Walter Bitner

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Expanding Educational Horizons Through Technology

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Michael Tilson Thomas (Music Director, New World Symphony) with Aalia Hanif, Accelerando student, April 2018 (click photos to enlarge)

New World Symphony & Nashville Symphony Accelerando:
A Unique Partnership

I first met Cassidy Fitzpatrick, Vice President for Musician Advancement at New World Symphony, at the 2016 League of American Orchestras Annual Conference, held that year in Baltimore, Maryland. Cassidy approached me after a session where I had spoken about the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program, introduced herself, and we made arrangements to speak soon after.

This is how a number of important projects I’ve been involved with over the last few years have germinated – through an initial “chance” meeting at a conference. That crucial first conversation has led to a robust and thrilling partnership for the Nashville Symphony Accelerando program, now entering its third year.


“Partnerships between professional symphonies, educational institutions, and talented youth are essential to building the pipeline for students from diverse backgrounds. New World Symphony is honored to partner with the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program and others as we work together to build a strong and secure future for classical music, where orchestras are reflective of their communities.”

~ Cassidy Fitzpatrick
Vice President for Musician Advancement
New World Symphony

Cassidy Fitzpatrick


New World Symphony was established in 1987 by Michael Tilson Thomas and Lin and Ted Arison. It is the only symphony orchestra in the United States that is also an accredited educational institution. Musicians at New World (called “Fellows”) audition for their positions as in any other professional symphony orchestra, typically after completing their collegiate studies but before they have successfully landed a position at a professional orchestra. NWS Fellows engaging in a demanding curriculum that includes not only a vigorous season of orchestral concerts but a robust suite of education and community engagement services, which are increasingly becoming a vital and typical component of the professional orchestral musician’s workload.


At New World Symphony, our mission is to prepare classical musicians to be leaders in the field. As part of their training we equip them with a skill-set that we believe is necessary to thrive as a 21st century musician. One such tool is learning to engage and teach via internet and distance learning technologies. Partnerships like that with Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando Program are essential to the Fellows’ learning process.

Preparing Accelerando students for the Town Hall Master Class benefits both the student participants and the Fellows immensely. The Fellows can practice their craft as teachers, the students hear input from a new source, and both become comfortable with using new technology to enhance learning.”

Cassidy Fitzpatrick


New World Symphony conducting fellow Dean Whiteside (Blair 2010) coaches Accelerando student Riya Mitra in a masterclass as Schermerhorn Symphony Center, June 2018


In the winter and spring, Accelerando students participate in monthly coaching sessions with NWS Fellows via a cutting-edge video-conferencing technology called Internet2. Access to this remarkable tool for distance learning is provided to us by Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, our generous partner in producing the Accelerando program, as well as many other Nashville Symphony education programs.

Having New World Symphony Fellows remotely teach the Accelerando students using the most advanced interactive technology is important for many reasons. Obviously, it provides the Accelerando program access to teaching from very accomplished, young musicians that they would not otherwise have, but it also provides them with a novel experience that will have lasting impact. Technology and musicianship have gone hand-in-hand since the advent of modern music and the Internet is perhaps the most significant technological development in that time. Both the NWS Fellows and the Accelerando students will use the Internet to learn, teach and enjoy music throughout their  lives and by offering the highest quality in online instruction, this project demonstrates in a visceral way the true potential online education to all involved.”

~ Justin Trieger
Director of New Media and Distance Education
New World Symphony


New World Symphony Fellows visited Nashville to coach masterclasses and teach lessons with Nashville Symphony Accelerando students at Blair School of Music, June 2017 ~ (l to r) Kimberly McLemore, Esther Nahm, Joseph Peterson, Cassidy Fitzpatrick, Sean Maree, Clare Semes

“Our partnership with New World Symphony is a tremendous opportunity for Accelerando students to learn from fellows, who will join the next generation of classical musicians.” said Kimberly McLemore, Accelerando Manager. “The fellows are able to share their training with our students while gaining further experience with instruction.

“The world of classical music is incredibly competitive and full of personal challenges.” said Kimberly. “Honest and positive interactions that encourage musical growth for our young musicians is important to their development as musicians and people. The world of classical music can also be collaborative, creative, and full of colleagues who are eager to see you succeed. The partnership with New World Symphony highlights the latter.”

After several months of masterclasses via Internet2, the partnership culminates in the Town Hall Masterclass, three-way distance-learning event and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to perform in masterclass for Michael Wilson Thomas. In 2017, Accelerando student Aalia Hanif (flute) represented Accelerando in this event, students from the Atlanta Symphony Talent Development Program (TDP) participated, and MTT coached from Miami.

This year at the Town Hall Masterclass, MTT coached Accelerando trombonist Bernhard Ekwuazi, and the Atlanta Youth Symphony performed. Each year we have also been extremely fortunate to host a visit from the NWS fellows – after months of coaching our students over the internet, we finally get to meet them in person!

In addition, this year Aalia was invited to participate in New World Symphony’s annual Side By Side concert, and traveled to Miami for a week of rehearsals and a performance under MTT’s baton. You may watch and listen to it here on the New World Symphony Facebook Page.

Accelerando student Bernhard Ekwuazi and New World Symphony Fellow Joseph Peterson, Blair School of Music, June 2017

“Working with Bernard on the Nashville Accelerando project has been one of the absolute highlights of my fellowship here at New World.” said NWS Trombone Fellow Joseph Peterson.  “I saw tremendous growth and progress in his development. There was so much excitement for me as a teacher when I got to see him play for Michael Tilson Thomas in the town hall masterclass this year. I look forward to working with Bernard and the rest of the Nashville Accelerando students next year.

“The Nashville project is critical to the community engagement sector of the New World Symphony.” said Joseph. “For the fellows, teaching the students helps our own growth as teachers and musicians. Learning how to be a more effective teacher also benefits us on how to be a more effective practicer and performer. It makes us more aware on how to successfully teach ourselves. I can’t wait to see where the program will go next with the further development of Internet2.”


Nashville Symphony Accelerando students and staff with New World Symphony Fellows and colleagues after a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, June 2, 2018, Schermerhorn Symphony Center


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