Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Nashville Symphony Orchestra To Champion New American Orchestra Music At Every Concert -- For One Year Only

"It's just seven months until the gala opening of Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown, and this city's upwardly-mobile classical orchestra continues its search to replace the legendary figure for whom the future center is named: Kenneth Schermerhorn, the orchestra's longtime music director who died last spring after a short illness.

The man chairing the search committee, Mark Wait, said they have "a very intriguing pool of candidates who are very promising." The next move, said Alan Valentine, the symphony's president and CEO, is to get that number down to five or six.

As we await the final choice — and searchers say the process won't be rushed and could well continue another year — we thought it useful to explore what conductors do, what makes the great ones great, and what breed of conductor the Nashville Symphony is currently seeking.

As the celebrity-in-chief of this city's most visible and fastest-moving arts organization, must a conductor really do much more than groom especially well, stand up straight and wave a baton with a vengeance? To some audience members, it must seem that way....

Wait: ''Great conductors are the ones who put a stamp on the organization and, in so doing, bring the audience along with them.''

It's important to distinguish between the conductor and the music director.

The conductor, quite simply, is the person on stage waving the baton at any given time. The music director is the person waving the baton who's also responsible for the overall quality and musical health of that particular orchestra....

Increasingly, in this era of broader entertainment alternatives and dwindling appreciation for serious classical music, music directors are called on to do more than deal just with music....

Last month, Nashvillians had a rare chance to see a female conductor in action when Kay George Roberts, a Fisk University graduate now based near Boston, led the Nashville Symphony in its annual tribute to Martin Luther King Jr....

At this point in the symphony's hiring process, Valentine and Wait said, most anything is still possible for Nashville. They aren't interested in a particular sex or race. They say they only want the best.

"The next conductor of the Nashville Symphony will need to be someone who inspires musicians, brings out the best in musicians, and who also communicates, at the deepest level, with our different kinds of audiences, including people of every generation," Wait said. "We also need a conductor who can conduct modern music and American music and has a feeling for that."

That American music specialty is important, since this orchestra has now devoted itself to regular performance of American music. This has already included multiple highly regarded recordings of lesser-known 20th-century American music on the Naxos label. In addition, next season in the new hall, the symphony will perform a work of brand-new American classical music on each classical series program." ...

Alan Bostick "Maestros in Motion" February 26, 2006

Nashville's New Schermerhorn Symphony Center opens in seven months. It is named in memory of the late Nashville Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor -- and classical American music visionary -- Kenneth Schermerhorn. Its opening season will feature a brand-new American orchestra work at every single classical concert.

The next Nashville Symphony Concerts, unfortunately, don't celebrate classical American music, but the program, under conductor Arild Remmereit, and with violinist Sarah Chang, is very intelligently chosen -- unlike this week's program by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. See

Program notes to this upcoming Nashville Symphony Concert is available at:

Photo credit: The Nashville Symphony.


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