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Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony: 2018 Review

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Nashville Symphony Brass Quintet Education Ensemble performs at Dan Mills Elementary School, September 26, 2018: (l to r) Alec Blazek, trumpet; Patrick Walle, horn; Neil Konouchi, tuba; Derek Hawkes, trombone; Patrick Kunkee, trumpet. (click photos to enlarge)


Happy New Year! 2018 was a whirlwind, packed with education and community engagement activities at the Nashville Symphony. This is a look back at some of the highlights of our department’s programming last year, before we take off full steam ahead into the new year!



Xayvion Davidson, bassoon & Angelina Bautista, oboe perform at the Accelerando Spring Recital, June 11, 2018.

Accelerando operates year-round, with so many activities every month that it’s only possible to present a brief 2018 highlight reel here! Accelerando students presented their annual Spring recital in June, 2018. Students showcased their work and musical progress throughout the 2017-18 season by performing solo and small chamber works for an audience of approximately 200 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Six Accelerando students were accepted to summer music camps and festivals in 2018. Students had a variety of immersive musical experiences at these festivals including ensemble playing, private lessons, chamber music opportunities, and supplemental music courses. The festivals and camps include:

Boston University Tanglewood Institute
Interlochen Fine Arts Camp
Sewanee Summer Music Festival
Tennessee Governors school for the Arts
Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music Summer Orchestral Institute

Bernard Ekwuazi, a sophomore at Blackman High School, was invited to play in the annual New World Symphony Town Hall Master Class with Michael Tilson Thomas in April of 2018. Bernard was coached alongside two other students in Atlanta and Miami via Internet 2.

In August – a month before the 2018-19 season began, we welcomed seven new students into the program, for a total of sixteen students this year. First year students ranged in age from 9 to 16 years of age and represent grades 4 through 11 in school. We are thrilled and proud to see this program grow.

Accelerando students were invited to collaborate with Roy “Futureman” Wooten in early September on a continuing project with the New Village Orchestra and The Black Mozart Ensemble. Students joined the orchestra on an original piece, The Black Mozart, composed by Wooten celebrating Chevalier de Saint-George and the diversity of music from around the world. The performance included guest performers from Venezuela, Nigeria, Columbia, and Pakistan.


Accelerando students perform with the New Village Orchestra and The Black Mozart Ensemble at Nashville State Community College, September 11, 2018


A senior at Central Magnet High School, Aalia Hanif was invited to perform in a New World Symphony flute master class with Michael Tilson Thomas in October. Aalia played Claude Debussy’s Syrinx, and was coached by Michael Tilson Thomas (present in Miami) and New World Symphony alumni from Northwestern University and Boston University (joining via Internet 2).


Michael Tilson Thomas masterclass with Aalia Hanif, flute; New World Symphony, Miami, October 23, 2018.



Let Freedom Sing

The Nashville Symphony presented the 25th Annual Let Freedom Sing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Concert on Sunday, January 14, 2018. The concert was conducted by Joseph Young and featured performances by the Celebration Chorus and the Celebration Youth Chorus, and stirring speeches by special guest former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell and original Freedom Rider Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr.


Honoring twenty-five years of service! (l to r) Nashville Poet Ciona Rouse dedicates a poem to Margaret Campbelle-Holman, Diana Poe, and Odessa Settles for their vital collaborations over the years for annual Let Freedom Sing concerts, January 14, 2018 ~ photo by Jonathan Marx


Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin?

We are now well into the 13th season of our unique-to-Nashville collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame and MuseumIs It A Fiddle Or A Violin? This rich program brings hundreds of elementary school students downtown every year to tour both Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Hall of Fame, and to interact with our teaching artists  Lauren Saks and Ryan Joseph through a unique musical program. More than 1200 local students attended Is It A Fiddle Or A Violin? in 2018, including children from fourteen local elementary schools and many homeschool families.


Voices of Hope

On March 26, the Nashville Symphony in partnership with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission presented Voices of Hope, the Second Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival. This special, free education and community event was designed and presented as part of Violins of Hope Nashville.

Voices of Hope convened seven student choirs from local public schools, private schools and religious organizations under the direction of Dr. Tamara Freeman, an internationally acknowledged Holocaust ethnomusicologist. Dr. Freeman worked with each choir and director individually in the weeks and months leading up to the event. All of this preparation culminated in the festival: a day of rehearsals and a free performance open to the public.


Dr. Tamara Freeman directs the Voices of Hope Festival Choir in rehearsal, March 26, 2018, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville


Curb Concerto Competition
Curb Youth Symphony Side By Side Concert

Sean Yang, winner of the 2018 Curb Concerto Competition

The Nashville Symphony hosted our annual Curb Concerto Competition for students ages 14-18 on February 24 & 25. Our 2018 Finalists included:

  • Grand Prize: Sean Yang, piano
  • 1st Runner-up: Maggie Kasinger, violin
  • 2nd Runner-up: Joshua Stanczak, piano
  • 3rd Runners-up: Luke Turner, piano & Shawn Zheng, horn

On May 15, Curb Youth Symphony and the Nashville Symphony combined forces on the stage of Laura Turner Hall for our annual Side By Side concert. Curb Youth Symphony is directed by Carol Nies, and this year’s Side By Side event was conducted for the second year in a row by Nashville Symphony Music Director & Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero.

The concert featured Sean Yang’s performance of the third movement of the Piano Concerto in F# minor, Op. 20 by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin accompanied by Maestro Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony, followed by a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 in its entirety by both Curb Youth Symphony and the Nashville Symphony combined. Maestro Guerrero and the gargantuan orchestra brought a full palette with which to paint Tchaikovsky’s expansive and dramatic masterpiece for the largest audience yet assembled for a Side by Side concert. The evening was a tour-de-force!


Curb Youth Symphony concertmaster Kaili Wang listens as the combined orchestras tune before the Side by Side performance begins


Young People’s Concerts

Nearly 12,000 local students in grades K – 8 attended eleven Nashville Symphony Young People’s Concerts in 2018. These popular events take place on weekday mornings at Schermerhorn Symphony Center throughout the year, and are supplemented by special performances that bring the orchestra out of the hall and into the schools! This year, Nashville Symphony Young People’s Concerts programs included an exploration of the instruments of the brass family for elementary school students and two programs for middle school students: Composers of Hope (a special program about composers who overcame adversity), and Sound Lab (a musical journey through the scientific process).


The Nashville Symphony prepares for a performance at Robert E. Ellis Middle School, Hendersonville, Tennessee, October 17, 2018


In addition to our amazing Young People’s Concerts, 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!


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. In 2018 our musicians led 147 sectional rehearsals at:

Bellevue Middle Prep
Central Magnet School
DuPont Tyler Middle School
Hillwood High School
Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School
Meigs Magnet Middle Prep
John Overton High School
JT Moore Middle School

community youth orchestras:

Music City Youth Orchestra
Williamson County Youth Orchestra
Curb Youth Symphony, Repertory Orchestra, and Nashville Summer Orchestral Institute at Blair School of Music

and for the Middle Tennessee Band & Orchestra Association Mid-State Orchestras and  Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra.

Chamber ensembles comprised of Nashville Symphony musicians presented performances for nearly 3000 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:

Belmont Village
Belshire Design Center
Dan Mills Elementary School
Grassland Elementary School
Harpeth Valley Elementary School
Haywood Elementary School
J.E. Moss Elementary School
Mt. View Elementary School
Nashville Classical Charter School
The SeRENADe Project at the Kennedy Center
St. Paul Senior Residence
Tennessee School for the Blind
Wright Middle School


The Nashville Symphony directed by Enrico Lopez-Yañez performs a community concert at Historic Rock Castle, Hendersonville, June 9, 2018 ~ photo by Kathleen Munkel


Community Concerts

The Nashville Symphony presents annual Community Concerts throughout Middle Tennessee at the conclusion of our season. This year we presented eight of these popular FREE concerts, which are attended by thousands of people from across the region:

  • June 7, Centennial Park at Musicians Corner, Nashville
  • June 8, Cumberland University, Lebanon
  • June 9, Historic Rock Castle, Hendersonville
  • June 12, Southeast Greenspace, Antioch
  • June 13, Rippavilla Mansion Amphitheater, Spring Hill
  • June 26, Two Rivers Mansion, Donelson
  • July 1, Key Park, Lafayette



the instrument petting zoo at the Nashville Symphony’s Free Day of Music, October 27, 2018

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 Family Series concert of the season. In 2018 – in addition to Family Series concert petting zoos and Free Day of Music, we held petting zoos at 24 sites throughout the community – early childhood learning centers, elementary schools, libraries, community concerts and festivals – introducing nearly 1300 children to the instruments of the orchestra!



Family Concerts

The Nashville Symphony presented four Saturday morning Family Series concerts in 2018:

  • Music & Magic on February 10
  • Schoolhouse Rock on April 21
  • Pirates! The Curse of Blackbeard’s Treasure on September 29
  • The Grinch on December 1

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 Family Series concerts for children and families. Beginning with our Pirates! concert in the fall of 2018, all of our Family Series concerts offer sensory friendly programming and resources for people with autism and other disabilities that cause sensory sensitivities. These exciting, heartwarming events are highlights of every season!


WB with First Mate Kelley Bell at Pirates! The Curse of Blackbeard’s Treasure, September 29, 2018


Free Day of Music

On Saturday, October 27, amore than 5,000 people attended our annual Free Day of Music –  the Nashville Symphony’s biggest community engagement event of the year. 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 again this year were food trucks made possible through a partnership with Mesa Komal and  the very popular Free Day of Music Beer Garden presented by Craft Brewed.


The Nashville Symphony Chorus directed by Tucker Biddlecombe performs at Free Day of Music, October 27, 2018 ~ photo by Kathleen Munkel


Guzheng artist Wu Fei performs at Free Day of Music, October 27, 2018 ~ photo by Kathleen Munkel


Nashville in Harmony directed by Don Schlosser performs at Free Day of Music, October 27, 2018 ~ photo by Kathleen Munkel


Chamber Music Series

Our Chamber Music Series of performances conceived and performed by our own musicians presented six concerts in 2018:

  • Favorites for Four! on February 6
  • Dvorak & Brahms on February 20
  • Composers of Hope on March 20
  • Friends in Low Places on April 10
  • The Versatility of the Timpani on September 11
  • New Works by Christopher Farrell on October 9

The new format for these concerts – with attendees now seated on the floor of the concert hall in a relaxed and interactive setting – has proved to be popular with both audiences and our musicians: each year we several of our Chamber Music Series concerts set new attendance records!


Friends in Low Places featuring the Bass Section of the Nashville Symphony was the most popular Chamber Music Series Concert of 2018! (l to r) Joel Reist, Tim Pearson, Kevin Jablonski, Elizabeth Stewart, Glen Wanner, Kate Munagian, Matthew Abramo)

*       *       *

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!

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