Facing the music: Nashville Symphony builds diversity by training youth

Nov 08 2017
Posted by: Staff
Facing the music: Nashville Symphony builds diversity by training youth

By: Justin B. Bradford

Most Nashvillians understand that Music City is a town known for more than just  country talent, as artists across the genre spectrum call Nashville home. But beyond the city’s dedication to its always-budding music scene, young musicians are also receiving top-notch training for future careers in orchestral and classical music through the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando initiative.

Unique in the city to this program, Accelerando is designed to change the ethnic makeup of American orchestras, which have long lacked diversity. The Nashville community is a melting pot of people and talent, and thus, the symphony’s goal is for the orchestra to reflect such. With that in mind, the Accelerando program is enhancing the training of young, gifted students of any background.

“Accelerando is slowly but surely chipping away at the lack of diversity in the classical music world, and we’re doing that through high-quality musical training,” said Kimberly Kraft McLemore, Accelerando Manager. “One of the things that makes this city so exciting is that all music is celebrated in this city, so the musicians that Accelerando students encounter in masterclasses, community performances or workshops all have a unique perspective and musical journey that is often a composite of the many musical styles and genres that have found their way to Nashville.”

Students must keep a rigorous schedule to stay in the program, but such is the life of a musician. They are being trained to become professionals, but the program is also preparing them for life in college and as adults.

“Balancing the constant musical requirements with a rigorous school schedule has definitely been challenging, but ultimately, all of the time and effort spent working on my musical goals has pushed me to not only improve for upcoming performances, but also prepare me for the future in college and beyond,” said Aalia Hanif, a flutist in the program.

Currently, 10 students learn through the program, which is in its second year. Those 10 students represent eight races and ethnicities, and while it may sound cliché, the coming together of a diverse group shows how music truly is a universal language. 

“Music, of course, is a universal language and therefore allows us to communicate to everyone, regardless of background,” said Hanif, who performed in a masterclass with Michael Tilson Thomas and played during the 2017 Symphony Fashion Show featuring Zac Posen. 

Each student in the program trains with a musician of the Nashville Symphony and receives passes to classical performances throughout the season. Not only do the students have an opportunity to train with professional musicians, they also hear their teacher’s work. With the opportunities that Accelerando provides, parents have an inside look at music’s positive influence on their child’s life and how important of a role it will play in the future.

“There are no barriers in music, and diversity plays a key role in maintaining the value and longevity of music,” said Shahnela Hanif, Aalia’s mother.

Since students in grades 4 through 9 are able to audition for the program, young musicians that are accepted into the program will have the ability to train for many years leading up to music school. The future of music is being molded right here in Nashville.

“It is a great honor and privilege for her to be part of such a prestigious program that has given her the opportunity to fulfill her dream and build the foundation for a future career,” said Sheraz Hanif, Aalia’s father.

If you know of a young musician interested in the program, applications are now open for the 2018-19 class. More information, along with a schedule of community meetings can be found at

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