ARTPLAY TEACHING ARTISTS
LaShanna R. Tripp
LaShanna R. Tripp is a publicist, spoken word and voice-over artist, writer, songwriter, actress and director. In 2002, she founded Wordz & Rhythmz LLC (W&R LLC), a Spoken Word/Performing Arts and PR/Event Promotions organization. A published writer, LaShanna’s autobiographical excerpt, “What If God Said ‘No?’” appears in Tavis Smiley’s book, Keeping The Faith: Stories of Love, Courage, Healing, and Hope from Black America, which garnered the 2003 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Nonfiction.
Whether nurturing emerging writers, creating original choreography for middle school musicals, teaching the finer points of acting and movement to elementary students, or enlightening 18 month olds on the artistic techniques of Pablo Picasso, Leila is an arts educator with a passion for fun and imagination. Leila believes strongly in an early introduction to the world of music, dance and visual art, and in the incredible power of artistic play to drive human creativity and ingenuity.
An alumni of UAB comedian Marvin Lee has been on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, BET’s Coming to the Stage and the only comedian in the United States to represent the USA three years in a row at the Great Canadian Laugh Off. By consistently bringing his audience to their knees with laughter Marvin Lee has become the #1 online booked comedian in Las Vegas performing at such renown venues as the Bellaigo and Hard Rock as well as becoming one of the top rated comedians in Orlando, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Columbus. Now he is bringing the art of Stand-up comedy to ArtPlay! With over seventeen years of experience, Marvin offers a unique and fun insight into the world of stand-up comedy. Wanting this to be more than “Just a class” Marvin Lee has taken past graduates with him on the road to perform at comedy clubs across our nation giving them real world experience and the opportunity to kick off their own comedy career.
Mary Kaiser teaches writing and literature at Jefferson State Community College. She has been knitting all her life, and has been spinning and dyeing yarn and designing patterns for fifteen years. Her designs have appeared in Socks-Socks-Socks (XRX Publishing, 1998) and The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters (Interweave Press, 2007) . Mary is on the board of the Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild. Her column Knitting Life appears in Interweave Knits, and she blogs about knitting, reading, and life at Mrs. Ramsey’s Knitting, http://mrsramseysknitting.blogspot.com.
Melissa Turnage has been a teaching artist for dance everywhere from Baltimore to Birmingham and is an Artist Educator for the Birmingham Cultural Alliance. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Melissa’s experience in performing and teaching dance spans over 40 years. Melissa is trained in both ballet and modern and has worked all over Birmingham doing both community dance education and outreach. She currently also teaches ballet at Birmingham Southern College.
Michelle Reynolds, a contributing writer for Alabama Gardener Magazine, is a self-taught naturalist and plant enthusiast. She serves on the Board of Directors at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and on the Advisory Board of Birmingham Audubon. She has spent the last three years spearheading the native plant restoration and rain garden projects at the LEED certified Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. She also works as an Outdoor Classroom Consultant for the Alabama Wildlife Federation. She leads garden programs at Ruffner Mountain, Audubon Mountain Workshop, Birmingham area botanical gardens, and local garden clubs. A contributing writer and blogger for Alabama Gardener Magazine, she profiles unique gardens in the Birmingham area. When she is not talking, working, writing, or thinking about gardening, she is designing and making slipcovers and nature inspired fabric art in the studio behind her house. Lately, her business, Coverings, has been taking a back seat to her more naturalist leanings.
Pat Bowman Billups is a piano teacher of some 34 years in the Birmingham community. She is passionate about teaching the skills that prepare students of all ages to play piano, compose music, and develop their individual music goals and creativity. She currently serves as the state chair of Alabama Junior Music Festivals under the auspices of the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC). In Alabama’s District II (Birmingham), she serves as chair of the Theory Festival and has worked with the state chair of the Junior Composer Festival. These festivals offer opportunities for young musicians to compete in various areas of music. Previously, she served for 13 years in the position of coordinator for City Stages Jazz Camp. She also serves as the choir director at First Baptist Church Graymont.
Rob Alley is not only one of the most in-demand trumpeters in the southeastern US, he is also an award-winning composer/arranger, an educator, and over-all one of the most diverse musicians in the region.
Since moving to Alabama in 2000 Rob has performed regularly with a multitude of professional ensembles. From symphony orchestras and brass quintets to big bands and a multitude of small-group jazz ensembles, Broadway musicals, a surf-rock band, rock, r&b, soul, and funk groups, as well as continuing to spearhead his own ensembles of differing sizes and instrumentation to perform his own compositions. The list of performers he has, and continues to work and record with is a virtual mosaic of the music scene of the southeastern United States.
In addition, Rob has performed with international artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Patti Austin, Byron Stripling, Marvin Stamm, Bill Watrous, Jon Faddis, Diane Schuure, John Mosca, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The O’Jays, Frankie Valli, and many others.
Highly regarded as a composer and arranger, in 2007 Rob was a recipient of the Arkansas Arts Council’s Individual Artist Fellowship Grant for his jazz composition “12 for 3”.
Thoroughly committed to passing on the gifts that he has been given, Rob is a gifted educator whose pedagogical philosophy can be summed up as “A responsibility not only to train musicians, but to help students develop into better human beings through explorations in music.”
Rob holds a Master of Music (Suma Cum Laude) from the University of Alabama. He is currently a faculty member at UA teaching in the Jazz Department.
Sarah Heath received her BFA in sculpture from the University of Kansas and her MFA from the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, where she graduated with distinction. While in Georgia Sarah was the gallery coordinator for the Georgia Sculptors Society and an active member of the Lamar Dodd School of Art Student Advisory Board. In the past 6 years Sarah has shown in 27 art exhibitions in 8 states across the US. In 2009 she won a “Gold Metal in Fine Arts” Award from Creative Quarterly magazine and was listed in their “New Talent Gallery.” In 2010 she won the Athens Classic Center purchase award from the Juried Athens Sculpture Festival. Sarah has given artist lectures at Salem Art Works in New York, Piedmont College, Lamar Dodd School of Art and the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art in Georgia. She has been an artist in residence at Sloss Metal Arts in Birmingham Al, and Salem Art Works in Salem NY.
You can view other works by Sarah at www.sarahheath.carbonmade.com.
Sharrif Simmons is a performance artist, songwriter and poet whose writing career has spanned more than a decade. His poetry combines relevant messages about today’s life experiences and social struggles with images of self-expression and inner strength. His education as a writer began at U.C.L.A. (also known as University on the Corner of Lenox Avenue), at the famed Liberation Bookstore on 131st St. & Lenox Avenue.
Sunny Davenport is a native of Birmingham, attended Birmingham schools, and received a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy from the University of Alabama. She completed her clinical internship at HEALSOUTH Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and became a nationally board-certified music therapist in 1998. She is experienced in providing music therapy to people with a wide range of neurological, physical, and emotional disorders. Sunny pioneered the Music Therapy Department at UAB Medical Center and guided its development and growth from 1999 to 2011. In 2012, she started Music Therapy of Alabama, LLC.
Sunny’s passion is teaching music (piano, guitar and voice) and providing music therapy to children and young adults with special needs. She is an instructor for Dance Trance, a national dance fitness program. Sunny is married to Peter Davenport. They have one son, Isaac, two years old.
Susan holds an MFA in theatre from the University of Alabama and has served Jacksonville State University with emphasis in directing and performance. She has published with “Southern Theatre”, adjudicated for the Kennedy Center Association for College Theatre, and presented intensives such as “Creative Culture—Developing “Th BURNING” and “The Real Method with Anna Strasberg.
A member of SAG-Aftra and Actors’ Equity, Susan worked and studied professionally on the west coast—coordinating Screen Actors Guild with The American Film Institute and working with industry notables such as Kathy Fields Lander and Sean Penn. Lee Strasberg became her mentor. His tutelage remains at the heart of her teaching—revealing simple yet immense truths of the human condition. An *LSTFI approved teacher, Susan “celebrates the art within each of us and facilitates its most pure and profound expression.”
*the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute – New York and Los Angeles
Tommy Thompson is a native of Birmingham and has been sharing music with this city for most of his life. He shares his voice by singing locally as a soloist, in a variety of choral groups, as well as in theatrical, opera, and cabaret productions. In addition to his music he has always had a great love and passion for education, children and their growth and development. His life’s work has lead him to pursue his passion for education and children as a community health educator, a Registered Nurse in which he received his basic training at Jefferson State Community College and continued training at the Capstone College of Nursing and, in recent years, he has obtained a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a BS in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Montevallo. And is always continuing to learn, both through obtaining further education and training, and always through his students.
Trent Thomas (b. 1980) works as a painter, book artist & art teacher in his native Birmingham, AL. Beginning in the mid-00′s, Trent studied art at the University of Birmingham at Alabama, achieving a Bachelor of Arts in 2009. In that time, he exhibited in several shows in the area, including a solo show, “Everybody (Almost)”, a collection of portraits in 2008. Trent has also conducted lectures, classes and workshops in several universities, high schools, and for area art associations, as well as at Forstall Art Center. He resides in Birmingham, Alabama.
William-Michael Cooper began his professional studies with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II where he studied ballet, jazz, and the Horton modern dance technique. During his time as a student, he also worked with Ballet Tech while obtaining his BFA in Ballet at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), University of Cincinnati. Cooper has since worked with Cincinnati Ballet, Alabama Ballet, Les Ballets Grandiva, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. He is a certified Graham instructor and has taught for the Ecole Superieure de Danse Cannes with Rosella Hightower, College-Conservatory of Music’s Preparatory Department, Ballet Tech of Ohio, the ABT Summer Intensives, and the NYU Preparatory Department, Staten Island University, and Birmingham-Southern College. Cooper’s choreography has been set internationally and national with several professional dance companies. Presently, Cooper works as a guest teaching artist for ArtPlay where he teaches ballet and modern dance. ArtPlay is part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s arts education and outreach program through the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center in Birmingham, Alabama. William-Michael Cooper is currently a professional ballet dancer with Men on Pointe which is based in New York City and tours internationally.