Nashville Symphony

Nashville Symphony

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Founded 1946
Concert hall Schermerhorn Symphony Center
Principal conductor Giancarlo Guerrero

The Nashville Symphony is an American symphony orchestra, based in Nashville, Tennessee. The orchestra performs 140 concerts annually.


In 1920, prior to the 1946 founding of the Nashville Symphony, a group of amateur and professional musicians established an orchestral ensemble in Nashville, electing Nashville Banner music critic and Vanderbilt University professor George Pullen Jackson to serve as their president and manager. Despite steady growth over the next decade, that organization fell victim to The Depression. In 1945, World War II veteran and Nashville native Walter Sharp returned home from the war intent on establishing a new symphony for Middle Tennessee.[1] With the assistance of a small number of fellow music lovers, he convinced community leaders of this need and the Nashville Symphony was founded.

Sharp retained William Strickland, a young conductor from New York, to serve as its first music director and conductor. The orchestra performed its first concert in the fall of 1946 at War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Over the ensuing five seasons, Strickland was responsible for setting the high performance standards that the orchestra and its conductors have maintained to this day. Guy Taylor (1951–1959), Willis Page (1959–1967), Thor Johnson (1967–1975) and Michael Charry (1976–1982) were successive music directors. During Charry's tenure, the symphony moved its subscription series from War Memorial Auditorium to Jackson Hall in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Beginning in 1983, Music Director and Principal Conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn led the Nashville Symphony for 22 years, until his death in April 2005. The orchestra's profile increased during his tenure through recordings, television broadcasts and an East Coast tour, which culminated in a performance at Carnegie Hall on September 25, 2000.[2] Following Schermerhorn's death, in August 2006, Leonard Slatkin was named the orchestra's artistic advisor, for a contract of three years, through 2009.[3]

In September 2006, the Symphony opened Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a $123.5 million project, which includes Laura Turner Concert Hall.[4] Slatkin conducted the orchestra's first concert in the new hall on September 9, 2006, which included works by Shostakovich, Barber and Mahler, and a world premiere Triple Concerto by Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer.

In September 2007, the orchestra announced the appointment of Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero as the seventh music director of the Nashville Symphony, effective with the 2009-2010 season. His initial contract is for 5 years.[5] Under his direction, the orchestra has received a number of awards, including the 2011 ASCAP award for Programming of Contemporary Music,[6] the 2013 ASCAP award for Programming of Contemporary Music [7] and National Endowment for the Arts grants supporting its commitment to American music.[8] The orchestra's recordings have also earned a number of Grammy Awards and nominations (see Recordings below).

Music Directors


For the Naxos label, the orchestra has made more than 20 recordings since the year 2000. Several of these CDs have garnered a total of 15 Grammy Award nominations and 7 Grammy Awards. In 2008, the orchestra's CD of the music of Joan Tower, Made in America, won 3 Grammy Awards, including Best Orchestral Performance and Best Classical Album. In 2011, the orchestra's CD of music by Michael Daugherty, "Deus Ex Machina," won 3 Grammy Awards, and the following year its recording of music by Christopher Rouse, "Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra," earned one Grammy Award.

Education and Community Engagement

In April 2007, the Nashville Symphony announced a new program, Music Education City, designed to promote music education in the Nashville and Middle Tennessee community. The program is structured around six "pillars," or core initiatives, each representing an area of educational emphasis:

In 2007, as part of Music Education City, the Nashville Symphony announced the establishment of "One Note, One Neighborhood", an initiative designed to promote, support and supplement music education in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Presented in partnership with the Metro school system and with the W.O. Smith/Nashville Community Music School, the program is currently operational in the Stratford cluster of East Nashville, providing children at eight schools with a wide range of music education resources, including free instruments, private instruction at the W.O. Smith School and transportation to lessons. The Nashville Symphony plans to expand to program to other clusters within the school system.[9]


  1. Young, Stephen E. "Nashville". Grove Music Online ed. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
  2. Ben Mattison (19 April 2005). "Kenneth Schermerhorn, Longtime Nashville Symphony Conductor, Dies at 75". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  3. Vivien Schweitzer (24 August 2006). "Leonard Slatkin Joins Nashville Symphony as Artistic Advisor While Music Director Search Continues". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  4. Matthew Westphal (10 September 2006). "Photo Journal: Nashville, 'the Athens of the South,' Gets a New Temple to Music". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  5. Kevin Shihoten (7 September 2007). "Nashville Symphony Appoints Music Director". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  6. League of American Orchestras: "ASCAP 'Adventurous Programming' Awards Presented at League of American Orchestras Conference in Minneapolis", accessed July 21, 2011
  7. Nashville Symphony website: "Nashville Symphony Earns ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming", accessed January 11, 2015
  8. Nashville Symphony website: "Nashville Symphony Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant", accessed January 11, 2015
  9. "Nashville Symphony and W.O. Smith Music School Announce "One Note, One Neighborhood" Music Education Initiative" (Press release). Nashville Symphony Orchestra. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
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