Nashville Citizens’ Orchestra seeks to engage local artists and give back through music

Apr 7, 2017

The Nashville Citizen's Orchestra
Credit Rhiannon Gilbert

  NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  If "You get what you pay for," is the rule, then the exception is a classical music performance by the Nashville Citizen's Orchestra.  


Pianist Gabrielle Lewis founded the orchestra in 2016 as a way to gain conducting experience and give local musicians an outlet to perform, but the young group is becoming even more unique than she originally planned.


“The Nashville Citizens’ Orchestra is completely volunteer based. None of the musicians are paid -- I’m also unpaid -- and we mainly get together so we can enjoy playing classical music together,” Lewis said. “But our new, kind of aspiring vision is to provide a creative outlet for musicians inside the group who like to improvise and also write their own stuff, so we essentially combine our love for classical music with some of our own thing.”

According to cellist Joshua Dent, the concept of improvisation is something that orchestra members are excited to bring to Nashville audiences.

“It’s not very often that you would go to a concert that would have Bach and then immediately after have like ‘okay, so this is kind of a jam session’,” Dent said, laughing. “So I think it’s something unique for a listener to get, because usually you get one or the other in a setting.”

But the NCO’s creative integration doesn’t stop with improv. Lewis says the group hopes to incorporate other elements of the arts into its performances over time.

“We’re very, very excited and interested in collaborating with local songwriters and bands who would like to play their music with an orchestra,” Lewis said. “We basically just want to get involved with the community as much as possible, and not just the music community, but also artists -- visual artists, actors, poets -- anybody who would like to take part in what we’re doing.”

For example, in its next performance on May 6, the orchestra will collaborate with Adam Hill and Omari Paul of the renowned electro-classical production duo Melodic Pulse.

Of course, as with most new projects, the startup process for the orchestra has not been easy. In the future, Lewis hopes to partner with local businesses for fundraising events, as well as perform benefit concerts for charities.

“I’m never going to give up on this. I just really hope that we are able to become an established, important part to the community,” Lewis said. “I prioritize giving back more than I prioritize a return for myself. I just kind of assume that if we’re doing as much as possible to integrate with the community and help out, that karma will just come around and things will work out.”

For more information about the Nashville Citizens’ Orchestra, visit