October 2017

by DeeGee Lester

Imagine yourself as a middle school student standing alone in a spotlight before a panel of professional musicians, your beloved instrument—now a familiar and faithful friend—in hand. You take a deep breath, whisper a silent prayer, and you play.

Photograph by Sally Bebawy/Nashville Symphony

One of the greatest benefits of music training in the life of a student is the confidence established through persistent practice and the experience brought through repeated auditions and performance. Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando, established in 2015 in partnership with MNPS (Music Makes Us), Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, Conexión Américas, and Choral Arts Link, with support from Nissan and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, recently announced its second cohort of young students, eager to explore and develop their musical skills under the mentorship of some of Nashville’s best classical musicians.

Entering an experience described by members of the first Accelerando class as “surreal,” “crazy,” and “intense” are Angelina Bautista (oboe: Grade 8, JFK Middle School, MNPS); Xayvion Davidson (bassoon: Grade 8, Rose Park Middle School, MNPS); Riya Mitra (violin: Grade 8, Sunset Middle School, Williamson County Schools); and McKane (Max) Robinson (trombone: Grade 7, Head Middle Magnet School, MNPS).

“So many students choose the same instruments (the flute or clarinet),” says Angelina. “But the oboe lets you stand out and have more opportunities. I like the variation and range of sound more than any other instrument.”

“Music is in my blood,” says Xayvion, who plays several instruments. “When I actually got to see the instrument, I liked it. I was somewhat nervous (at the audition), but when I got the news, I was like, Thank you, Lord!”

Like the tranquil sound of her violin, Riya says her audition was “kind of calm for me. I chose pieces I was comfortable with, and I knew I had done my best.”

The whole experience has been exciting for Max. The youngest of the Accelerando class, Max admits, “It’s a bit intimidating. The kids are a lot older than me, so it’s kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s worth it!”

“Each of these students possesses the talent and drive to make an impact on the future of American orchestras,” says Kimberly Kraft McLemore, Accelerando program manager. “They represent the Nashville Symphony’s commitment to ensuring that young people from across Middle Tennessee have access to the highest quality music education.”

MNPS Message of Love and Support

The public reaction of sympathy and outrage was swift following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. MNPS Director Dr. Shawn Joseph’s passionate letter to staff throughout Metro schools initiated an immediate response from Cedric Caldwell, Pearl Cohn teacher and Grammy award-winning producer who heads up the Entertainment Magnet School’s Relentless Entertainment Group (the nation’s first student-run recording label affiliated with a major record label, Warner Music Nashville).

Elijah Simmons, Jess Clements, Tiyanna Gentry, Yaubryon Chambers, Trent Mccrary; Compliments MNPS

“What if we back his [Dr. Joseph’s] passion and put a song to it?” Caldwell said and selected “Right Now (We Need One Another),” written by his sister-in-law and award-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans.

Utilizing Pearl Cohn’s state-of the-art recording facilities, Caldwell reached out to other schools, bringing together a group of talented and diverse students. Hillsboro’s Tiyanna Gentry and Overton’s Trent McCrary and Jess Clements joined Pearl Cohn’s Elijah Simmons and Yaubryon Chambers to create a music video that touches the heart—YouTube: Special Message for MNPS (To Charlottesville).

“Getting to sing a song with such powerful lyrics showed me that something as simple as music can bring us together and help solve problems in our society,” says Chambers.

The experience demonstrated to students how strangers working together can bring harmony to a chaotic world and find ways to work together toward solutions.

“The power of this song is a feeling of acceptance and love. I think connecting the song to the world and to the Charlottesville incident made it more emotional and empathetic on my part. The words and the melodic rhythm and the people—us, these five kids—is the reason why this song is even more powerful than before,” says Tiyanna Gentry.

See the music video at www.youtube/E5zEv9VqHLY.

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