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Facts About Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Updated on June 5, 2017
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Piano teacher extraordinaire Audrey Hunt dedicates her life to educating others. Her gift of interpretation magnifies her love for music.

By Ryan Kaldari - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
By Ryan Kaldari - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/ | Source

The First Time Ever I Heard Your Sound

Nashville, Tennessee is not just about country music although the best is certainly here. You'll find all genres of music in this town including some of the best jazz, pop, world, and magnificent classical music.

Named in honor of the late Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony for 22 years, Schermerhorn Symphony Center is the home of the Nashville Symphony.

Located in downtown Nashville's SoBro neighborhood, it sits across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

I remember the first time I heard the magical sounds streaming from this symphony orchestra. Seated comfortably, in the second balcony, I could feel the musical colors passing through my very presence. The sounds radiating from the orchestra were magnetizing. I'd take up residence in this magnificent concert hall if it were possible.

The music radiating from every angle of the building filled me with chills. It seemed that my complete array of emotions had found their home. I was being kissed by a rainbow, nurtured with every note. "It doesn't get any better than this" I whispered to myself.

The Grammy Award-Winning Nashville Symphony

A beautiful evening at the Nashville Symphony. February, 2017
A beautiful evening at the Nashville Symphony. February, 2017 | Source

How Our Ears Catch Musical Sounds

As humans we are able to zero in on sounds coming from nearly every direction. That little tab of flesh that juts out at the opening of the ear canal (the tragus) catches sound and guides it toward the eardrum.

We localize musical tones less well than other sounds. But as good as we humans are at localizing sounds, owls are better. In fact they are nature's champion localizers.

So what does this have to do with a concert hall? Everything. When you are seated in a concert hall, reverberations reach your ears from all directions and you localize each of these. The sounds that arrive directly from the stage are normally the loudest, so you tend to experience music as coming from that spot.

But infinite echoes, some too subtle to distinguish and some too pronounced, turn what would be a clash of sound into an embrace. In this environment music surrounds us as it transforms us.

Colors of Music Captivate Our Emotions

Without a variety of color in music it would be like a painting using only one color.
Without a variety of color in music it would be like a painting using only one color. | Source

How You Can Develop Active Listening

To help you enjoy your musical experience begin to take a more active roll in listening. This may take some practice but it will be well worth it. Listed below are suggestions for active listening:

  • Listen for patterns of tension and release. This is the simplest and most enjoyable way to develop and deepen your appreciation for music - especially the classical form.
  • Be aware of techniques such as rhythmic variation
  • Listen for key changes within the music.
  • Concentrate on the path of motion, stillness, melodic highs and lows all leading to the raising of musical expectations and fulfillment.
  • Think about music in terms of fire, water, air and earth. Nature will take you on a beautiful journey. I think of "earth" when I hear Beethoven or Brahms, "fire" by Stravinsky, "water" from Debussy and Ravel and Mozart and Bach are the supreme expression of "air". Do you agree?

Schirmerhorn Symphony Center

Lovely evening in Nashville waiting for the symphony to begin.
Lovely evening in Nashville waiting for the symphony to begin. | Source

Why Construct a Concert Hall?

The reason for a concert hall is all about sound. Sound quickly loses intensity as it fans outward in all directions. By the time an orchestra's sound travels from stage to front row, its energy spreads to an area of 300 square yards or so, by the back row of a large hall it would stretch to 30,000 square yards if there were no walls to contain the sound.

The concert hall is actually a musical instrument. This may shock some people. Though it makes no sound of its own, it becomes an extension by reverberating sounds., absorbing frequencies as it does so. Therefore the acoustics of a hall are crucial to conducting sound.

One of the most innovative features of Schermerhorn Symphony Center is a convertible seating system designed to give the hall unique versatility. The orchestra level seating can be transformed from rows of theater-style seating to a 5,700-square-foot hardwood ballroom floor, typically used for cabaret-style events such as pops and jazz concerts.

And get this! A unique motorized system actually lowers rows of seats into a special storage space below the surface of the ballroom floor. This convertible system gives the concert hall great flexibility for numerous types of events throughout the year.

The video below shows more.

A Remarkable Transformation is About to Take Place

A Pioneer Of Acoustics

One of the earliest pioneers in the field of acoustics was Harvard University’s Wallace Sabine. His research and studies of reverberation and attenuation continue to influence acousticians to this day.

The Three Kinds of Sound in a Concert Hall

Acousticians distinguish between three kinds of sound in a concert hall.

1. Direct sound which comes straight to you from the stage.

2. Early sound that comes from the first reflections to reach your ear, normally from the ceiling or side walls.

3. Reverberation which gradually builds and decays as sound waves ricochet off every surface.

The energy in direct sound and early sound together should exceed reverberated sound. The less reverberation a room offers the more definition it has. However, too much definition produces a dry sound so a balance is sought. The dilemma for the acoustician is that a room is ideal for one kind of music but can be awful for another.

Who Was Schermerhorn?

This is a question that provoked me to find all the information I could about this man. Obviously I wanted to know who this man was and why the Nashville Symphony Center bears his name. I found the following facts about this brilliant conductor:

  • Kenneth Schermerhorn was musical director and conductor of the Nashville Symphony and held this prestigious position from 1983 until his death on April 18, 2005.
  • The name Schermerhorn is Dutch. It comes from an area in northern Holland known as the Schermermeer.
  • While in school he studied three instruments: clarinet, violin and trumpet.
  • At age 17 he was accepted into the New England Conservatory of Music and graduated in 1950 with honors.
  • He went on to play the trumpet with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Kansas City Philharmonic and other orchestras.
  • The U.S. Army drafted Schirmerhorn and in 1953 he became a conductor for the U.S. Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra and received the Harry Cohen International Music Award for young conductors. Clearly he was being noticed for his ability and talent for conducting.
  • He studied and played under the great conductor Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood.
  • Later in his life he worked again with Bernstein as assistant conductor of the New York Symphony.
  • He was music director of the American Ballet and conducted several ballet's with Baryshnikov.
  • The television production of the Nutcracker, starring Baryshnikov was also conducted by Schermerhorn.
  • Between 1984 and 1988 he was the director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra helping top improve it's quality.
  • On April 18, 2005 Schirmerhorn died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee.

What Does it Take to be a Musical Conductor?

What does it take to conduct a large group of musicians all playing different instruments? It goes way beyond standing on a raised podium and waving a baton in the air. It's much more involved than it may appear. Take a look at some of the following requirements expected from the musical conductor:

  • Interprets the music as the composer created it. This means the conductor must have a thorough knowledge of both the composer and his work.
  • Communicates with musicians through hand gestures or a baton. He sets the tempo and shapes the music.
  • Provides rehearsals and instruction to all orchestra musicians.
  • Selects the works to be performed.
  • Acts as publicity manager.
  • Makes decisions and promotes the arts.
  • Conveys interpretation to the musical score. He brings life to the music.

Much more can be said involving the conductor and the tireless hours he works.


Arch lighting in the Schirmerhorn Symphony Center
Arch lighting in the Schirmerhorn Symphony Center | Source

Historical Facts of Interest

  • Groundbreaking for the Symphony Center took place on December 3, 2003.
  • Grand opening was September 9, 2006.
  • Project cost: 123.5 million.
  • Dimensions: 197,000 square feet.
  • The classic façade features 26,000 pieces of Indiana limestone, South Dakota granite and marble, 302 windows and 36,500 square feet of copper roofing.
  • A varied ceiling height, rising from 51 feet over the stage to 61 feet over the orchestra floor,enhances sound clarity for performers and the audience.
  • The hall features 1,844 seats distributed over three levels.
  • A special choral loft sits behind the stage for 132 chorus members.
  • The performance platform accommodates 115 musicians.
  • The hall also features a custom-built concert organ comprised of 47 voices, 64 ranks and 3,568 pipes with three 32-foot stops.

The custom-built concert organ. The pipes behind the stage are those that are visable. There are others throughout the hall.
The custom-built concert organ. The pipes behind the stage are those that are visable. There are others throughout the hall. | Source

Interior Shape of An Auditorium Influences Acoustics

Acoustically speaking, the interior shape of an auditorium plays a key role and designers have experimented with almost everything imaginable, including fan-shaped, reverse fan, shoe box, and circular rooms.

Sounds leap from a concert hall stand and zig-zag around as if in a giant three-dimensional pinball machine.

Schirmerhorn Symphony Center Location

A markerSchermerhorn Symphony Center Nashville, Tn. -
1 Symphony Pl, Nashville, TN 37201, USA
get directions

The green marker A indicates the location of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Hover over this marker.

History of Nashville Symphony Music Directors

Giancarlo Guerrero
2009
Present
Leonard Slatkin
2006
2009
Kenneth Schermerhorn
1983
2006
Michael Charry
1976
1982
Thor Johnson
1967
1975
Willis Page
1959
1967
Willis Page
1951
1959
William Strickland
1946
1951

Have You Ever Been to a Symphony?

How Often Do You Attend the Symphony?

See results

Nashville Flood Destroys Symphony Instruments

On May 1 and 2, 2010, areas of Tennessee were hit hard with torrential rains. My son and I were living in Nashville where the Cumberland River crested at 51.86 feet. I still remember this downpour and the extensive damage that occurred.

Flooding took it's toll with twenty one deaths recorded in Tennessee. Of the ten dead in Davidson County, "four victims were found in their homes, two were in cars and four were outdoors."

Floods killed six people in northern Mississippi, and four deaths were reported in Kentucky. In Nashville the floods entered the Schermerhorn Symphony Center basement destroying and damaging a huge inventory of instruments. Among these were two Steinway concert grand pianos and one organ valued at 2.5 million.

My son Randy Hunt is a Luthier (builds and repairs double bass instruments). He spent long hours working on the restoration of the orchestra's double basses.

On June 22, 2010, a benefit concert called "Nashville Rising" was held at Bridgestone Arena to raise money for Middle Tennessee flood relief efforts. The concert raised over $2.2 million for flood relief efforts



“Beethoven tells you what it's like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it's like to be human. Bach tells you what it's like to be the universe.”

― Douglas Adams

Source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conducting

https://www.nashvillesymphony.org/about/Schermerhorn-Symphony-Center

https://www.nashville.gov/District-Energy-System/Customers/Customer-Profiles/Schermerhorn-Symphony-Center.aspx

http://www.nashvilledowntown.com/go/schermerhorn-symphony-center

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Schermerhorn_Symphony_Center

Music brings us to ecstacy. Music brings us peace.

Where words fail, music speaks.

-Hans Christian Andersen

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    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 4 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      DDE

      Thank you for taking time to read my hub. Yes, this was indeed a beautiful experience. Music heals and inspires. I'm so grateful for that.

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hi Sha

      Attending the Nashville Symphony is such a special occasion for me. I go as often as I can but it's never often enough. How great it would be if one day you and I could go together. Thanks my friend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 months ago from Central Florida

      What an amazing place, Audrey! The way it's laid out and with only 1,800+ seats, it seems to be a very intimate setting. I'm sure you were in your glory when you attended.

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Manatita

      I enjoy most kinds of music but the combined sounds of a symphony orchestra thrills me through my entire being. IT is Gods music...universal love spiritually combined.

      THank you my friend for your kindness. MAy music play peace within your soul.

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Patricia

      Gaining confidence with your singing voice is path to self expression...healthy expression. I'm thrilled that you've shared this. If you do come to Nashville you must meet with me. What a slice of joy that would be. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Paula 2 months ago

      Oh heck, Audrey....I'd be as happy as a kitten with a ball of yarn, just sitting in the shade with you, sharing coffee & cookies, gabbing & laughing the day away! You're so interesting, sweet and multi-talented, I wouldn't even need a live orchestra! (although music is always a wonderful addition to any visit! I would love to just listen to you sing!!

      As a child I dreamed I would be a Broadway Star! I would sing and dance (ballet) and entertain the world,. Then I realized I sound like a frog and I'm clumsy as an ox!....But since I could laugh at myself and be happy anyway....I decided I would make others laugh too!

      We each have our special gifts to share and shame on us if we don't spread the joy!!......True talent is finding the beauty in everything & everyone we see.....sharing our love and spreading happiness......once we have that figured out, the rest just happens!!........Have a safe 4th! Hugs, Paula.

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Dear Paula,

      Your appreciation for the symphony is absolutely marvelous. I love it! Buffalo Symphony is amazing from what I hear. I'd love to be attending a concert with you dear friend. Thank you for your support...it means everything to me. I wish you all good things.

      Audrey

    • profile image

      DDE 2 months ago

      The photos are stunning! A unique hub and you shared from the heart. Facts about a place I had not been to and would like to one day.

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Dear Dora

      Yes, the organ pipes are quite amazing. I heard these pipes come to life at one time attending the Nashville symphony. The organist was a young man and absolutely spectacular! Thank you for your visit.

      Ruby

      You must come to visit Nashville and allow me to treat you to a night of musical wonder. I would love to share a night at the symphony with one of my favorite hub friends.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This was a fabulous article Audrey. I have never been to Nashville but if ever traveling that way would love to take in a symphony in that beautiful building. The video showing the transformation inside of that hall was fascinating.

      We have the Houston Symphony Orchestra here and for years we had regular season tickets.

      Your description of music in an orchestra hall as being kissed by a rainbow and being nurtured by every note was beautiful!

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hi Ann

      What a great analogy! I've never thought of he properties of sound in this way. So glad you've shared this. Thank you!

      Hello Martie

      How are you my friend? Love your comments and wish you and could attend the symphony together. Wow. I'd really be in heaven!

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hi Linda

      I do so enjoy introducing interesting facts about music and those things associated with music to others. So much to learn and know. I also think we develop a bigger appreciation for musical sounds as we seek to broaden our scope. Thank you so much!

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Dear Mar

      Your mother and you must have had an unforgettable time here in Nashville. I feel I know her through your book and what a marvelous woman and influence she was on you. Thank you for your appreciation of Randy's hard work at restoring some of the instruments destroyed at the time of the flood.

      Music is healing...you have a beautiful appreciation for this form of art. But then...you are a beautiful, compassionate person.

      Sending sparkles of love and joy,

      Audrey

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      HI Mary. So nice to know you like the section on training ourselves to listen to music. I enjoyed writing about this magnificent symphony center including the elements about sound. Thanks for your comments.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 months ago from london

      Lovely ending quotes. I like them. Schermerhorn seemed an interesting man. Quite brilliant, in fact and he seemed to have conducted for some time. We had a Haridas Olivier Grieff, I believe, in our Centre for some years until just before he passed.

      I have been to a few symphonies and indeed we hold one at the end of every Sri Chinmoy Celebrations in NY twice a Year. Our travelling Orchestra, Songs of The Soul ensemble, are all talented musicians. Have a great Saturday.

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 3 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      mckbirdbks

      I really am so very grateful for my love of music, instilled by my mother, and for the privilege of being both a teacher and entertainer. Thank you Mike for your kind and loyal support.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 months ago from sunny Florida

      It seems that music finds a way to lift our spirits like almost nothing else can. Thank you for taking us on this journey....I have not been there but would love to some day. Music is a HUGE part of my life....it takes me to another place and I have learned to use the voice for singing that I thought was not so great....I hope that doesn't sound immodest...I certainly don't mean it that way....I have just learned to be unafraid to express my joy through song. Thank you for sharing your musical knowledge with us. Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      There is so much to like about this beautiful article: Interesting background info on conductor, Kenneth Schermerhorn, how the concert hall is actually a musical instrument, and more. I especially loved how the colors of music can captivate our emotions. "Without a variety of color in music it would be like a painting using only one color. So well done, Audrey. :-)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      You always give us a fabulous article...fascinating, educational & always musical! I've been fortunate to attend many symphony performances, all of them breathtaking. Right here we have the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

      My favorite evening of music was several years ago, I attended a spectacular Ballet accompanied by the Balalikan Orchestra.....I still think about it.

      Thanks as always, beautiful lady! Peace, Paula

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Audrey, your love of music shines in this beautiful piece of historic inspiration. I have never been to a live symphony, I would love to attend. You are certainly blessed to live in Nashville where country and the opera are celebrated. Thank you for sharing....

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Everything about the Symphony Center is superb, but those organ pipes are enthralling even without hearing them. You did a wonderful job describing moods and sounds. Great read!

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 3 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hi Bill. Thanks for your approval on my hub. Your feedback is important to me. I haven't watched "The Voice" for sometime. I once followed this show regularly. I rarely take time out to watch television anymore. I'm writing a book. :)

      Love

      Audrey

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 months ago from South Africa

      What a beautiful building! Absolutely nothing can beat the awesomeness of sitting in a concert hall and listening to the sound of a live symphony or symphonic orchestra.

      Excellent hub, Audrey!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 months ago from SW England

      This gives us superb detail of how we listen and interpret music, as well as background information about the building, the orchestra, and much, much more.

      It reminded me of how we listen to the music of language; we have to be attuned to pitch, intonation and rhythm. If we listen carefully to all of that we can reproduce a foreign language to varying degrees, depending on our aptitude.

      Great piece, Audrey!

      Ann

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There are lots of interesting and educational facts in this article, Audrey. Thank you for sharing them!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Audrey,

      Mom and I celebrated her 75th birthday in Nashville in 2002.

      I would have loved to have attended the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and will need to add to my bucket list.

      How inspiring to know that Randy worked so tirelessly on the restoration of the orchestra's double basses after the 2010 Nashville floods.

      Thanks for this informative and inspirational piece. Love, Maria

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 3 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      Thanks Flourish. So glad you could confirm my description and feelings for this incredible orchestra and the hall itself. Regardless of where one sits there is a clear view of the stage and the acoustics are first class.

      Enjoy your day.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 months ago from Brazil

      I have only been to Nashville once and sadly that was before this was built.

      I would love to visit again and experience it first hand. There is nothing like live music to really appreciate a piece.

      I had no idea about the different types of sound taken into account in the construction. I love your suggestions for training oneself for listening.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 3 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Audrey - It must be wonderful to be immersed in the world of music. It has carried you on clouds.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      What a cool article, so full of history and points of interest...great photos...this article has it all, and it was written by a pro in the field of music.

      Hey, do you watch "The Voice?" Just curious what you thought of Lauren Duski from this last season. I personally thought she should have won it all.

      love,

      bill

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

      I've had the pleasure of attending an event here and it is just as lovely as you describe. What an articulate description and rich articl.le.