A Look At The Nashville Symphony Accelerando Program For Young BIPOC With Insight From Education & Community Engagement Director Kimberly McLemore

Despite obvious hurdles, The Nashville Symphony will continue to host its Accelerando Program for the fourth year in a row.

This year, 10 new musically-inclined students scattering from all over Middle Tennessee have been added to a roster of 24, making the program the fullest it’s ever been– all of which coming from underrepresented communities. Their ages range from 9 to 15. 

Funded in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Nashville Symphony created Accelerando to help shape the future of American orchestras by providing opportunities for young BIPOC musicians, so that orchestras can one day reflect the very communities they are seeking to serve.

Over the course of a year, students will experience both hands-on and observational opportunities on a weekly basis. Such opportunities range from private lessons to master classes with musicians from the Nashville Symphony and others around the country, and best of all, this comes at no charge to the students.

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“We’re hoping that this creates a generation of orchestral musicians that is more diverse than what we currently have.” said Kimberly McLemore, Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony. 

Right now, the orchestral industry is dominated by a white majority. Less than 8% of American orchestral performers were any race or ethnicity other than white or Asian, according to the League of American Orchestras. 

On top of addressing the diversity gap, the program also creates a growth-based musical community for the young BIPOC performers and their Nashville Symphony mentors alike. 

“Our musicians will invite their students backstage at intermission or following a performance, and they get to interact with other musicians and be introduced to the other members of the section,” said McLemore. “It’s a really wonderful thing where our students feel this wonderful sense of community at a really young age.”

When it comes to finding the perfect students for the program, McLemore says there’s always just a certain glimmer in their eyes. 

“I would be lying to you if we always accepted the best player,” she said. “Without that initial love of the craft, it’s going to be really challenging to make it to the top of the field.”

On top of creating talented musicians, McLemore said that the program aims to create well-rounded people with relationships that thrive in music. “We’re not just creating young people that love music and are prepared for their careers, but we’re also building patrons of their families,” she said.

She knows of plenty of instances where students have brought outsiders in through concerts and by helping them utilize the resources the Nashville Symphony has to offer. 

“I hope the community rallies around the program,” she said. “I also really hope that our community rallies around our musicians.”

For more information, please visit https://www.nashvillesymphony.org/accelerandomasterclasses

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