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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! Our 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.

What's more, we are some pretty cool people to get to know, too!

Give our office a call at 901-861-7001 and schedule a time to come visit Collierville Arts Academy.
 
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, Hamilton, On Your Feet!, Cats, and more.

This season we are hosting Master Classes with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Aladdin!  

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 Knowles, Academy Director

Academy Director, Dance Instructor, Choreographer, Personal Training

Julie Knowles 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!

The Mary Poppins of Dance: Julie Knowles!

Tom Knowles, Academy Director

Academy Director, Martial Arts Instructor, Fencing Coach, Music/Guitar Instructor

THOMAS M. KNOWLES is the Director of Fencing and Martial Arts at Collierville Arts Academy. Coach Knowles has been teaching people how to wield weapons for over 30 years and he estimates that he has probably taught more than 4,000 people how to fence since 1991. He conducts the martial arts, historical padded weapons, and modern fencing programs for young and mature, male and female students. 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 martial 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 an audio recording engineer in the music industry, a former volunteer and part-time staff member at WKNO public television, a video-editor for API-CINE and other commercial production houses, and video-editor for FOX-13 TV 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 to an incredible lady (Mrs Julie!) 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 also serves as a rehearsal coach with the Collierville Ballet, a regional non-profit youth ballet company. She 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, Scenic Designer

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. 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.

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!

Elizabeth O'Connell

Dance Instructor, Choreographer

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.

Tony Cupido

You will often see Tony Cupido at our front counter, working on the computer or you can find him working behind-the-scenes as a member of our cast or production crew for performances too! An all-around great guy, 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. Currently Tony is completing his degree program in Computer Science with a concentration in cybersecurity at the University of Memphis.

Dee Heuer

Violin Instructor

Dee Heuer has taught Suzuki violin for over 30 years. Much of her training has been at the Suzuki Institute @ Steven's Point WI which is a world center at the University of WI. Besides college courses in the UW system she has 6 certifications that qualify her to teach through Book 5. Dee spent 6 years teaching and being the assistant director of The Fairfield Fiddle Farm with over 100 students headed by Charles Hall, the writer or the Country Old-Time Fairfield Fiddle Farm Books still in print. After coming south to the Hernando, MS area, Dee had a home studio for about 7 years and also taught 2 years with the Suzuki Dept. at the U or M in Memphis while getting advanced training there . Moving in the late 90's with her family Glen Rock, PA , Dee had an active home studio and played with the harpist Kris Synder in the duo Selkie, which specialized in Celtic music for parties, pubs and Irish festivals. There the electric violin and foot pedal playing start ed. After about 10 years of teaching and playing electric violin Dee and her family moved to the Holly Springs, MS area and taught at Cross Roads Music in the Olive Branch,Ms. After quite a few years that store eventually went out of business and she focused on her wedding clients doing indoor and outdoor weddings, receptions, nursing homes and parties in the Memphis area. This last year she concentrated on playing in an Irish band and sitting in at Celtic Crossing. The extra driving to midtown and parts of Memphis got to be too much for their animals ( 5 horses - 5 donkeys - goats) and 3 grand children that she decided to concentrate on teaching and playing in the Collierville,TN area instead. She is excited to accept students from 5 years up and has a few instruments to rent as well. Homeschoolers are welcome in the earlier day slots with group lessons offered later on. Call and schedule a free meet and greet with Miss. Dee to set up a time and size instruments.

Alexander Knowles

Martial Arts & 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 has been teaching martial arts for five years and holds the Black Sash Level of training in BattleMasters and a Black Belt in Karate. He is an Honors Junior at the University of Memphis where he is majoring in Biomechanical Engineering.

Angelica Rendek

Piano Instructor

New in Town, Angelica Rendek is a current Doctor of Musical Arts student at the University of Memphis. She recently graduated from the Ohio University School of Music where she received a Master of Music in Piano Performance/Pedagogy. During her time at Ohio University, Ms. Rendek studied with Dr. Christopher Fisher. Angelica received her Bacholer of Music from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory in 2017. There, she had the opportunity to intern with the conservatory piano department. At Baldwin Wallace, Angelica studied with Mary Dobrea-Grindahl. Other former teachers include Sungeun Kim, Robert Mayerovitch, Jeffery Panko, and Mary Sauer.

During her time at Ohio University, Ms. Rendek performed with the OU Symphony Orchestra, took 2nd prize in the Ohio MTA/Graves Piano Competition Adult Duo Division with duet partner Elizabeth Jackson, and with the Ohio University MTNA chapter was awarded the National Collegiate Chapter of the Year Award, 2018 at the MTNA national conference. Last summer, Angelica had the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Classical Music Festival Piano Seminar in Eisenstadt, Austria, where she attended lectures, performances, and received lessons.
Ms. Rendek is currently a graduate assistant, teaching music appreciation and accompanying. Angelica hopes to continue work with private lessons and group classes in the Memphis area.

Shane Cole

Vocal & Piano Instructor

Bio coming soon!

Tom Cognetti

Band Instrument/Saxophone Instructor

Bio Coming Soon!

Contact Our Staff

A member of our Collierville Arts Academy staff will respond to any email inquiries as quickly as their schedule will permit.
Thank you!.