Hand Holding a Plant

  Our Teachers 

Mary Joy Nelson.jpg
Mary Joy Nelson

Ms. Nelson is the Founding Executive Director of InnOVATION Arts Academy. Previously, she founded the A.C.E. Preparatory program and Broadway Bound Summer Camps at the University of Kentucky, where she completed her MMus in vocal performance. Several students in her programs have landed major roles in national Broadway productions in recent years (Audrey Bennett, Brooklyn Shuck, Kyla Carter). She has been teaching youth and children in the performing arts for over 20 years and currently works at InnOVATION as an administrator, producer, director and music director.  She teaches students in Lexington, New York, LA, Utah, and Florida in voice, acting and audition techniques.

Stephanie Valentino

Stephanie Valentino has been dancing, singing, and performing in Lexington, KY for the majority of her life. Stephanie has taught dance and choreographed at the Academy for Creative Excellence, Stage Right Acting, and Innovation Arts Academy. She has also worked on countless productions at many of Fayette County's public schools. During the school year, she teaches English Language Learners at Yates Elementary. Some of her favorite performance credits include Margot in Legally Blonde the Musical and Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. Some of Stephanie's favorite choreography projects include Xanadu Jr., Matilda, Frozen Jr., and Once on this Island.

Erin Headshot.jpg
Erin Tuttle

Erin Leland Tuttle has been teaching music and theatre to young artists for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education and a Master's Degree in Education with an emphasis in music and theatre. Over the years she has taught in the elementary music classroom, in her own music studio, in local theatres, with special needs choir groups, and as a contracted music director and director for theatre productions in public schools. In her "spare time" (haha!) she also performs with several theatrical productions in the area. Erin and her husband have two bands that perform locally: Station 22 ½ (their successful cover band) and Her Clever Machine (their originals, of which their youngest son, Xander, is their drummer). Erin and her husband also have an older son, Addison, who attends The University of Kentucky in the Musical Theatre program. Erin loves working at Innovation and getting to teach and love on all the "Theatre Babies" that join the Innovation family! 

Jack McIntyre

Jack McIntyre has been a regular guest instructor and director for InnOVATION over the years since its inception as a program. The disciplines he has taught at InnOVATION include acting, physical comedy and stage combat. He is looking forward to be teaching mask work and Comedia dell' Arte this session along with stage combat. Jack's arts training and conservatory educational background include undergraduate work at The North Carolina School of the Arts Theatre Program (1994-1997) and The University of Hartford HARTT School of Theatre (1997-2000) where he received his BFA. While studying at the HARTT School Jack trained abroad in England under the tutelage of instructors from The Royal Shakespeare Company, The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. During his training, Jack also became a certified stage combatant through the Society of American Fight Directors in the disciplines of hand-to-hand, rapier and dagger, broadsword, knife, and bowstaff. He has performed professionally in New York and Los Angeles. He has also made many appearances in roles and done fight choreography for the Lexington Shakespeare in the Park Festival over the years. Jack has been an educator for the Fayette County Public School system for over 15 years. He received his Master's of Fine Arts Degree in Special Education in 2014 from Georgetown College. Jack is thoroughly excited to be back to mentor and work with our awesome kids.

Danny Miller Headshot.JPG
Quiana Miller

Quiana Miller is a sophomore theatre major at BCTC. She has been dancing since she was 3, and performing on stage since she was 12. Quiana had taught dance at D&A studios for 4 or 5 years prior to its closure and since then she has choreographed a plethora of Fayette County Public School musicals, along with side projects and shows. Recent shows her choreography was featured in are Freaky Friday the musical, Beauty and the Beast, and Heathers High School Edition.

unnamed (1).jpeg
Kay Kissick

Kay Kissick has been a dance instructor for 36 years. For 8 years, she owned a dance studio in Winchester, Kentucky, called Arts Studio of Kentucky, and she has taught for many other studios. Kay has been Adjunct Faculty at both Indiana University Northwest in Gary, IN, and Valparaiso, IN, where she taught collegiate level courses and directed the universities’ dance companies. Kay is a charter member of the Nashville Ballet and danced professionally for 12 years, both in the ballet company and in off-Broadway musicals. Kay received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Oklahoma City University in 1987.

Nathan John-Paul

Nathan has a BFA in Musical Theatre from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and an MA in Theatre Practice from University College Dublin in partnership with the Gaiety School of Acting - The National Theatre School of Ireland. He has taken dance, film directing and acting courses from multiple universities. A former theatre professor and professional ballroom dancer and instructor, Nathan has stepped away from his position as the Artistic Director of Town Hall Productions in order to initiate and manage the Arts Department at The Ballroom House. He spent several summers teaching and directing Shakespeare at the
former Lexington Shakespeare Festival, and was instrumental in developing Shakespeare Under the Stars through Town Hall Productions. Nathan was the lead choreographer for the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games Opening Ceremony, has been a featured entertainer with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, won awards from film festivals and developed original pieces of theatre in Dublin, Edinburgh and Lexington. Nathan has performed in over 20 theatre productions and has directed and choreographed many more.

Chelsea Russell

Chelsea is a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, with majors in Theatre and Arts Administration, a Mathematics minor, and a Musical Theatre Certificate. While she is primarily an actress, she also has experience as a director, stage manager, fight director/captain, teacher, and arts administrator. She is certified in 6 of the 8 weapons offered by the Society of American Fight Directors, and is a certified Actor Combatant with the SAFD. Favorite performance credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hermia), The Watsons (Laura), Cabaret (Kit Kat), Into the Woods (Milky White/Little Red u/s), and The Wolves (#2). She is honored to have worked with companies like Distilled Theatre Company, Merit Theatre Company, Studio Players, UK Opera Theatre, and UK Department of Theatre and Dance. She is currently based in Lexington, KY, and serves as an Executive Assistant for the National Women’s Theatre Festival (Raleigh, NC), Associate Program Coordinator for InnOVATION, and holds a variety of other freelance positions.

Grace Hensley

Grace Hensley discovered musical theater in 3rd grade thanks to Mary Joy. Now Grace is starting a double major in Theater and Elementary Education at the University of Kentucky, with a Musical Theatre Certificate. She attended the KY Governor’s Scholar Program with a focus on Dramatic Expression (2020) and graduated from TCHS with a Full International Baccalaureate diploma. Grace has studied dance (ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop) since 2011 and was on the TCHS Dance Team for four years. As a student choreographer, Grace choreographed “Dear Edwina” in 8th grade (TCMS) and “Madagascar Jr” for JTF. Fun fact: Grace has attended JTF every year Mary Joy has taken a group—10 years straight!—and can’t wait to take her own company one day! Favorite roles include Jojo in Suessical, Ariel in Little Mermaid Jr, and Kira in Xanadu Jr.

Cory Evans

Cory Evans has been performing in Kentucky and the surrounding states for the 20 years of his life as a solo artist in his local area until he found himself captivated by playing different personalities. Currently, he is at the University of Kentucky with a major in Theatre alongside the Musical Theatre Certificate. He has found that this best moments of his life have taken place on a stage, and he wants to nourish this talent to the broadest horizons possible. Cory has recently become a part of InnOVATION Arts staff as an acting teacher for adolescents as well as a creative team member. One of the things he enjoys most about this opportunity is getting to connect and be a mentor to young children in the arts. Some of his performing credits include Seymour Krelbourn in “Little Shop of Horrors”, Brad in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Conrad Birdie in “Bye Bye Birdie”, and Evan Hansen in the UK MTC’s “Paesk and Paul Cabaret”.

Susanna White

Susanna White earned her B.A. in Theatre at the University of Kentucky along with a Vocal Performance minor.  She has been studying voice for over 11 years, and it has always been a deep passion of hers.  Her performing credits include several productions through the UK Theater Department such as “The Tribe” in Hair and “Asaka” in Once on this Island.  She has also been a part of the UK Opera Theatre productions such as Sweeney Todd, It’s a Grand Night for Singing, The Promised Land and she recently premiered the role of “Sabrina” in BOUNCE, which was produced through Ardea Arts, a performance company in New York City.  Susanna has also performed locally in Lexington, KY through Stage Right Acting as “Luisa” in The Fantasticks, through Antagonist Productions as “Angela” in The Last Call, and through the Kentucky Conservatory Theatre as “Lisa” in Mamma Mia!  She competed in the 2015 and 2017 Miss Kentucky Pageant earning a place in the top ten, the Spirit of Miss Kentucky Award, and the Overall Talent Award. She now resides in New York City pursuing a full-time performing career. She hopes to be a positive influence in the performing arts world not only through her work, but through her heart for loving others. 

Aden Amburgey