Virtual Celebration, January 11-17, 2021

The Nashville Symphony’s annual Let Freedom Sing concert honors the life, legacy and triumphs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Join us on social media for a week of performances, released each day. Then join us on Sunday, January 17, for a culminating performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Celebration Chorus and Celebration Youth Chorus, followed by live panel discussion moderated by Tamar Smithers, Director of Education and Public Programs for the National Museum of African American Music.

Support this completely free program with a gift of any size to our annual fund. Thank you.


Let Freedom Sing 2021 Program Schedule
The following content will be posted on our socials daily at 10 am and 2 pm, unless otherwise specified. Check back soon for more updates on how to access this virtual content.

Monday, January 11

Odessa Settles, Performing Artist – interview - WATCH
Patrick Dailey, Countertenor & Francis Perry, Lute – musical performance - WATCH

Tuesday, January 12

Dr. Anthony Williams, Associate Professor of Music, Fisk University  interview - WATCH
Tamar Smithers & Tia Smedley, National Museum of African American Music - WATCH
Marie Shields, 2021 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate - spoken word - WATCH

Wednesday, January 13

Accelerando Student Ensemble – Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, arr. Christopher Farrell – musical performance - WATCH
Franklin Willis, Educator & Administrator – book reading, Edward's Rhythm Sticks - WATCH

Thursday, January 14

Dave Ragland, Composer – interview - WATCH
Inversion Vocal Ensemble – musical performance - WATCH

Friday, January 15

Margaret Campbelle-Holman, Executive Director, Choral Arts Link – interview - WATCH
Dan Reinker, viola & Melissa Rose, piano - musical performance - WATCH

Saturday, January 16

Titus Underwood, Principal Oboe, Nashville Symphony –musical performance - WATCH
Dr. Roland Carter, Educator & Composer - Interview - WATCH

Sunday, January 17

Celebration Chorus & Celebration Youth Chorus – Lift Every Voice and Sing, arr. Roland Carter – musical performance - WATCH
LIVE Panel Discussion at 4 pm – Moderated by Tamar Smithers, Director of Education & Public Programs for the National Museum of African American Music 

Register for the panel discussion HERE.


Additional curriculum and materials

Edward's Rhythm Sticks- Teaching Guide Sample
Margaret Bond & MLK Lesson Plan
Montgomery Variations: Spirituals Lesson Plan

Composing A Movement: Women in Classical Music - Florence Price 
Freedom Riders & the Music of the Civil Right Movement 




Join Odessa Settles, Nashville native and coordinator for the Nashville Symphony Celebration Chorus, as she speaks about the history of Let Freedom Sing. Settles, who grew up in a musical household and has been working with the Nashville Symphony for decades, will also discuss her own journey as a part of the Nashville community.


Join us as countertenor Patrick Dailey and lutenist Frances Perry perform Roland Hayes’ beautiful arrangement of Lit’l Boy. Patrick and Frances are co-founders of Early Music City. Learn more about Patrick Dailey at and Early Music City at


Overton High School student Marie Shields is the newly announced Nashville Youth Poet Laureate. In today’s Let Freedom Sing post, she shares this moving and powerful spoken-word piece exploring her own identity as a black person. 

A joint effort of the Office of Mayor John Cooper, Metro Arts, Nashville Public Library, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Nashville Human Relations Commission, Urban Word and Southern Word, the Nashville Youth Poet Laureate program identifies young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, diversity and inclusion, and youth voices across Nashville. Applications for the 2021 Youth Poet Laureate are available at


From Nothing to Something is a cornerstone education program for the National Museum of African American Music and consists of six hour-long workshops about the history, techniques and innovation of African Americans and enslaved Africans as they began creating music in America. This video focuses on their lyric workshop and features Director of Education and Public Programs, Tamar Smithers, as she speaks with artist Tia Smedley. To learn more about National Museum of African American Music and their education programming, visit their website at


Learn about the historic organ in Fisk University’s Fisk Memorial Chapel and the musical journey of university organist Dr. Anthony Williams, as he speaks with our Vice President of Education and Community Engagement, Kimberly Kraft McLemore. To learn more about Fisk University and its rich history, visit, and to learn more about Fisk Memorial Chapel, visit


Violist and Accelerando faculty member Christopher Farrell composed a lovely arrangement of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” for Let Freedom Sing 2021. Listen to Accelerando students Xayvion Davidson, Riya Mitra, Antonio Thai, Treasure Eckles and Rose Majett perform this beloved spiritual. 

An education program for diverse young students who are passionate about studying music, Accelerando is now accepting applications! To learn more about the program or how to apply, visit our website!


Educator and administrator Franklin Willis reads his new children’s book Edward’s Rhythm Sticks. Make sure to check out the curriculum materials on our website to find a teaching guide sample for this fun and engaging book about rhythm. Learn more about Mr. Willis and his career in music education at 


Join Accelerando Coordinator Bryson Finney as he speaks with Dave Ragland, local composer and chorus master for the Nashville Symphony Celebration Chorus, about his career in classical music and his community-centered approach to composition and performance. Learn more about Dave Ragland’s work at


This heartfelt arrangement of “Free at Last,” written by Dave Ragland and performed by Inversion Vocal Ensemble, was recently recorded at Scarritt Bennett Center. Learn more about Inversion Vocal Ensemble at, and learn more about Scarritt Bennett Center at


Margaret Campbelle-Holman, Executive Director of Choral Arts Link and Director of the Celebration Youth Chorus, sat down with her former student Joya Burrell for a conversation about Let Freedom Sing and Margaret’s remarkable dedication to music education in Nashville. Learn more about Choral Arts Link at


Nephew of the legendary jazz musician King Oliver, Ulysses Kay composed “Sonatine” for solo viola and piano in 1939, but this piece didn’t see its premiere performance until this past July, when it was performed by Boston Symphony Orchestra violist Mary Ferrillo and pianist Brett Hodgdon. Join NSO Principal Violist Dan Reinker and pianist Dr. Melissa Rose as they perform Kay’s newly rediscovered “Sonatine.”


“Principal Brothers No. 2” was composed for Principal Oboist Titus Underwood by James Lee III, and is the second piece in a series of four solo woodwind pieces written for black men who hold principal positions in American orchestras. The other three pieces in the series were written for Demarre McGill, Principal Flute - Seattle Symphony, Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinet - New York Philharmonic, and Bryan Young, Principal Bassoon - Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. Take a listen to Titus playing the first movement of “Principal Brothers No. 2,” entitled Calm and Expressive. 

To learn more about James Lee III’s compositions, visit his website at


Dr. Roland Carter calls himself first and foremost an educator and mentor, but he is also a composer and arranger. In fact, his arrangement of James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson’s ”Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been performed at every Let Freedom Sing performance since the program began 28 years ago. Dr. Carter recently spoke with our Interim C.O.O Jonathan Marx about his arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and his career as an educator. 

Tune in tomorrow to hear our virtual performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” recorded by organist Dr. Anthony Williams and the Nashville Symphony Celebration Chorus. 


Dr. Roland Carter’s arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was inspired by “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and this triumphant piece has become a tradition at our annual Let Freedom Sing program. While we could not meet for a live performance this year, we wanted to continue this tradition with a virtual performance, conducted by Margaret Campbell-Holman and performed by organist Dr. Anthony Williams and the Nashville Symphony Celebration Chorus. Interested in joining the Celebration Chorus for our next Let Freedom Sing? Check out their Facebook group.

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