Music City Youth Orchestra


Melanie Conducting

MCYO’s musical staff bring a breadth of experience in both teaching and performing to their work with the orchestra.  Travis, Tracy, and Melanie share a rich background in classical music as well as a love for the diversity of musical expression.  MCYO students are challenged to develop a flexibility of technique and musicianship that will enable them to play whatever style of music they wish.

Travis Patton, Music Director

Travis Patton, Music DirectorSix string electric violinist and arranger Travis Patton is a 2013 graduate of Belmont University. He has won several awards and competitions, including the title of Grand Champion in the Senior Division at the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) Eclectic Strings Festival in 2012. He was selected for Belmont’s 2012 concerto competition performing Tracy Silverman’s Electric Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Belmont Symphony Orchestra and was a finalist in the 2011 Rockin’ Fiddle Challenge playing Sweet Child O’ Mine hosted by The Dueling Fiddlers. Travis' first solo album, Blessings, was released in June 2012. Travis tours as an artist performing at schools, churches, and other venues. He has developed his own solo act on his custom-built six string electric violin. Travis creates a unique sound by blending effects pedals and live looping. He is a passionate advocate of music education. Travis has shared his knowledge of contemporary genres with young students by giving clinics and performing in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee. Travis performed for high school students in the Tennessee Mid-State Bands and Orchestras in 2009, 2010, and 2012. In 2012, he performed for middle school students in the Tennessee All-East Honors Orchestra. As a guest artist, Travis performed songs by Queen, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, and Europe to accompany students of the Maryville Middle School Orchestra for their pops concert in Maryville, Tennessee, in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Demand for Travis’ custom arrangements for string ensembles is growing, and Travis has arranged pieces for the Dallas String Quartet, the Sunset Middle School Orchestra, the Indian Hills Jr. High School Orchestra, the Maryville Intermediate School Orchestra, and various groups at Belmont's String Crossings Camp. Travis has developed a unique curriculum for his private students on ways to incorporate contemporary techniques such as the "chop" or "strum bowing". When not on the road, Travis is an arranger, recording musician, and violinist in Nashville. Travis was raised in Des Moines, Iowa and started playing violin classically at age seven. In middle school, he was exposed to jazz and began exploring the genre on violin. In high school, he attended the Jamey Abersold Jazz Workshops where he studied intensely with jazz educator David Baker and performer Sara Caswell. In 2009, his contemporary violin studies brought him to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. There, he studied electric violin with Tracy Silverman, jazz with Billy Contreras, fiddle with Tammy King, and classical with Elisabeth Small. 

Melanie Alvey, Chamber Ensemble Coordinator

Melanie Alvey, Associate ConductorMelanie Joy Alvey, a contemporary violinist, composer, arranger, and teacher, found her passion for music at a very young age. She began her studies on the piano, but eventually found her calling on the violin. After many years of intensive classical training, Melanie Joy discovered her true passion for jazz and improvisation and moved to Nashville to pursue this passion. She has her undergraduate and masters from Belmont University in Commercial Violin Performance where she studied with Elisabeth Small, Tracy Silverman, Tammy Rogers, and Billy Contreras. For her master’s thesis, she researched the life and musical concepts of her teacher and mentor and Nashville Country legend, Buddy Spicher. She has performed at the Bridgestone Arena, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. She recently performed with Rod Stewart for his Nashville appearance during his 2012 summer tour. Her Television appearances include: the 2010 Dove Awards with Natalie Grant, the 2010 CMA Country Christmas with Martina McBride, Darius Rucker, Kelly Pickler and LeAnn Rimes, the 2011 CMA Country Christmas with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, and Brad Paisley, and the 2011 CMA Awards with Rascal Flatts. She has and is currently performing locally with bands and artists such as Rodeo Pony, The Blair Band, Lindsay George, Sarah Williams, Lauren Homburg, Sharif Iman, and the Cumberland Tenderfoots. She has recorded at Historic RCA Studio B, Ocean Way Studios, The Castle in Franklin, and The Tracking Room. She recorded on the trailer for the film Billy: The Early Years, and on the soundtrack of the independent film Make Out with Violence. In 2011, she was the composer for a short film, The Piano Man during the Student Scoring Initiative which was led by the Nashville Composers Association. She arranged the string parts on the song “She Goes By Lonely” from Adam Illami’s newest record The Truth. Melanie Joy teaches in her private violin studio. She was director of the Academy Orchestra and is now the Chamber Ensemble Coordinator within Nashville’s Music City Youth Orchestra (MCYO). She has taught and worked at the Annie Moses Fine Arts Academy, Christian Howes’ Creative Strings Workshop, the Chamber Music Connection in Ohio, and the Belmont University Strings Crossings Camp. Melanie Joy enjoys the art of composition and songwriting, and would love to share her original music. It can be heard on her facebook page:  

Tracy Silverman, Artist-in-Residence

Tracy Silverman, Artist-in-ResidenceLauded by the BBC as “the greatest living exponent of the electric violin”, Tracy Silverman has redefined the instrument with his instantly recognizable trademark sound. His groundbreaking work with the six-string electric violin has forever transformed violin playing, much as Hendrix redefined the electric guitar. A Juilliard graduate, Tracy performed the premier of John Adams’ electric violin concerto ‘The Dharma at Big Sur’ at the gala opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. The piece was written for Silverman and he recorded it in 2004 for Nonesuch Records with John Adams conducting the BBC Symphony. Tracy has toured and recorded with composer Terry Riley, was first violinist with the Turtle Island String Quartet, and has recorded and produced many CDs for Windham Hill Records. He has performed and recorded with major symphonies and has produced and toured extensively with pianist Jim Brickman. Tracy’s ‘Electric Violin Concerto’ has been choreographed by Henrique Rodovolho and the Bale Teatro Guaira in Brazil. Tracy has taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, and at the MacPhail Center for the Arts in Minneapolis and regularly gives workshops all over the world, including the Stanford Jazz Workshop, Jazz in July at Amherst, Oberlin Conservatory and many others. He is a favorite instructor at Mark O’Connor’s annual fiddle camp, and currently holds a teaching position at Belmont University in Nashville, where he teaches exclusively jazz and rock violin. An international touring artist, Tracy has performed at major concert venues all over the world, and is currently touring internationally with his solo concerts, with his rock band Eclectica, as a member of the Terry Riley Trio, The Great Big Piano Trio with Philip Aaberg and Eugene Friesen, and with the Quarteto Sao Paulo in Brazil. For more information see 

LeAnn Austin, Executive Director

LeAnn Austin, Executive DirectorLeAnn Austin's career highlights include developing diversified fundraising programs to secure funding, executing special events to enhance and solidify donor relations, promoting advocacy and education for ongoing initiatives within the community and developing data tracking systems and material for promotions, advertising and services. LeAnn’s degree in Marketing from Lipscomb University provided the understanding in business, and being naturally inclined to the non-profit industry, she began her work in hospice care. From hospice care she moved into grant writing, special events and funding development for Nashville’s Table, including donor relations and event fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association, where she found she was able to truly blend her skills with the community’s needs. LeAnn’s musical tastes are diverse, which excited her about the repertoire for which Nashville’s only Eclectic Youth Orchestra is known. Her passion for music and the arts started from early childhood as she was surrounded by multiple generations of musicians, each with their own unique and broad choice of instruments and musical genres. With MCYO LeAnn is excited about the opportunity to tie her passion for music to her expertise in marketing, business and non-profit development. “Music and the arts move people toward positive living and creative learning, and MCYO’s unique approach to music education is unmatched by any other local youth orchestra.” LeAnn has served as the Executive Director of MCYO for 4 years. She has led the organization to see significant growth in all areas of programming, including the launch of the Harmony Project, as well as improving the financial health and stability through her efforts to keep MCYO a viable self-sustaining organization.  

Heather Martin, Program Director

Heather Martin, Program DirectorHeather (Gauthier) Martin has recently moved to the Nashville area and has grown up in a very active musical environment. Before moving to Tennessee, she spent the past five years employed as a music teacher at Kate Schenck Elementary in San Antonio, Texas. She completed a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University in 2014 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a concentration in Music Marketing from the University of Texas at San Antonio. While working towards her masters, Heather interned with the San Antonio Symphony’s Education Director on a wide range of activities in support of the organization’s Education and Community Engagement programs. She has been the Marketing/Public Relations Manager for the San Antonio Symphonic Band for the past eight years. Heather has been a performing member of many San Antonio area ensembles and has been the guest soloist with the Beethoven Concert Band and the University of Incarnate Word Community Orchestra where she was also the Principal Flutist for 6 years. She has also performed two times at the National Flute Association convention with the UTSA Flute Choir and was the guest soloist with the Ottawa Hills Flute Choir. Heather has taught private flute lessons and master classes throughout the San Antonio area for eight years. Currently she is teaching at the W.O. Smith Music School and at Antioch High School here in Nashville. Heather is excited to combine her education and teaching experience to be the Program Director for the Harmony Project.  

Alessandra Astete, Teaching Artist

Alessandra Astete, Teaching Artist Alessandra Astete is a classically trained vocalist and ardent music educator. A graduate of the Honors Program of Christopher Newport University, she holds a Bachelor of Music in music education and vocal performance. Alessandra has been a fervent advocate of El Sistema since she first began working at Soundscapes, an El Sistema-based music program in Newport News, VA in 2013. While at Soundscapes, she acted as Ensemble Intern for the orchestra and choir, leading sectionals in strings, woodwinds, percussion, and voice, and conducting the choir in a portion of the spring concert. She also chaperoned a group of students on the trip to the annual East Coast Seminario, an El Sistema conference of several East Coast nucleos (programs) where students come together for intensive music-making. The next year, she became the Level 1 Teaching Artist, leading a general music class to prepare the first level of students for eventual entry into the Soundscapes orchestra and choir. She taught singing and solfege, bucket band, recorder, and beginning violin. Alessandra is devoted to the propagation of the El Sistema movement in the United States, and believes deeply in its capacity to empower and inspire both individuals and communities across the globe. As a vocalist, Alessandra is currently pursuing a graduate degree in vocal performance at Belmont University, and beginning next year she will be one of two Nashville Opera Fellows in the graduate program. She also sings with the Nashville Symphony Chorus, having recently performed a soprano solo in Samuel Barber’s The Lovers. At Belmont, she also sings with the New Music Ensemble and the Chamber Singers. Alessandra’s operatic roles as an undergraduate at Christopher Newport University (CNU) include Adina in L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti and Madame Goldentrill in The Impresario by Mozart. As a winner of the 2015 Concerto and Aria Competition, she performed Mozart’s Ach, ich fühl’s from Die Zauberflöte with the CNU Orchestra in concert. Additionally, as a finalist in the 2013 Lisa Rellerford Costen Scholarship Competition, she performed Ich folge dir gleichfalls by Bach in concert with the Norfolk Chamber Consort. Alessandra is also a zealous advocate for the performance of new music, having participated in various composer recitals at CNU and at Belmont, and premiering a piece by Deen Entsminger in recital. Alessandra has studied with Dr. Mark Whatley, Dr. Rachel Holland, and Dr. David Sadlier.  

Walter Bitner, Founder and Conductor Emeritus

Walter Bitner, Music DirectorVeteran music educator Walter Bitner brought a multi-faceted background as a teacher and performer to his role as founder of MCYO Concert Orchestra - Nashville's eclectic youth orchestra. A multi-instrumentalist and singer, he is also a master teacher, composer, and conductor conversant with a wide variety of musical styles and traditions. Walter is the Director of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony.