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The Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence

Established in 1985, the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence brings regionally and nationally acclaimed artists to campus to work with students and the community in a dynamic atmosphere of unrestricted experimentation.The Center and the Acuff Circle of Excellence produced a video in tribute to Roy Acuff and to showcase the importance of the Acuff Chair of Excellence to the university and students.Click here to view the video.

The 2014-15 Acuff Chairs of Excellence are:

Charles Niedich (September 12 – 20, 2014)

Hailed by the New Yorker as “a master of his instrument and beyond a clarinetist,” Charles Neidich has been described as one of the most mesmerizing musicians performing before the public today. He regularly appears as soloist and as collaborator in chamber music programs with leading ensembles including the Saint Louis Symphony, Minneapolis Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, I Musici di Montreal, Tafelmusik, Handel/Haydn Society, Royal Philharmonic, Deutsches Philharmonic, MDR Symphony, Yomiuri Symphony, National Symphony of Taiwan, and the Juilliard, Guarneri, Brentano, American, Mendelssohn, Carmina, Colorado, and Cavani String Quartets.

Known as a leading exponent of period instrument performance practice (he is the founder of the noted period instrument wind ensemble, “Mozzafiato”) Charles Neidich was one of the first soloists to improvise cadenzas and ornament classical concertos. He has performed his restoration of the Mozart Concerto throughout the world both on modern and period instruments. Mr. Neidich has been influential in restoring original versions of works and bringing them before the public. A list of the clarinet classics he has restored to their original form includes works as diverse as the previously mentioned Mozart Concerto, Concerti of Weber and Copland, the Soireest cke of Robert Schumann and the Andante and Allegro of Ernest Chausson. Mr. Neidich is also an ardent exponent of new music and has premiered works by Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Edison Denisov, Helmut Lachenmann, William Schuman, Ralph Shapey, Joan Tower, Katia Tchemberdji, Vasilii Lobanov and others. He has championed John Corigliano’s Concerto, performing it throughout the United States notably with the Syracuse and Jacksonville Symphonies in performances many have called definitive. His recordings are available on the sony Classical, Sony Vivarte, Deutsche Grammophon, Musicmasters, Hyperion, and Bridge labels. For Aaron Copland’s centennial, he released the world premiere recording of his reconstruction of the original version of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto with “I Musici di Montreal” for the Chandos label.

Willie Anthony Waters (October 19 – November 4, 2014)

Willie Anthony Waters is a regular guest of the opera companies in North America, Europe, and Africa, including notable recent appearances with the Australian Opera, Arizona Opera (Aida, La Fanciulla del West), Boston Lyric Opera (The Abduction from the Seraglio and a gala concert), Deutsche Oper Berlin and Capetown, South Africa (Porgy and Bess), Chautauqua Opera (The Daughter of the Regiment), Cincinnati Opera (Carmen), Cologne(Germany) Opera, Dayton Opera (Carmen), Edmonton Opera (Nabucco), Fort Worth Opera (Turandot), Kentucky Opera (Salome), Manitoba Opera (Nabucco), Michigan Opera, Montreal Opera (La Gioconda, Aida and Tosca), New York City Opera (Rigoletto and Of Mice and Men), Opera Memphis (Tosca, Rigoletto and La Traviata), Opera Carolina (Der Fliegende Holländer), Opera Colorado (Porgy and Bess), Opera de Quebec (Carmen), Orlando Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor, Falstaff, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni), San Diego Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor), San Francisco Opera, Vancouver Opera (La Traviata), and the Florida Grand Opera.

He served as General and Artistic Director of the Connecticut Opera for 12 years, conducting more than thirty productions. He also served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Florida Grand Opera for seven seasons. During his tenure, he led a number of noteworthy productions, including Salome, Manon LescautDie WalküreMacbeth, Aida, Of Mice and Men, Falsfaff, Bianca e Falliero, Cristoforo Coolmbo, La Gioconda, Turandot, Tosca, Carmen, Trouble in Tahiti, and Lucia di Lammermoor. He recently returned to the company as a guest to conduct Carmen.

On the concert stage, he has conducted the Brucknerhaus Orchestra (Linz, Austria), Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Essen(Germany) Philharmonic, Florida Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, at the Spoleto Festival, Southwest German Radio Orchestra, and Tallahassee Symphony.

He has conducted recordings for Philips Records for Simon Estes and for Shirley Verrett, and conducted concerts for many of opera’s notable artists.

Mr. Waters is a native of Miami and graduate of the University of Miami.  Following that, he served as Artistic Administrator of the San Francisco Opera under Kurt Herbert Adler.  In 1991, he was the recipient of the “prix de Martell,” in honor of his contributions to the community.

Anna Celenza (November 11 – 19, 2014)

Anna Harwell Celenza is the Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music at Georgetown University and the author of several scholarly books, including Music as Cultural Mission: Explorations of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America (2014) and Hans Christian Andersen and Music: The Nightingale Revealed (2005). Her work has also appeared in The Hopkins Review, Musical Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Music, Notes, The Cambridge Companion to Liszt (2005), and Franz Liszt and His World (2006) and The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington (2014). In addition to her scholarly work, she has authored a series of award-winning children’s books with Charlesbridge Publishing: The Farewell Symphony (2000), Pictures at an Exhibition (2003), The Heroic Symphony (2004), Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2005), Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (2006), Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (2011), Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (2012), Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre (2013) and a 14-part syndicated series on Louis Armstrong for the NC Press Foundation. Her work has been featured on nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, including NPR’s Todd Mundt Show, BBC’s Music Matters and Proms Broadcasts, as well as C-Span’s Book-TV. Before coming to Georgetown University she served as a writer and guest commentator for Michigan Public Radio and NPR’s Performance Today.

Orchid Ensemble  (February 22 – 28, 2015)

Established in 1997, the JUNO nominated Orchid Ensemble blends ancient musical instruments and traditions from China and beyond, creating a beautiful new sound. The ensemble has embraced a variety of musical styles to its repertoire, ranging from the traditional and contemporary music of China, World Music, New Music to Jazz and Creative Improvisation. The energetic yet endearing performance style of the ensemble consistently intrigues and delights its audiences. Acclaimed as “One of the brightest blossoms on the world music scene” (Georgia Straight), the Orchid Ensemble regularly collaborates with artists from various backgrounds. Its annual productions have evolved to integrate music with multimedia, dance, and scenographic installation. The ensemble tours regularly across North America, giving over seventy performances every year at concert halls, educational institutes, and prominent World, Jazz and Folk Music festivals. As British Columbia’s spokesperson for the UNESCO ASPnet in Canada, the Orchid Ensemble gives educational presentations to various age groups.

Jo-Michael Scheibe (April 14 – 18, 2015)

Scheibe is the chair of the Thornton School of Music’s department of choral and sacred music at the University of Southern California. No stranger to ACDA, Scheibe served as National President (2011-2013), National President Elect (2008-2011), Western Division President (1991-1993), and National Repertoire and Standards Chairperson for Community Colleges (1980-1989). Ensembles under his leadership have sung at six national ACDA conventions, two national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference and at the National Conference of the National Collegiate Choral Organization.

Scheibe has collaborated with Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, Salvatore Licitra, Maria Guleghina and Kenny Loggins. He prepared choruses for Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra, and Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony. Recordings of his ensembles have been released on the Albany, Cane, Naxos, Arsis and ANS labels.

A champion of contemporary music, Scheibe regularly commissions and performs new works of choral literature. Music publishers Walton, Colla Voce Music and Santa Barbara distribute the Jo-Michael Scheibe Choral Series internationally.

Scheibe has directed community choral organizations and music ministries in churches, including Coral Gables Congregational Church, whose choir appeared at the 2002 ACDA Southern Division Convention. He is in frequent demand worldwide as a clinician, conductor and adjudicator.

Scheibe returned to the University of Southern California in 2008 after 15 years as director of Choral Studies at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. He received his D.M.A. from the University of Southern California and his B.A. and M.M. degrees from California State University at Long Beach, where he was presented with the distinguished alumnus award.

Rhonda Larson (April 20 – 29, 2015)

Flutist Rhonda Larson entered the national music scene by winning first prize in the National Flute Association’s Young Artist Competition in 1985, including a Carnegie Hall debut. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Paul Winter Consort, initiating her journey of combining diverse musical styles into her classical training.

After eight years with the Consort and winning a Grammy, Rhonda left the group to embark on exploring her individual cross-cultural/multi-genre path. She began composing tailor-made music suited to her technical prowess and learning ethnic flutes from around the world while immersing herself in the archives of indigenous folk music. Rhonda formed her band, Ventus, and began her the next phase of her touring career. Additionally during this time, she established her own music publishing company, Wood Nymph Music.

Rhonda is a sought after teacher all around the globe. Comfortable with teaching students of all levels who have an open mind to learning, Rhonda’s goal in teaching is to assess the issues and bring each player to a place where they can play their music with technical ease and expressive freedom.  Recently she was a featured teacher at the National Flute Association National Convention.  She also gives a regularly occurring class each summer in Italy.

Now Rhonda performs regularly throughout North America with her “One Woman, A World of Music” show and with her band Ventus. She has journeyed to South Africa as a musical ambassador for the United States to perform for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. In addition to South Africa, Rhonda has toured in Russia, Japan, Europe, South America and Central America. She has performed as a guest soloist with guest soloist Eileen Ivers, famed celtic fiddle player of the original “Riverdance” troupe.

Rhonda has a discography of over 19 commercial recordings with Distant Mirrors, an eclectic musical reflection on world cultures and ancient traditions, being listed in the top ten of the “25 Essential CD’s” by nationally syndicated Public Radio program, Echoes. Additionally, she has recorded a variety of flute music for the CBS television series, such as “Survivor” and “The Restaurant,” including the Live CBS finale episode of “Survivor” from Madison Square Garden’s, seen by over 40 million viewers.

Former recipients of the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence include:

Scott McCloud (2013-14) - American cartoonist and comics theorist, author of the classic study, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

David Huddle (2012-13) - Esteemed poet, fiction writer, and essayist.

Rachel Keebler (2011-12) - Theatre Design

Sarah Haas (2011-12) - Dance

Second City (2011-12) - Theatre Performance

Peiling Kao (2011-12) - Dance

Tim Miller (2011-12) - Theatre Performance

Keith Fitzpatrick (2011-12) - Dance

Anne Marie Duggan (2011-12) - Lighting Design

Anthony Zerbe (2011-12) - Theatre Performance

The Ying Quartet (2010–11) - The Ying Quartet occupies a position of unique prominence in the classical music world, combining brilliantly communicative performances with a fearlessly imaginative view of chamber music in today’s world. Now in its second decade, the Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest musical qualifications in its tours across the United States and abroad. Their performances regularly take place in many of the world's most important concert halls, from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. At the same time, the Quartet's belief that concert music can also be a meaningful part of everyday life has also drawn the foursome to perform in settings as diverse as the workplace, schools, juvenile prisons, and the White House. In fact, the Ying Quartet's constant quest to explore the creative possibilities of the string quartet has led it to an unusually diverse array of musical projects and interests.

Sydney Guillaume (2010–11) - Sydney Guillaume, originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, came to the United States at the age of 11. His compositions have been praised by the Miami Herald to show “impressive maturity and striking melodic distinction.” Guillaume hopes that his music will serve as an ambassador for his country and create an awareness of the beautiful culture that exists amidst the economic and political turmoil. Sydney is an active member of the choral community both as a composer and singer. He has been commissioned by renowned choirs such as The University of Miami Frost Chorale, Seraphic Fire, The Young New Yorkers Chorus, The Miami Children's Chorus and Kokopelli Choir. He is in high demand for commissioned works and his music has been performed at the American Choral Directors Association, All-State conventions, and abroad. Sydney resides in Los Angeles, California, where he is also pursuing a career in film music.

William Bennett (2010–11) - William Bennett, affectionately referred to by friends and students as “WIBB” has been one of the most inspiring performers and teachers of the last 40 years. A student of Jean-Pierre Rampal, Marcel Moyse, and Geoffrey Gilbert, he has embodied the best of these three great masters thereby continuing their legacy with his inspiring master classes and approach to coaching flutists towards a greater musicality. To date, he has recorded at least 300 separate musical works from the solo flute repertoire, chamber music, including selections from his vast collection of personal transcriptions for flute. His orchestral career has been prolific with his numerous performances with the London Symphony, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the English Chamber Orchestra. His years of recordings and international performances as a soloist and Principal Flutist, along with his gift of an unique imaginative teaching style, have earned him the recognition of the Queen of England in 1995 with the OBE Award for his services in music. He is most known amongst flutists for his musical integrity, beautiful tone, and unique sense of artistry, not to mention his sense of humor. He was honored with the NFA Lifetime Achievement Award in August 2002, Washington D.C. – NFA Convention for his contributions and achievements.

Paul Schoenfield (2010–11) - Paul Schoenfield, a native of Detroit, began playing the piano at age six and wrote his first composition the following year. In addition to studying piano with Julius Chajes, Ozan Marsh, and Rudolf Serkin, he holds an undergraduate degree from Carnegie-Mellon University and a Doctor of Music Arts degree from the University of Arizona. He held a teaching position in Toledo, Ohio, lived on a kibbutz in Israel and was a free-lance composer and pianist in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area before moving to Cleveland. He is now on the faculty of the University of Michigan. Mr. Schoenfield has received commissions and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Commission, Chamber Music America, Rockefeller Fund, Minnesota Commissioning Club, American Composers Forum, Soli Deo Gloria of Chicago, and the Juilliard School for its centennial. Although he now rarely performs, he was formerly an active pianist, touring the United States, Europe, and South America as a soloist and with groups including Music from Marlboro. His recordings as a pianist include the complete violin and piano works of Bartok with Sergiu Luca. His compositions can be heard on the Angel, Decca, Innova, Vanguard, EMI, Koch, BMG, and the New World labels. A man of many interests, Paul Schoenfield is also an avid scholar of mathematics and Hebrew.

Clifton Ware (2010–11) - Dr. Clifton Ware, an internationally known vocal pedagogue, master teacher, tenor soloist and author. Professor Emeritus of Voice Pedagogy, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, received his DM degree in vocal performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. As the chair of the Roy A. Schuessler Vocal Arts Center (1990-2007), he conceived, organized, and executed many successful vocal events for the benefit of the local, regional, and national vocal communities. He has been engaged as a guest artist/teacher at fifty-five colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, South America and Europe, in addition to giving presentations at numerous professional meetings. As a tenor soloist, he has performed extensively in opera (53 roles), oratorio (79 works), and numerous recital venues in the U.S. and abroad. He can be heard on four recordings, including Benjamin Britten's St. Nicolas (MHS) and Paul Bunyan (Virgin Records). Dr. Ware has authored three highly acclaimed publications: Adventures in Singing (McGraw-Hill, 4e 2008), Basics of Vocal Pedagogy (McGraw-Hill, 1998), and The Singer’s Life: Goals and Roles (Birch Grove Publications, 2005). His most recent book—The Aging Challenge: Making the Most of Life After 50—was released in January 2009. All books contain themes related to mind-body health and living a balanced life.

Ian Berry (2009-10) - Ian Berry is the Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator at The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. A specialist in contemporary art, he has organized several exhibitions for The Tang Museum, including projects that combine antique maps, scientific equipment, Rube Goldberg cartoons, and Shaker furniture, with new works of international contemporary art.

Louise Erdrich (2008-09) - Louise Erdrich is the author of twelve novels as well as volumes of poetry, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.

Lawrence Goldhuber (2007-08) - is a choreographer, dancer, actor, and performance artist who has worked in New York for more than 20 years.

The Second City Touring Company (2007-08) - The Second City Touring Company has been bringing laughter and joy to packed houses all over North America for over forty five years. Funny and fast-paced, The Second City is ideal entertainment for venues looking to reach both new audiences and old. Whether it’s a one night engagement or a sit down run, The Second City is always topical, highly interactive and sure to have audiences rolling in the aisles.

Mark Block (2007-08) - Talent Agent - The Block Agency is the Southeast's premiere and most selective modeling and talent agency. The Block Agency is focused on providing both talent and clients the personal service they deserve and we will work our hardest to get talent paid as fast as possible. A brand new agency with young, fresh energy, The Block Agency is dedicated to placing the Southeast's top models and actors in the perfect roles.

Annmarie Duggan (2007-08) -Lighting Designer - Duggan’s recent design credits include: Animal Cracker, for the Skylight Opera, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Beauty and The Beast for Seaside Music Theatre, Daytona Beach, Florida; the York Theater production of Captain Louie in New York City; and The American Girls Revue, The American Girl Theatre, Chicago, Illinois. Duggan has designed lights for the world premiere of Sherry Landrum and George S. Clinton’s bluegrass musical, That Other Woman’s Child. Her work has been seen in theatres around the country.

Karen E. Maguire (2007-08) - toured her play, Love Arm’d, Aphra Behn & Her Pen nationally and internationally to the Bedlam Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Mission Theatre in Bath, England. Her play about Jane Austen had a workshop in Stockton, California, and Pace University, culminating in a performance in New York City at the renowned Players Club and at the Mission Theatre in Bath, England for the Jane Austen Festival and was invited back to a week long run to great acclaim. Maguire is currently managing Director for Blue Roses Productions.

7 Stages Inc.  - Bernard Koltes (2007-08) - 7 Stages is a professional, non-profit theatre company devoted to engaging artists and audiences by focusing on the social, political, and spiritual values of contemporary culture. 7 Stages gives primary emphasis to international work and the support and development of new plays, new playwrights, and new methods of collaboration.

Cantus (2006-07) - Cantus was founded in the fall of 1995 when a few college friends gathered on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. The Washington Post called the singers' sound "beaming and elastic" and referred to their music as "spontaneous grace."

Bodo Igesz (2006-07) - A career of over 40 years has taken Mr. Igesz across three continents. In the U.S. A. he is well-known for his work at the Metropolitan Opera.

Tony Plog (2006-07) - The music of Anthony Plog has been performed in over 30 countries around the world. He is the recipient of numerous grants and commissions, including the National Endowment for the Arts ( for the American Brass Quintet), the Malmo Symphony ( Sweden ), Nick Norton and the Utah Symphony, the Summit Brass, the GECA Brass Ensemble in France, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the University of Texas at Austin, and the St. Louis Brass Quintet.

John L.Whitwell (2006-07) - is Director of bands, Professor of Music and Chair of the Conducting Area at Michigan State University, where he conducts the Wind Symphony and guides the graduate degree programs in Wind Conducting.

Lee Hoiby (2006-07) - was an American classical pianist and composer. He was one of the most notable living composers of classical vocal music

Linda Norlen (2005-06) – graphic designer and critic.

Michael Blumenthal (2004-05) – internationally renowned poet and memoirist, author of Against Romance and All My Fathers and Mothers.

Louis Fantasia (2003-04) – internationally prominent actor, director, producer, theatre critic and arts commentator.

Elizabeth Walton Vercoe (2002-03) – prominent 20th century composer.

Carol Scott-Kassner (2002-03) – nationally known author of music education literature.

George McCauley (2001-02) – acclaimed ceramicist.

David Bradley (2000-01) – African American scholar and novelist, author of The Chaneysville Incident.

Kelly Morgan (1999-00) – nationally prominent actor, director, producer, choreographer, teacher and administrator in stage, film and television.

Dalton Baldwin (1998-99) – internationally acclaimed pianist.

Matthew Harp Allen (1998-99) – ethnomusicologist.

Donna Loewy (1998-99) – vocal coach/accompanist.

David Holsinger (1998-99) – eminent band composer.

Frederic Goossen (1998-99) – nationally known composer/music theorist.

Cedric Dent (1998-99) – Grammy award-winning singer, pianist, arranger, conductor and producer.

Frances Whitehead (1997-98) – internationally acclaimed sculptor.

Carolyn Forche' (1996-97) – poet and global champion of the oppressed and downtrodden.

Elizabeth Van Dyke (1995-96) – multi-award winning actress and director.

Tim Gerber (1994-95) – music educator and co-author of the popular text, Music! Its Role and Importance in our Lives.

Jim Nutt (1993-94) – internationally distinguished painter.

John Haines (1992-93) – two-time Guggenheim Fellow, poet and essayist.

Howard Stein (1991-92) – internationally acclaimed thespian, playwright and author.

Ron Nelson (1990-91) – nationally known composer of choral, band and orchestral works.

Ted Orland (1988-89) – nationally recognized photographer/artist.

David Madden (1987-88) – Southern fiction writer, playwright, critic and author.

Arthur Kopit (1986-87) – internationally acclaimed American playwright.