Orchestra at Sewanee

The Sewanee Summer Music Festival offers two distinct, high level orchestral experiences: The Cumberland Orchestra and The Sewanee Symphony. The Festival Artistic Director, along with guest conductors and the artistic leadership team, selects a range of musically and technically demanding literature for each orchestra to perform. Each ensemble is held in the highest artistic and musical standards possible, rehearsing six times per week. The orchestras are comprised of both pre-college and college festival participants. Recent conductors at the festival include – Robert Moody, Carl St. Clair, JoAnn Falletta, Andrew Grams, Karina Canellakis, Gemma New, Gene Moon, Oriol Sans, Jacomo Bairos, Kalena Bovell, and Janna Hymes.

In addition to full orchestra rehearsals, students in both groups will participate in sectionals with festival faculty. This time with faculty allows for in-depth study of the selected literature and offers a unique opportunity for students to learn directly from experts in their field.

Cumberland Orchestra

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The Cumberland Orchestra is a pre-professional symphony orchestra for advanced pre-college and college students. Led by gifted educators and supported by our dedicated faculty, the Cumberland Orchestra offers these participants the opportunity to learn and grow as orchestral performers, exploring significant literature from the symphonic cannon as well as contemporary works. The Cumberland Orchestra performs weekly on Friday evenings at 7:30 pm.

Sewanee Symphony

The Sewanee Symphony is a pre-professional ensemble of college and select pre-college students that will study core literature, explore contemporary works, and collaborate with faculty soloists. Festival faculty will guide weekly sectionals and attend rehearsals to reinforce fundamentals of orchestral performance. The Sewanee Symphony performs weekly on Sunday afternoons at 3:30 pm.

Orchestra Highlights 2024: A Classical Tapestry Brahms Academic Festival Overture Op. 80; Copland The TEnder Land Suite; Price Symphony No. 1 in E minor; Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition; Resphigi Pines of Rome; Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol Op. 34; Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47; Simon This Land; Strauss Der Rosenkavalier Suite

Chamber Music at Sewanee

A cornerstone of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival is a deep and immersive experience in the study and performance of chamber music. Each student at the festival, regardless of prior experience, will have the opportunity to perform in a chamber ensemble.

Chamber Performance Opportunities

Performing in a chamber music ensemble develops leadership skills, fosters collaboration, improves intonation, blend, and balance, and promotes high-level musical thinking. Often times, students busy in school program are unable to devote the time necessary for truly in-depth study of chamber music.  It is in the intense laboratory of the chamber ensemble that students become mature musicians, integrating their individual part and their own musical personality into a unified whole. From duos to string ensembles, wind quintets, string quartets, brass ensembles and percussion groups, the unique skills developed through chamber music carry through to every other aspect of a students performance.

String Chamber at Sewanee

New for 2024, string chamber music will be divided into three focus areas, in order to deliver the best possible experience for each festival participant, depending on their experience and current performance level. The three focus areas are detailed below:

Chamber Music Intensive

Students selected for this experience will be experienced chamber musicians looking for a deeper understanding and more intensive experience as a chamber musician. They will not only explore the piece, but the composer, the time period, and the collaborative chamber music process.

Highlights of this new program include:

  • Groups that are established and stay together through the entire 4 weeks of the festival.

  • Independent practice and rehearsal time, along with intensive coaching and study with the SSMF faculty

  • Detailed score study, master classes and workshops with SSMF faculty

  • A final evening performance featuring all chamber music intensive participants

Chamber Music Workshop

Students placed in the workshop will have a chance to study and perform a range of chamber music works throughout the summer. Ideally, students in this group will have performed in a chamber ensemble before, and have the basic understanding of how to work comfortably in a chamber group. Groups will be set at the start of the festival and rotate after their first performances at the end of week 2. Each group will have independent time to rehearse on their own as well as organized coaching with SSMF faculty.

Highlights of this program include

  • Coaching with SSMF faculty

  • Multiple performance opportunities throughout the summer

  • Mentorship opportunities within each ensemble

  • The opportunity to work with a range of students during the festival

Chamber Music Lab

This opportunity is designed for students with limited experience in collaborative chamber music. Groups will be formed and coached by faculty members, and students will work systematically to gain valuable performance experience as chamber musicians. Regular performance opportunities will be available for all Chamber Music Lab participants, including concerts on campus and across the region.

Concerto Lab

A unique opportunity for students to rehearse and perform their solo concerto repertoire with a full orchestra during the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.

Sewanee concerto lab is designed for advanced string students (violin, viola, cello and bass) to have real world, hands-on experiences performing standard repertoire concertos with an orchestra, under the baton of professional conductors and mentored by SSMF faculty. Held during the 3rd week of the festival, the concerto lab will allow up to 10 soloists to perform full movements of their concerto repertoire with an orchestra comprised of other SSMF students, and led by faculty conductors. 

SSMF faculty members will attend rehearsals and coach students in preparation for a free public performance at the end of the 3rd week 

Application Process

String students who have been admitted to the festival will have the opportunity to submit their concerto repertoire for review. Faculty will select up to 10 students to perform as part of the concerto lab. Selected students will be notified prior to the start of SSMF. Click the button below to submit your application!

Applications are due by May 20, 2024.
Concerto Lab participants will be selected and notified by June 7, 2024. Students must have their tuition paid in full in order to be considered for the concerto lab.

Selection Process

Students will be evaluated based on the quality of their video submission and overall application to the festival, including teacher recommendation and resume. 

Concerto Repertoire available in 2024 will be based on orchestral part availability, copyright limitations, and difficulty level and complexity of the orchestral parts. Many string concerti will be available for students to play in the Concerto Lab; however, some will not be, including: Barber Concerto, Bernstein Serenade, Korngold violin concerto, Shostakovich violin concerto.


Is this the same as the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition?

No, this is a different program, available since 2023 to participants. 

Can I do both the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition and the Concerto Lab?


I want to play a concerto that is rental, can I do that?

No, parts must be in the SSMF library. A full list of acceptable literature will be provided soon. 

Can I do a double concerto with another string player? 

Repertoire must be selected from the list provided. No substitutions will be allowed.

What is my concert attire?

The same as it would be for any other student concert at Sewanee; please consult the handbook for specifics.

Sample Schedule for Instrumental Participants

This is a very general schedule of activities each day. Specific schedules will vary from participant to participant.

7-9am— Breakfast
9:30am-12pm—Tuesday-Friday Orchestra rehearsal
Afternoon—Chamber music, master classes, and private lessons
Evening—Performances, rehearsals studio classes, or recreational activities

Concerts are Friday evening, Saturday evening, and Sunday afternoon. Mondays are free days, except for the first Monday of the festival.