Member Handbook

Welcome to MCYO!

Your agreement to join us is a commitment to your conductors, the organization, your fellow musicians, and the music we will prepare throughout the year.

About MCYO

Music City Youth Orchestra (MCYO) is Nashville's Eclectic Youth Orchestra. We play great music from many sources - jazz, rock, pop, country, classical, and world fusion. MCYO is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a dynamic atmosphere for student musicians in Middle Tennessee to explore a diverse repertoire for string orchestra. Our programs provide dynamic orchestra and chamber music experiences for students in grades 5 through 12. All students who have not yet graduated from high school and who play violin, viola, cello, bass, or harp are encouraged to audition.

With a Concert Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble program in place, MCYO established an after school music education outreach in the fall of 2016 called the Harmony Project, Middle Tennessee's first El Sistema-inspired program.

Our Mission

Music City Youth Orchestra is on a mission to attract and educate the youth of our community about the life importance of music.

Our Vision

Music City Youth Orchestra aspires to create a dynamic, music-playing experience that is magnetic to a broad spectrum of youth. The aspirations of Music City Youth Orchestra will create a reciprocal effect of joy and collaboration on the communities from which it draws.

Harmony Project Vision

Striving to meet the needs of all youth in our community, the MCYO Harmony Project will be an exemplary program for creating opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged youth to enjoy the benefits of learning and performing live music.

Our Philosophy

We believe that music-making should be a joyful activity, both in rehearsal and performance. We employ a disciplined approach and strive for high standards of accomplishment while at the same time relaxing some of the more formal attitudes commonly associated with the orchestra. We aspire to create a collaborative effort where the students take ownership and contribute to the work of the group beyond simply learning their parts. The contributions of each member of the group help determine MCYO's character and activities. We also make use of the artistic resources to be found here in "Music City" through an eclectic approach to programming that explores many musical styles, and by seeking opportunities for the orchestra to collaborate with world-class professional musicians.

Our Guiding Principles

  • Music making should be a joyful activity that proceeds out of love and respect.
  • Students learn best when they take ownership of a project.
  • Discipline and a rigorous approach to learning are most successful in an environment that also embraces enthusiasm, fun and whimsy.
  • Sustained relationships with practicing professional musicians inspire developing student musicians to put forth their best effort.
  • Exploration of a diverse repertoire including a broad spectrum of western art music as well as traditional and popular genres is the most relevant approach for student musicians in the 21st century.

MCYO Programs

Complete rehearsal schedules are posted on our calendar.


Allison Cowan, Music Director
Rehearsals: Monday 6:00PM - 8:30PM
Locations: Belmont United Methodist Church

MCYO's flagship ensemble for advanced level string students, the Concert Orchestra was founded in 2007 and has performed to enthusiastic audiences at many major venues throughout Nashville. Students in the Concert Orchestra study and perform advanced works from the classical repertoire, jazz and rock standards, as well as traditional music from around the world.


Students will be placed in a trio, a quartet, a quintet, etc., based on similar skill levels among the musicians. Like the Concert Orchestra, the Chamber Ensembles learn and perform a variety of styles of music from well-known classics to jazz and rock. Musicians learn small group communication skills and gain sight-reading, improvisational, and leadership skills that foster and expand their confidence as musicians. Chamber participation provides a foundation in the requisite skills for participation in orchestra, aids in music appreciation, and is noted as a confidence builder among young musicians.



Date TBD
Single Saturday in October: 9:30AM - 3PM Location: Belmont United Methodist Church

MCYO's annual Fall Retreat is an invigorating day of music for Concert Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble musicians. Activities include orchestral and chamber rehearsals, a master class and sectional instruction taught by local professional musicians and instructors. Lunch is provided. Special activities include such things as guest presentations and staff concerts. Repertoire for upcoming performances is thoroughly rehearsed and all MCYO musicians are expected to attend the Fall Retreat.


Season auditions are held by appointment beginning August 20th at Belmont United Methodist Church (BUMC). To start the audition process, fill out the Audition Application form. Phone us at (615) 200-6296 or e-mail to schedule your audition time. Candidates for the Concert Orchestra may also audition during the year by appointment.

Auditions are required for all new students. Returning Chamber Ensemble students wishing to join the Concert Orchestra must also audition. Returning Concert Orchestra students must audition for re-seating. Media release, registration and health forms are made available to a participating student upon acceptance into an MCYO program.


Concert Orchestra: $275 annual tuition.

Fundraising Commitment: All students in the Concert Orchestra will be responsible to raise $250 due before the final concert in May. Many fun and unique fundraisers are offered throughout the season and assistance from the Advisory Board and Executive Director ensures that no student is left without the help necessary to participate in MCYO.

Concert Orchestra Scholarships

MCYO has limited needs-based full and partial scholarship funds available and would like to extend opportunities to participate to as many musicians as possible. Annual scholarship includes tuition valued at up to $275.

NOTE: All students receiving scholarship funds for the Concert Orchestra are expected to participate in orchestra activities to raise the $250 Parent-Student Fundraising Commitment. The fundraising commitment allows us to meet the true costs involved in running a quality organization and help build a program that is well supported by all who benefit.

Membership Policies

By accepting a position offered to you by MCYO, we ask that you commit to membership for the entire 10-month season (Concert Orchestra), or for the entire fall and/or spring semester (Chamber Ensemble). Members of all MCYO ensembles are expected to regularly attend rehearsals, attend all performances, and give notification in advance for all absences. Members are expected to practice adequately to be able to contribute to the group's mastery of the material under study. It is highly recommended that each student undertake a course of study on his/her instrument with a private teacher. Once the season begins in August, no refunds are given for any portion of tuition. If the member is dismissed or withdraws from the orchestra he/she will not be eligible for any tuition refund.

General Guidelines

  • Concert Orchestra musicians should arrive ten to fifteen minutes before rehearsal begins to allow time to greet friends, unpack and prepare to tune at the very start of rehearsal.
  • Chamber Ensemble musicians should be unpacked and ready to play at the rehearsal start time.
  • All students will need to bring their music, a folder for their music and a pencil - do not depend on your stand partner to bring music for you to share. Each musician should write conductor notes in pencil on his or her own copies.
  • All students are responsible for setting up their sections before rehearsal and putting away their stands at the conclusion of every rehearsal.
  • When instruction is being given during rehearsal it is expected that all students be courteous and listen - no plucking, playing or talking with other students. No cell phone usage during rehearsals. Cell phones may be taken up and given back to the students at the conclusion of rehearsal. Only bottled water (no soft drinks) are allowed in the rehearsal space. Food is permitted for special events and organized parties.
  • Concert Orchestra students may apply for the Fellowship Program at the start of every season. The program gears students to be prepared for their professional futures and teaches lifelong skills in leadership, mentorship, administrative skills, and music making. MCYO Fellows will also work closely with the Music Director so that the interests of the musicians regarding repertoire are given full consideration in choosing musical programs for the orchestra. Fellowship applications are available for interested students.

Absentee Policies - Concert Orchestra

  1. Students with more than six (6) excused absences in the course of the season will be suspended from MCYO for the remainder of the season.
  2. Students who have more than one (1) excused absence in the 4 weeks preceding a performance may be suspended from the performance at the conductor's discretion.
  3. Unexcused absences are absences in which the student fails to notify their conductor, Executive Director or the concertmaster of his/her absence before rehearsal begins.
  4. An unexcused absence counts as two (2) excused absences for the purposes of policies 1 and 2 (above).
  5. Consequences for absences due to extenuating circumstances may be tempered at the conductor's discretion.

Absentee Policies - Chamber Ensembles

  1. Students with more than four (4) excused absences and two (2) unexcused absences in the course of the semester will be suspended from MCYO for the remainder of the semester.
  2. Students who have more than one (1) excused absence in the 4 weeks preceding a performance may be suspended from the performance at the conductor's discretion.
  3. Unexcused absences are absences in which the student fails to notify their conductor or Executive Director of his/her absence before rehearsal begins.
  4. An unexcused absence counts as two (2) excused absences for the purposes of policies 1 and 2 (above).
  5. Consequences for absences due to extenuating circumstances may be tempered at the conductor's discretion.

Tardiness Policies - Concert Orchestra and Chamber Ensembles

Students will be counted tardy if they are not in their seats and ready to play at the beginning of rehearsal. If a student is going to be more than 15 minutes late he/she should contact their conductor or Executive Director and his/her tardy will be counted as excused. Three (3) excused tardies will count as one (1) excused absence.

Students who are more than 15 minutes late and have not contacted their conductor or Executive Director will have an unexcused absence which counts as two (2) excused absences.

Inclement Weather Policy

Please check your e-mail or the MCYO Facebook page by 3PM on the day of rehearsal for any last minute announcements or cancellations. Please use your best judgment when deciding to travel to a concert or rehearsal in bad weather. Please notify the appropriate conductor or Executive Director if you decide not to attend an event due to the weather.


Parking is available around the church building and on the nearby streets including Acklen Avenue. Limited parking and handicap accessible spaces can be found in the lot between the Community Center and main building off of 20th Ave. S.

Non-Discrimination Policy

MCYO does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. Download Title VI Complaint Form ( VI Complaint Form.pdf) here.

Concert Details

All concerts will be posted on our calendar.

Concert Pricing

MCYO Concerts are FREE to the public. Donations are gladly accepted.

Special Events

Various community performances are offered in addition to our regularly scheduled programs and are often FREE to the public.

Concert Dress

Basic black is the concert style.

  • Gentlemen: Black dress shirt and slacks, black socks and shoes (no t-shirts, jeans or tennis shoes).
  • Ladies: Black outfit - dress shirt/blouse with slacks or skirt, or black dress. Black shoes and stockings or tights (no t-shirts, jeans or tennis shoes). Do not show skin below the waist and wear at least capped sleeves; NO SLEEVELESS.

Community Concert Dress

Casual attire is permitted as determined by your conductor ("work out" clothes are not acceptable).

Concert Recordings

When available, MCYO Concert Orchestra concerts may be professionally recorded. Links to recordings will be provided via email approximately two weeks after each concert.

Support MCYO

We are so grateful to our supporters who are essential to the success and growth of our programs! Fundraisers and ticket and merchandise sales only cover a small portion of our annual operating budget, and we couldn't continue without the donations and support of businesses and individuals like you. There are several ways to support MCYO with a tax-deductible gift:

  1. Make a cash or check donation at a concert
  2. Make an online donation through our website
  3. Write a check made payable to Music City Youth Orchestra and mail to:

    Music City Youth Orchestra
    P.O. Box 120502
    Nashville, TN 37212

Volunteering with MCYO

MCYO is seeking community volunteers to serve on our Advisory Board. Volunteers with music education and/or music industry knowledge is a plus! E-mail us for more information about how you can become involved.

We look forward to a great season!

For regular updates and news on MCYO, sign up to be on our email list. You can find out what we've been up to by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and ReverbNation.

Music City Youth Orchestra is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, a partner of The Nashville Symphony, a member of the League of American Orchestras, and a proud beneficiary of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission.