Facts About Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
The green marker A indicates the location of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Hover over this marker.
History of Nashville Symphony Music Directors
Have You Ever Been to a Symphony?
How Often Do You Attend the Symphony?
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
Music brings us to ecstacy. Music brings us peace.
Where words fail, music speaks.
-Hans Christian Andersen