Naz Edwards is an actor, singer and educator who has graced many stages throughout the U.S. and Canada, from Broadway to national tours, regional theaters and Cabaret. Some of her favorite roles include:  On Broadway, ZORBA as the Leader, opposite Anthony Quinn, and ANNA KARENINA (the musical) as Dunyasha; National Tour, ZORBA and Ken Hill's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, as Madame Giry; Regional Theaters, Dennis DeYoung's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, as Mahiette, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, as Drowsy, MAN OF LA MANCHA, as Aldonza, SHE LOVES ME, as Ilona, ONCE UPON MATTRESS, as The Queen, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, as Yenta, FUNNY GIRL, as Mrs. Brice, THE BAKERS WIFE, as Denise, OTHER DESERT CITIES, as Polly, MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, as Mother, NOISES OFF, as Dotty, as THE CLEAN HOUSE, Woman/Ana, SOUVENIR, as Florence Foster Jenkins, and WOMAN BEFORE A GLASS, as Peggy Guggenheim.  For anime' fans, Naz is the voice of the wicked Queen Beryl on SAILOR MOON!

For Naz, teaching has been a huge passion.  Aside of her private studio where whe prepares high school students for their university musical theater and acting programs, she also has recently launched her program, Acting Through Song: Rediscovering the Great American Songbook.  Naz has a deep affection for the Great American Songbook and loves to see our next generation of performers discovering it's beauty. In her teaching, Naz believes that combining all aspects of performing, acting, singing, interpretation, presentation, and most importantly, storytelling, is key to a fully realized performance.  "Connect-Create-Communicate" is the hallmark of her work.

Naz has also worked with Michael Feinstein and his Great American Songbook Competition, and now his Songbook Academy, since 2012, as a teacher/clinician and judge. This is her third year as a clinician and judge with Songbook South.

Naz has studied with Joan Lader, Joan Kobin, Judith Blazer and Tom Burke.  She is a proud member of both AEA and SAG/AFTRA.

Learn more about Naz's performing career and teaching at

Russ Kassoff is a jazz pianist, conductor, music director, composer, orchestrator and arranger who toured for many years with Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli. Since 2004 Russ has been MD/Pianist to the legendary Rita Moreno. Mr. Kassoff is one of the most highly regarded musicians in New York and was praised by the New York Times in 2004 as possessing a "precision and enthusiasm that is riveting."  

His eclectic and varied recording career includes albums with John Pizzarelli, Rod Stewart and Carly Simon. In addition to his work with Sinatra and Minnelli, Russ has accompanied performers including Steve Allen, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Sammy Cahn, Liz Callaway, Vic Damone, Gregory Hines, Carol Lawrence, Ute Lemper, Monica Mancini, Barry Manilow, Maureen McGovern, Vincent Minnelli, Partrice Munsel, Faith Prince, Ginger Rogers, and Luciano Pavarotti, among a long list of others.  

On Broadway he served as music director and conductor for Twyla Tharp's Come Fly Away and as conductor-pianist for Charles Aznavour in concert.  He acted as pianist/arranger/conductor for Liza Minnelli’s Minnelli On Minnelli at the Palace Theater. Mr. Kassoff has also played legions of additional shows on Broadway, including Miss Saigon, Cats, Will Rogers Follies, Buttons on Broadway, Jane Eyre, The Life, Seussical, Victor Victoria , Sunset Boulevard, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Kiss Me Kate.

Other current highlights include being a music director at Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook Academy, regular jazz duo performances at the Knickerbocker in NYC, and annual concerts with the Russ Kassoff Big Band.

Mr. Kassoff was a featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on NPR in 2006.

Russ Kassoff holds a B.M. in performance from the Crane School of Music, SUNY-Potsdam.  Read more of his biography and find out more about his music at

Thursday, September 19 - Saturday, September 21, 2019

Centenary College of Louisiana

Hurley School of Music - Anderson Auditorium

*visit the Event Registration page for details

Songbook South Inspiration Weekend:

Workshops, Master classes, and High School Vocal Competition

Great American Songbook Edition

Dr. James Eakin was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana.  From an early age, he was drawn to his native blues and jazz as well as classical and film music, playing everything he heard by ear on the piano and experimenting with his own compositions. It wasn’t until years later that he began formal music studies.

He earned a Bachelor of Music from Centenary College (2000), a Master of Music from Southern Methodist University (2003), and in 2007, received a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Composition at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City.  James has had the privilege of studying with some of music’s most prominent composers: John Corigliano, Jeff Rona, Jack Smalley, George Tsontakis, Bruce Broughton, Zhou Long, and Chen Yi.

Eakin's music catalog is prolific and spans genres from Concert Hall to Pop/Rock. He has composed works for Maya Angelou’s 80th Birthday celebration, the President’s Christmas Gala at the White House, and the Aspen Music Festival to name a few. James’ hour-long “Flowers over the Graves of War” for Chorus, Soloists, and Orchestra premiered to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall and most recently, his “#twitterlieder: 15 tweets in 3 acts,” premiered by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at Davies Symphony Hall, has taken the choral world by storm.

On his philosophy of composing James says, “I don't draw lines in the sand; music is music, regardless of the genre. If it's got melody, harmony, or rhythm, I can write it.”

James composes with the speed of a film composer and the attention to detail of a concert composer. His grasp of today’s current music technology, his extensive knowledge of various musical styles, periods, instrumentation, and orchestration techniques makes him uniquely qualified for any project that comes his way.

Learn more about Dr. Eakin's career at

Dr. Ross E. Smith is Associate Professor of Piano at the Hurley School of Music of Centenary College of Louisiana. He received his bachelor’s degree in piano from Brigham Young University, and earned his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

While in graduate school he taught piano and music literature at the University of Michigan All-State Summer Camp at Interlochen for three summer terms. He has been an active soloist, giving recitals throughout the United States and in Italy. He traveled to Italy on a research grant from Centenary College to study the life and music of Alfredo Casella at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, and has given lectures and recitals based on his findings there.

Dr. Smith is also an active clinician, offering lecture recitals that include a variety of topics including a dramatization of Chopin’s Ballade in F Minor, the transcendentalism of Beethoven’s Sonata Op.111, Rachmaninoff’s “Faust” Sonata, and advanced pedaling techniques. At Centenary College he has taught Film Music, Music Theory, Intro to Music History, Applied Piano, Senior Seminar, and has been a regular guest lecturer in a wide variety of Centenary’s religion courses. In the Fall 2009 semester he co-taught the course “Joseph Smith and Early Mormonism” with Dr. Peter Huff in the Religious Studies department. Dr. Smith also sat for many years on the Advisory Board for the Christian Leadership Center at Centenary and during the summer of 2012 he taught a five week seminar sponsored by CLC titled, "The Mormon Moment: a Look at What Sets the Latter-day Saints Apart."

In 2018 he was called to serve a 10-year term as the Shreveport Louisiana Stake President (ordained ecclesiastical leader over 11 churches throughout the Ark-La-Tex) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife Luisa have been married since 1990 and have two children, Kayla and Nathan.

Michael Garvin is a  world class songwriter, guitarist and trumpeter, hailing from Shreveport, Louisiana.  Garvin's first success came as a songwriter.  He is widely known penning the global #1 hit, "Waiting for Tonight", recorded by Jennifer Lopez, and the worldwide, multi-platinum "Never Give Up on a Good Thing" for George Benson.

At 18, Michael moved to Nashville, TN, and lived his first year there as a ‘starving artist’ with his wife, Liv, before landing his first songwriting deal with Blake Melvis at ABC Dunhill.  Michael credits Blake with not only being the first to see his potential as a songwriter, but also as a lead guitarist. At the age of 19, he wrote his first Top 5 record there, “If the World Ran Out of Love Tonight”, recorded by Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius, also recorded by England Dan and John Ford Coley to become a Top 40 U S Pop Hit. You might think it was easy sailing from there on out.  “Absolutely not,” Michael laughs,”It’s been a roller coaster ride, but looking back, I’ve enjoyed every moment of the struggle, it’s made me who I am”.

Another defining  moment for the arc of Michael’s career, was landing a UK publishing deal with Torquil Creevy and Miles Copeland, who’s work with Sting and The Police, opened doors to Europe and the rest of the world to him. Ever since then, the world has been Michael’s territory.

Working in multiple countries and genres, Garvin’s MO is to bring elements from one music style to another, always keeping what he delivers fresh and exciting.  Its earned him a total of 33 top ten hits so far, of which 23 hit Number One on the charts.

Garvin now brings the same hit making skills and passion that make him a star songwriter to being an instrumental recording artist, bringing all his skills together, as a composer, a player, and a producer.  He has already released five singles with significant chart activity in Smooth Jazz and Groove Jazz, including “Vibe Taxi” and his holiday special, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”. His latest release, “Just in Time”, is available now.

Learn more about Michael Garvin's career at

Photo courtesy of Craig Collins