as playful as it is soulful; classic showtunes dipped into the blues.  She has shared the stage with such illustrious singer/songwriters as Amy Steinberg and Kevin Danzig, and her stylistic influences include Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, as well as Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, and Julie Andrews. Julie's charm and ebullient joy often leave audiences begging for her to return as soon as possible! Julie has been working with different art forms for over 20 years, from painting, to photography, to collage, to crochet, and many more. She loves giving items a new face-lift with bright color! She teaches arts and crafts in retirement homes and rehab centers, where she gets great joy in showing people new things to try. Julie is extremely excited to share her gifts for music and art with her students here at Collierville Arts Academy!

Deanna Heuer

Suzuki Violin Instructor

Dee's Bio is being updated, so check back soon!

Alexander Knowles

Martial Arts and Fencing Instructor

Alexander Knowles is an avid martial artist and accomplished fencer with a life-long level of experience as a competitor.  Mr Knowles is a former Junior Olympian in fencing and is a former State Fencing Champion, he holds the Black Sash Level of training in BattleMasters and a Black Belt in Karate.   Alexander has been teaching martial arts for five years and holds the level of BattleMasters Black Sash.  He is an Honors Junior at the University of Memphis where he is majoring in Biomechanical Engineering.

Shane Cole

Voice and Piano Instructor

Shane's Bio is being updated, so check back soon!