Collierville Arts Academy

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 disciplines 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, Hamilton, On Your Feet!, Cats, and more.

During our 2019-2020 season we hosted Master Classes with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Aladdin!  We hold regular master classes throughout the year in dance, martial arts, fencing, and other program areas.  

CAA dance program and music program alumni can be found performing in Broadway musicals, DisneyWorld, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, and many 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 to name just a few.

Julie Knowles, Academy Founder & Director

Academy Founder, Director, Instructor, Choreographer, Personal Trainer

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, The Julliard School, 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 a certified dance professional, certified personal trainer, and earned a black belt in shotokan Karate.  She holds membership in several professional organizations and non-profit boards.  She is a member of the Royal Academy of Dancing and is the current Artistic Director of the Collierville Ballet.  Mrs Knowles has been married to Tom Knowles for 31+ 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 Fortney

Assistant Studio Manager, Dance Instructor, Choreographer

Mrs. Fortney 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. Mrs. Fortney has attended several SERBA (Southeastern Regional Ballet Association) conferences and taught with the Lausanne Collegiate School Summer Program, The Goddard School in Collierville, TN and St. George’s Independent School extra-curricular programs.

Mrs. Fortney 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.   Ms Abby and her husband, Jimmy, are the proud parents of an adorable daughter who just loves to dance!

Catherine Cupido

Graphics Designer, Fine Arts Instructor, Scenic Designer

Mrs. Cupido is a professional artist and illustrator from Memphis, TN and the director of graphic design for the University of Memphis'.  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. 

Mrs. Cupido is also a sought after graphic designer and illustrator with project credits all across the country.  She 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, Mrs. Cupido's 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, Mrs. Cupido 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. Her artwork has also been selected to be used on the back of the United States Mint Quarter coin design for 2019.

Now in her 15-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!

Terry Johnson

Fitness, Kickboxing, Muay Thai Martial Arts Instructor

Terry Johnson has been a powerhouse fitness and martial arts instructor for over fifteen years in the Memphis community. As a pro-fighter on the MMA circuit he brings experience and dedication to his classes and clients.  Coach Terry's kickboxing and H.I.T.T workouts are excellent.  His enthusiasm and knowledge as an instructor help his clients achieve great results in weight loss, physical conditioning, cardio health, and functional fitness.  You will find Coach Terry working with all ages from 4 through adults of all ages and skill levels in the studios.  Terry also offers self-defense workshops, weight loss wedding bootcamps, and athletic conditioning workshops.  Terry Johnson is also a Muay Thai instructor with more than fifteen years of teaching experience with UFC and as a professional MMA fighter and teaches Martial Arts instruction for children, teens, and adults at Collierville Arts Academy.

Tony Cupido

Fine Arts Instructor

An all-around great guy, Tony Cupido is originally from San Fernando Valley, California and now lives in Germantown, TN and is married to Catherine Cupido (Fine Arts Instructor). He has a terrific talent for instructing students of all ages and loves to help teach others how to cultivate the best 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. Mr Cupido holds a Computer Science degree with a concentration in cybersecurity at the University of Memphis and is building his own custom software designing company.

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 and has competed in the North American Cup Fencing International Tournament. He has been teaching martial arts for eight years and holds the highest level Black Sash of training in BattleMasters and he has a Black Belt in Tigers Karate.

Mr Knowles holds a Biomechanical Engineering and Mathematics degrees from the University of Memphis.   Currently he is writing a novel and completing his Masters Degree in Biomechanical Engineering.  Alexander enjoys inspiring his students to deliver their very best work in classes and enjoys making the learning environment encouraging for everyone in class.

Macie Mathers

Fine Arts Instructor

Ms Mathers biography is currently being updated. Please check back soon.

Savannah Espinola

Dance Instructor

Savannah Espinola's biography is currently being updated - please check back soon!

Diana Knowles

Dance Instructor and Piano Instructor

Diana Knowles is an awarding winning performer and a Soloist with the Collierville Ballet Company, Ms Knowles enjoys sharing her love of dance with all of her students and she is proud to be completing her professional dance teacher certification in ballet this year.  As an accomplished pianist, you will often hear her playing everything from Mozart and Beethoven to Billy Joel, Elton John, popular video games themes and famous movie soundtracks.  Wherever there is a piano, you can be certain Diana will be playing it.  Ms Knowles is also a church organist and one of the youngest church organists in the entire mid-south region.  

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Collierville Arts Academy