Walter Bitner

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Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony: Fall 2017 Review

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Nashville Symphony EDCE staff with special guest after the Gala dress rehearsal, September 8, 2017 ~ (l to r) Kimberly McLemore, WB, John Williams, Kelley Bell, Kristen Freeman (click images to enlarge)

It’s been a busy fall, packed with a cornucopia of education and community engagement activities at the Nashville Symphony. This is my bi-annual review of our department’s programming, just in time to wrap up the year!



Nashville Symphony Accelerando Program Second Class (L-R) — McKane (Max) Robinson, Angelina Bautista, Riya Mitra, & Xayvion Davidson ~ photo by Sally Bebawy

Nashville Symphony EDCE program’s operate year-round – even when the musicians are on vacation. Before the season even began, we were thrilled to welcome four new students to the Accelerando program back in August. By the time our musicians returned to the stage for this year’s phenomenal Symphony Gala with John Williams, our intrepid Accelerando students had already been back in school for over month – and back with our weekly program of lessons, youth orchestra, music theory, concert attendance, and more!

In addition to all of their weekly lessons and classes, this fall Accelerando students assembled at Schermerhorn each month to participate in masterclasses led by some of our community’s finest musicians and teachers:

  • Erik Gratton, Principal Flute, Nashville Symphony
  • Dr. Carolyn Huebl, Professor of Violin, Blair School of Music
  • Dr. Maya Stone, Second Bassoon, Huntsville Symphony Orchestra
  • Titus Underwood, Acting Principal Oboe, Nashville Symphony
  • Jeremy Wilson, Associate Professor of Trombone, Blair School of Music

Nashville Symphony Acting Principal Oboe Titus Underwood coaches Accelerando student Angelina Bautista, October 26, 2017

Our students will continue to participate in monthly coaching sessions in the spring with New World Symphony fellows as part of Accelerando’s partnership with New World Symphony.

Applications to audition for the 2018 class of Accelerando are now live on the Nashville Symphony website here. They will be held on March 3 & 10, 2018.


Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin?

This year marks the 12th season of our unique-to- Music-City collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame and MuseumIs It A Fiddle Or A Violin? with musicians Lauren Saks and David Coe. This rich program brings hundreds of elementary school students downtown every year to tour both Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Hall of Fame. The 2017-18 edition of Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? is updated and improved with added visuals and video, and is scheduled for nine weekday mornings over the course of the season.


students from Blair School of Music’s Fiddle Frenzy ensemble perform at the Nashville Symphony’s Free Day of Music, October 21, 2017

Free Day of Music

On Saturday, October 21, approximately 11,000 people attended our annual Free Day of Music –  the Nashville Symphony’s biggest community engagement event of the year, and the largest attendance in recent years! Performances showcasing more than 20 different musical acts were held on four stages located both inside and outside Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and a diverse array of performers from throughout the community presented a wide range of musical styles including classical, country, rock, jazz, soul, world music and more. Popular new features of this year’s special event were food trucks from Burritos La MinaFarm2MesaTwo Thompsons Airstream and Churro Diva, made possible through a partnership with Mesa Komal and  the very popular Free Day of Music Beer Garden presented by Craft Brewed.


Suzuran (traditional Japanese koto duo) perform at the Nashville Symphony’s Free Day of Music, October 21, 2017


Gale Mayes performs on One Symphony Place at the Nashville Symphony’s Free Day of Music, October 21, 2017


Young People’s Concerts

This fall, the Nashville Symphony performed Peter and the Wolf for thousands of local elementary school students as the featured work on this season’s Young People’s Concert for 3rd and 4th graders. We performed 7 of these free concerts for children – 2 mornings each of 2 “back to back” performances  at Schermerhorn, 2 performances for 4th grade students from Maury County at Columbia State Community College, and a performance at MNPS magnet Cresswell Middle Prep School of the Arts. More than 6,000 students from elementary schools throughout Middle Tennessee thrilled to hear the Nashville Symphony perform Peter and the Wolf – many of them hearing not only Peter, but also a live symphony orchestra performance for the first time.

Thousands more elementary, middle, and high school students will attend upcoming Young People’s Concerts in January and March!


The Nashville Symphony prepares to perform a Young People’s Concert for a packed house of 4th graders from Maury County Schools ~ October 13, 2017, Cherry Theater, Columbia State Community College, Columbia, Tennessee


Nashville Symphony Musicians in the Community

Our Sectionals and Masterclasses program – in which Nashville Symphony musicians lead rehearsals for students in Middle Tennessee school orchestra and band and youth orchestra programs – is a vital component of our student engagement activities. This fall our musicians led sectional rehearsals at:

Bellevue Middle Prep
Hillwood High School
Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School
Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School
Meigs Magnet Middle Prep
Nashville School of the Arts
John Overton High School
Page Middle School

and community youth orchestras:

Music City Youth Orchestra
Williamson County Youth Orchestra
Curb Youth Symphony at Blair School of Music

Many of our musicians also led sectional rehearsals this fall for the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra.

Chamber ensembles comprised of Nashville Symphony musicians presented performances for nearly 1100 children and adults this fall, with more scheduled in the new year. Schools, after-school programs, and retirement homes visited by our musicians for these performances include:

Abe’s Garden at Park Manor
Belmont Village
Brookdale Bellevue
Brookdale Green Hills
Catholic Charities of Tennessee
Grassland Elementary School
Haywood Elementary School
St. Paul Senior Residence


the instrument petting zoo at the Nashville Symphony’s Free Day of Music, October 21, 2017

Instrument Petting Zoos

Our instrument petting zoos are a hands-on way to introduce young children to the instruments of the orchestra, and our department coordinates these events, which are largely presented by our amazing Nashville Symphony volunteers.  Instrument petting zoos are held regularly throughout the community all through the year: at schools and after school programs, community concerts, and every Pied Piper concert of the season. This fall instrument petting zoos were held at Free Day of Music, Live on the Green music festival, the African American Cultural Alliance Street Festival LEAF Night at Wright Middle Prep, St. Matthew Catholic School Pre-K, – and here at Schermerhorn for our Red, White & Blue and Family Holiday Spectacular & Sing-along Ann & Monroe Carell Family Trust Pied Piper Series concerts.


Borderless Arts

This fall, the education department had the opportunity to participate in a collaboration facilitated by Borderless Arts Tennessee – a local organization that advocates for and provides educational opportunities to artists with disabilities. The project brought together the Nashville Symphony, the Nashville Ballet, and The Frist Center for the Visual Arts to present a performance in conjunction with the Nick Cave exhibit, Feat., currently on display at the Frist.

Nashville Symphony EDCE Coordinator Kristen Freeman (2nd from left) with Borderless Arts event performers, November 12, 2017, Frist Center for the Visual Arts

The performance featured dancers from Borderless Arts’ Movement Connection program performing choreography by Nashville Ballet’s Shabaz Ujima; the dancers wore costumes inspired by the artwork of Cave, designed and created by Borderless Arts’ Teapot Diplomats. A percussion ensemble made up of Borderless Arts’ Young Soloists and coached by Nashville Symphony staff member Kristen Freeman provided the musical backdrop for the dancers.

“To watch these major Nashville cultural institutions come together to present such a fun and inspiring work of art was very special,” said Kristen. “The dancers and musicians were a pleasure to work with – they had a contagious excitement and pride in the project that really made the performance the success it was.”


Open Dress Rehearsals

The Education & Community Engagement Department coordinates reservations for and hosts our Curb Open Dress Rehearsals, which are attended by thousands of students in grades 5-12, college and graduate students, and seniors (through our Lifelong Listeners program) every year. This fall’s programs featured Stravinsky’s Firebird on September 14 and Guerrero Conducts Mendelssohn on November 17. This season we will host three more Open Dress Rehearsals- one each in February, March, and April.


Pied Piper concerts

In collaboration with Nashville Symphony Assistant Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez, our department plans and executes programming including the repertoire, scripts, and preconcert activities for our Pied Piper concerts for children and families. This fall’s Pied Piper performance on November 11 was a stirring sing-along in honor of Veteran’s Day that included many patriotic classics and a visit from musicians of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Our Holiday Spectacular & Sing-Along on December 23 included an hour of favorites and the popular and touching holiday film The Snowman.


Musicians from the 101st Airborne Division join the Nashville Symphony and assistant conductor Enrico Yañez-Lopez at our Red, White & Blue Pied Piper Series concert on November 11


Chamber Music Series

Formerly known as OnStage, our Chamber Music Series of performances conceived and performed by our own musicians kicked off this year with a solo recital by Nashville Symphony organ curator Andrew Risinger on October 10, followed by an All- Mozart program featuring Nashville Symphony English Horn Roger Wiesmeyer performing Amadeus’s Piano Concerto No. 27 with a septet of friends from the orchestra on November 15.

The Chamber Music Series has been revamped this year to accommodate larger audiences, with attendees now seated on the floor of the concert hall in a relaxed and interactive setting. Four more of these intimate and informative FREE concerts are coming up in the new year!


Nashville Symphony organ curator Andrew Risinger gives an impromptu organ lesson to a young musician after our first Chamber Music Series concert of the season October Organ Spectacular on October 10

*       *       *

Throughout the year, the Nashville Symphony’s education and community engagement programming reaches thousands of people from all walks of life throughout Middle Tennessee! Happy New Year!

1 Comment

  1. Jay Bitner says:

    I think John & Walter look really great for their ages…


    Dad >

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