After an unusually cool spring for Nashville, the weather is starting to heat up just in time for our annual “symphony under the stars” parks concerts which begin on Thursday, June 2 at Centennial Park (for the full schedule of Community Concerts click here).
So this is a good place for a brief pause to look back on our activities in the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony since January. A lot has happened since I posted my review of our fall 2015 activities: it’s been a very busy spring! This post is a summary of what we’ve been up to ~ in many cases I have already written articles about specific programs or events mentioned here: for more details, follow the links:
The Nashville Symphony’s new Accelerando initiative really “took off” this year beginning in January, when we were awarded a $959,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide leadership funding for Accelerando over the next six years.
Our department held public information meetings for prospective students and parents at venues in the community in January and February, and the first round of Accelerando auditions was held on March 12 at W.O. Smith Music School. A panel of six Nashville Symphony musicians heard 34 students ages 9-15 perform their prepared auditions, and then all auditioning students and their families participated in an interview with Nashville Symphony Accelerando staff. We were thrilled by the high level of artistry exhibited at our first ever Accelerando auditions, and also by the wide variety among the students. Students auditioned on the following instruments:
Our first round of Accelerando auditions included students who reside in Cannon, Davidson, Marshall, Rutherford, Sumner, and Williamson counties.
12 semifinalists were chosen from this first round of auditions and entered the second round: a one-on-one audition lesson with a Nashville Symphony musician who plays their audition instrument. When the second round of auditions is complete, finalists will be chosen, each of whom will complete three trial lessons over the summer of 2016. 6 of these finalists will be chosen to begin lessons as the first class of the Accelerando program in September 2016 (some finalists who are not chosen may be placed on the program’s waiting list). We plan to announce the first Accelerando class on August 1, 2016.
In February, I attended SphinxCon 2016: Ignite to Action in Detroit, The Sphinx Organization‘s 4th annual conference on diversity in the arts – and also their 19th annual competition for young African American and Latino string players. It was very refreshing to be surrounded for a few days by representatives from other organizations around the country who are involved in similar work. In June, I will attend the League of American Orchestras‘ annual conference in Baltimore – this year’s event is titled “The Richness of Difference” and will focus on diversity in the orchestra industry. I’m excited to be representing the Nashville Symphony at this conference on a panel discussing “Music as an Agent of Social Change”.
Young People’s Concerts & One on a Part Concerts
Thousands of elementary school and high school students attended the Nashville Symphony’s Young People’s Concerts (YPCs) in January, February, and March, continuing the symphony more than 50 year tradition of bringing classical music to the young people of our community through these free performances.
In late January and again in March (as a makeup for YPCs canceled earlier in the winter due to inclement weather), thousands of third and fourth graders filled Laura Turner Hall for a special program featuring Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo by Aaron Copland, as dancers from Nashville School of the Arts joined the orchestra on stage for the third year in a row. The entire orchestra also traveled to NSA in February, so that the NSA dancers could perform in front of the orchestra for their peers at school.
Students from kindergarten through second grade throughout Middle Tennessee also filled Laura Turner Hall for several performances of our Wonderful Woodwinds YPC concert, and the orchestra visited J.E. Moss Elementary School in Antioch to perform this special concert as well on February 12.
For our high school YPC on March 4, Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero conducted a performance of the epic Don Quixote by Richard Strauss with the brilliant cello soloist Johannes Moser to a rapt audience of high school students, and we completed our season of student concerts in the hall with repeat performances of October’s One on a Part concerts, featuring wind ensemble repertoire by Praetorius, Mozart, Dvorak, and Sousa on April 21.
Curb Concerto Competition & Side By Side Concert
Middle Tennessee students ages 14 to 18 competed for thousands of dollars in prize money and the chance to perform with the Nashville Symphony in our annual Curb Concerto Competition, held this year on March 5 & 6 here at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. All told, this year’s competition included 16 string, brass, and piano students, each of whom performed their auditions on the stage of Laura Turner Hall. For details about the competition and winners click here.
On May 19, the Nashville Symphony hosted the annual Side By Side concert with Curb Youth Symphony. Curb Youth Symphony is directed by Carol Nies, and the annual Side By Side event was conducted by Nashville Symphony Associate Conductor Vinay Parameswaran. It included an afternoon and evening of rehearsals on Wednesday – including the traditional pizza party in the break – and Thursday night’s concert.
The featured soloist at the Side By Side concert this year was cellist Jocelyn Hartley, winner of the 2016 Curb Concerto Competition. Her performance of the first movement of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 accompanied by Maestro Parameswaran and the Nashville Symphony opened the festive concert of primarily 19th century works. For details and photos from the 2016 Side By Side Concert click here.
Nashville Symphony Musicians in the Community
Since January, Nashville Symphony musicians led sectional rehearsals – another program that runs throughout the season – for numerous student ensembles, including:
Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra
MTSBOA MidState Bands and Orchestras
Creswell Middle Prep School of the Arts
John Overton High School
Ravenwood High School
Croft Middle Design Center
Nashville School of the Arts
Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School
Mt. Juliet High School
and community youth orchestras:
Nashville Symphony musicians from all sections of the orchestra who participate in this robust program led more than 130 rehearsals during the 2014-2015 season, and are on schedule to lead more than 165 rehearsals this season! So far, this program has engaged more than 1400 students over the course of the 2015-16 season.
Chamber ensembles comprised of Nashville Symphony musicians presented performances to over 1600 students and seniors this spring, with many more scheduled in the new year. Schools and after-school programs visited by our musicians for these performances include:
Abintra Montessori School
Dan Mills Elementary
Smith Springs Elementary
Glenview Club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee
St. Paul Senior Living Community
Fountains of Franklin Senior Living Community
We anticipate that this Ensembles in the Schools/Community program will reach over 1600 people of all ages throughout Middle Tennessee for the 2015-16 season.
Instrument Petting Zoos & NAZA
Education staff and volunteers have presented our popular Instrument Petting Zoos at our Pied Piper Concerts as well as at 4 sites in the community since January, with 8 more of these events scheduled between now and the end of July, and at 6 of our upcoming Community Concerts in June.
The Nashville Symphony also participates in the Nashville After Zone Alliance, a system of free after school programs that provide academic support and creative activities for MNPS middle school students. This spring Education staff presented our NAZA program at YMCA SMARTKids after school program in East Nashville, including an Instrument Petting Zoo, Sound Lab, ensemble performances, and drum circles led by Education staff member Kristen Freeman.
Open Dress Rehearsals & Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin?
The Education & Community Engagement Department coordinates reservations for our Curb Open Dress Rehearsals for Aegis Sciences Classical Series concerts, which are attended by students in grades 5-12, college and graduate students, and seniors (through our Lifelong Listeners program). We hosted 6 of these Open Dress Rehearsals this year – 5 of them since January, including:
- Bernstein’s On the Waterfront & Movie Music
- Pictures at an Exhibition
- Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherzade
- Beethoven’s Emperor with Garrick Ohlsson
- Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham
Nearly 1000 people attended these dress rehearsals in 2015-16!
We’ve hosted 9 Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? programs since January – this rich program serves hundreds of elementary school students every year and features tours of both Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum capped by the delightful title program presented by violinists/fiddlers David Coe and Matt Combs.
More than 1600 students attended Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? in 14 programs presented this year.
Pied Piper Concerts
This year Education & Community Engagement staff became more integrally involved in the production of our Pied Piper Series of Children’s concerts. 4 of these concerts are presented each year on Saturday mornings. Traditionally, our department has been involved in designing the family-oriented pre-concert activities which take place in the hour before each Pied Piper concert.
Education & Community Engagement Program Manager Kelley Bell wrote delightful, educational scripts for Nashville Symphony Associate Conductor Vinay Parameswaran and guest actors, and our department collaborated with operations and production staff to encourage a heightened sense of engagement for the young children who attend these concerts.
For Get Wild on February 27 – a performance of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals – our community partners at the Nashville Zoo brought a macaw and the largest rabbit I have ever seen to visit with children before the concert, and production staff lit Laura Turner Hall and piped in ambient sound before the concert to evoke the rain forest. Maestro Vinay even made a grand entrance driving a miniature camouflaged jeep across the stage to the podium!
For April 16th’s Blast Off! featuring space-themed music including selections from Holst’s The Planets, we took the Pied Piper audience on a tour of the solar system that included exhibits by the Middle Tennessee Space Society, visitors from the Star Wars® Universe, and a very special visit with retired NASA astronaut Rhea Seddon.
OnStage & OffStage
The Nashville Symphony’s free OnStage chamber music series of performances conceived and performed by our own musicians continued apace this spring with several beautiful chamber music concerts on the stage of Laura Turner Hall:
- Louise Morrison & Friends: Beethoven and Mendelssohn on January 27
- “The Joy of Sextets” with Judith Ablon & Friends on February 10
- “478 Keys: Meet the Keyboards” with Robert Marler & Andrew Risinger on February 16
Nashville Symphony violist and composer Chris Farrell presented a remarkable concert of original works as part of our OffStage series of performances at W.O. Smith Music School on March 1. And we were thrilled to present our first ever Jazz OnStage on March 29, featuring the original chart from Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool and an all-star ensemble comprised of Nashville Symphony musicians, Blair School of Music faculty, and local jazz professionals.
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Reading through all of this as I prepare to post this article and move ahead to all of our summer activities, I am astounded at the wide variety of our programs, as well as the depth of our organization’s commitment to music education and community. Thank you to everyone who helped us pull all this off – and here’s to an even grander season next year, as we celebrate the symphony’s 70th anniversary, and the 10th anniversary of Schermerhorn Symphony Center.