Walter Bitner

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Understanding Accelerando: FAQ

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AccelerandoOur very first auditions for Accelerando are around the corner: applications and all supporting materials are due by Friday, March 4, and auditions will be held at W.O. Smith Music School on Saturday, March 12.

For the last two months, our Education & Community Engagement Department here at the Nashville Symphony has held information sessions out in the community and fielded many questions by email and phone as we seek to find the right students to begin this groundbreaking program this year.

Accelerando is a unique music education initiative distinct in many ways from other music education programs in Middle Tennessee. In order to foster greater understanding of the goals of Accelerando, what the program entails, and who is eligible to participate, I have compiled here a list of some of the most frequently asked questions we have received about Accelerando – together with some responses.


What is Accelerando?

Accelerando is an intensive education program designed to prepare gifted young students of ethnically diverse backgrounds for the pursuit of music at the collegiate level and beyond.

Why Accelerando?


  • Less than 5% of musicians in American orchestras are African American or Latino
  • 6.7% of undergraduate music majors at American conservatories and music schools are African American
  • 5.2% of undergraduate music majors at American conservatories and music schools are Latino

from Breaking Through by Susan Elliot, Symphony magazine (League of American Orchestras), July-August 2010 ~ click to enlarge

Accelerando will prepare students from ethnically diverse backgrounds to win auditions and gain entrance to music school, and to thereby eventually become professional orchestral musicians. Over the coming generation, this program will help change the musician personnel of American orchestras to a diverse demographic that more accurately reflects the diversity of the American populace.

Read more about this here, here, here, and here.

Nashville is becoming an increasingly diverse city every year – our population includes not only African Americans and Latinos, but other underrepresented communities as well. Students from these communities will also be considered for Accelerando.

What is the curriculum of Accelerando? What will participating students receive?

Accelerando students will:

  • receive year-round instruction from a Nashville Symphony musician or other highly qualified local instructor
  • receive complimentary tickets to Nashville Symphony Classical series performances
  • receive annual solo recital and chamber performance opportunities
  • be required to perform in juries twice per year
  • be required to participate in their school bands or orchestras and/or local youth orchestras
  • be required to participate in yet to be determined summer programs which may include summer music camps
  • receive guidance and counseling about every aspect of preparing for a professional musical career including college applications
  • receive assistance in traveling to college music school auditions

How many students will Accelerando serve?

In 2016, we hope to accept 6 students in the program’s inaugural season, increasing the participation each subsequent year by approximately 5 more students to attain a full enrollment of 24 students in 2020.

Is Accelerando a scholarship program?

Yes. Students who are accepted to Accelerando will receive instruction, counseling, and other opportunities as described above, and more, free of charge.

Accelerando is not a needs-based program. Financial/economic status will not be considered during the application process.

mellon-logo-darkHow is Accelerando funded?

The Nashville Symphony was awarded a $959,000 grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which will provide 75% of the funding for Accelerando over the next six years. We are actively seeking other grants and donations to raise the additional $350,000 needed to operate the program at full capacity for 2018-2021.

Accelerando is funded solely through private sources – no public or government funds are used to support this program.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 3.52.10 PMWho designed this program?

I did – but I’ve had a lot of help. Initially, I worked closely with my staff in the Education & Community Engagement Department at the Nashville Symphony: our Program Manager Kelley Bell and Department Assistant Kristen Freeman, with advisement and encouragement from local music education authority Mitchell Korn. Kelley and I visited the Atlanta Symphony in April 2015 and did considerable research into the components and history of their pioneering Talent Development Program (TDP), which has been in existence since the 1990s. Adrienne Thompson, the Director of Atlanta Symphony TDP, has been of immense help over the last year as we have prepared to launch Accelerando.

The Accelerando Steering Committee consists of representatives from our community partners in this endeavor:

The Steering Committee has met monthly since September 2015 to plan for the 2016 launch of the program, as has the Accelerando Musicians Advisory & Planning Committee.

Who is eligible to audition for Accelerando?

Students from underrepresented communities (see above) from grades 4 – 10 (rising 5th – 11th graders) may audition for Accelerando in 2016. It is possible that in future years, auditions will be restricted to students in grades 4-8 (rising 5th – 9th graders).

Auditioning students must reside in Middle Tennessee, and must audition on a standard orchestral instrument:

  • AccelerandoPhoto1Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Bass
  • Harp
  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Oboe
  • Bassoon
  • Trumpet
  • Horn
  • Trombone
  • Tuba
  • Percussion

What if we are financially underprivileged?

Accelerando is not a needs-based program. Financial/economic status will not be considered during the application process.

Music education opportunities for students from financially underprivileged backgrounds are offered by several excellent institutions in Nashville including W.O. Smith Music School and the Pre-College Scholarship Program at Blair School of Music.

How do I apply to audition for Accelerando?

Complete information including the online application form may be found on the Nashville Symphony website at To be considered for an audition, a student must meet the guidelines described above, submit a complete application, and at least one letter of recommendation.

Complete applications with all supporting materials including letters of recommendation must be received by our office by 5 pm on Friday, March 4 to be considered. Auditions will be held at W.O. Smith Music School on Saturday, March 12.



  1. rmichaelw says:

    Great post! Minor grammatical issue, fewer not less 🙂

  2. […] on this topic, and a number of the elective and constituency sessions were about diversity as well. As I have written about here on Off The Podium before, American orchestras do not reflect the ethnic diversity of the communities they serve. Read more […]

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