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. We've hosted Master Classes with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Aladdin!

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.

We hold regular master classes throughout the year in dance, martial arts, fencing, and other program areas.

Our recent graduating classes included students attending college on scholarships or working at 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 Hunt Knowles
Julie H. Knowles
Thomas Knowles
Thomas M. Knowles
Abby Fortney!
Abby Pohlman Fortney
Victoria Knowles!
Victoria A. Knowles
Savannah Espinola!
Savannah Espinola
Diana Knowles!
Diana G. Knowles
Brian Costner!
Brian Costner
Coach Alex!
Alexander Knowles
Mr T!
Terry Johnson
Guest Teachers
Master Teachers
Professional Artists
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Julie Hunt Knowles

Collierville Arts Academy Founder & Director
Artistic Director of the Collierville Ballet

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 original 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 soloist 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, Mrs. Knowles’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 among many other prestigious companies and organizations. 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.

She maintains membership in Royal Academy of Dancing and is the current Artistic Director of the Collierville Ballet. She holds membership in several professional organizations and non-profit boards. Mrs. Knowles is a certified dance professional, certified personal trainer, and has earned a black belt in Shotokan Karate.  In addition to her professional entertainment career, Mrs Knowles is a Youth Group Leader at her church, enjoys event planning, gardening, and producing internet content and podcasts. Mrs. Knowles has been married to Tom Knowles for 33+ years and together they have four amazing adult children.  Romans 8:14-18

Tom Knowles!

Thomas Michael Knowles

Academy Founder & Director

Tom 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 adult children.

Abby Fortney!

Abby Pohlman Fortney

Studio Manager, Dance Instructor, Choreographer
Assistant Director of the Collierville Ballet

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, Mrs. Fortney 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 the assistant director 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!

This Bio is being updated - check back soon!

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