Orchestra Spotlight:
Nashville Symphony Orchestra

About The Ensemble

An Orchestral Cinderella Story

 The Schermerhorn Symphony Center The Schermerhorn Symphony Center (click to enlarge)

Did you hear? They’re building a $120 million symphonic concert hall in Nashville. You read that correctly; it’s not a typo – Nashville, Tennessee. Even more, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra Association owns and operates the 197,000-square-foot neo-classically inspired Symphony Center that maintains the goal of transforming Nashville’s musical landscape and becoming the cultural heart of the city’s downtown area.

Designed by architect David M. Schwarz, acoustician Paul Scarbrough, and Fisher Dachs Associates, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center is designed to be one of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. In addition to the 1,870-seat Laura Turner Concert Hall, the center will contain a 3,000 square-foot education center, the organization’s administrative offices, numerous musician facilities, and a full commercial kitchen. Another highlight of the new building is a garden and cafe, enclosed by a colonnade which is connected to the west side of the building. The garden will be open to the public throughout the day and during concerts.

 The 1,870 seat Laura Turner Concert Hall The 1,870 seat Laura Turner Concert Hall (click to enlarge)

Months before the planned opening, patrons could take a tour of the Laura Turner Concert Hall via a virtual movie. The narrated virtual movie lasts several minutes and whisks you through every level of seating the hall has to offer, including the cabaret style seating offered on pops and special events concerts. This is the first time patrons have been able to take advantage of such advanced technology to take an in-depth look into a new concert hall before its scheduled opening.

An earnest Cinderella story, the Nashville Symphony filed for bankruptcy in 1988 and wasn’t released from that state until seven years later in 1995. Shortly after emerging from bankruptcy, the organization hired Alan Valentine as their President and CEO. Upon his arrival, the orchestra embarked on the first step toward stability and normalization by instituting a $10 million endowment campaign that actually raised $25.5 million.

Within eight months of concluding the institution’s largest capital campaign project to date, the Nashville Symphony board of directors did the last thing most people in this business would expect them to do. They approved another capital campaign five times larger than the one they just completed. A few months later, in August of 2001, the organization formally launched the $120 million “A Time for Greatness” campaign, designed to raise funds for all related aspects to the new symphony center. That campaign has been a success and their hall officially opens on September 9th, 2006.

 Leonard Slatkin and orchestra acclimate to the new hall Leonard Slatkin and orchestra acclimate to the new hall (click to enlarge)

In the short space of a decade following bankruptcy, the organization has moved from being a “ward of the state” to building a $120 million symphony center. Never before in the history of professional American orchestras has an organization moved so aggressively or raised that much money in such a short period of time.

Ten years ago there were 73 musicians in the Nashville Symphony and only 56 were employed full-time, earning a base salary of $21,441; that was the same year the organization launched its $23.5 million endowment campaign. Since that time, the number of full-time players has grown to 82 and the base salary has increased to a minimum base salary of $42,183 for the 2006-2007 concert season, a 96% increase. Additionally, the 2006-2007 season expands Nashville’s season by one week and 44 additional services to accommodate an additional performance per concert series.

 The centerís towering neo-classical entrance The center’s towering neo-classical entrance (click to enlarge)

On April 18th, 2005, the organization unexpectedly lost long-time music director and the new symphony center’s namesake, Kenneth Schermerhorn. On August 23, 2019, the Nashville Symphony announced that conductor Leonard Slatkin will serve a three-year appointment as Music Advisor while the organization searches for a new music director.

Of course, the Nashville Symphony wouldn’t have been able to realize such a grand unified vision without a group of organized musicians working in conjunction with dedicated board leadership and capable managers. As such, we’ll hear from representatives of each of those stakeholders to learn more about how this organization is writing its own Cinderella story.


Comments (Click to Hide)

The rise of the Nashville Symphony is an exciting example of what is possible when an orchestra's aspirations go beyond just keeping the doors open. Nashville's environment of shared vision, bold leadership and good faith between management and musicians is inspiring. -Timothy Judd
timothyjudd on September 1, 2019 at 10:53 PM
Today's (Sat. Sept 2nd) New York Times tells the "behind-the-scenes" story of many cities, including Nashville, that have or are building new concert halls. I for one am very excited to visit during next year's League Conference in Nashville.

The article is by Daniel Wakin and is entitled "This Season's Must-Have Urban Accessory". It is in the Sunday Sept 3rd Arts & Leisure section
AaronFlagg on September 2, 2019 at 11:07 AM

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