Nashville Symphony concerts resume in fall


What does not kill you makes you stronger.

If you’ve ever doubted that statement, just ask Nashville Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Alan Valentine, who believes everything the symphony has been through has helped prepare the organization to bounce back from the onslaught of closures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only did the symphony survive the economic crisis of 2008, it also rebounded after massive flooding in downtown Nashville in 2010 left its home, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, submerged in water.

Alan Valentine, President and CEO of the Nashville Symphony

“Perhaps even more so than some of our other arts organization colleagues, the fact that we’ve been through all of these challenges has given us some sort of set of tools to navigate that,” Valentine said. “At the same time, it is unlike anything I have ever experienced and have been doing it for 40 years.”

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After the pandemic gripped the world in the spring of 2020, the symphony was forced to do what Valentine called “the unthinkable” and cancel the rest of the 2020 season. That meant the Nashville Symphony was going to be. unable to do exactly what he exists for – making music for Nashville.

“We knew if we kept canceling a few gigs at a time it would be like death by 1,000 paper cuts,” he said. “We ripped off the bandage and said, ‘Let’s do what we have to do to preserve the institution.’ People are the most valuable asset we have. In this case, we had no choice. We had to make the difficult decision to put musicians and staff on leave and operate with a small staff at a reduced salary. “

Because the symphony derives 60-65% of its revenue from ticket sales, that meant the organization suffered a huge financial blow.

What doesn’t kill you …

The musicians had to be put on leave and the Schermerhorn was closed to the public. The conditions of the pandemic forced the symphony to continue to operate virtually, which presented both new challenges and new opportunities for collaboration.

The dedication and creativity of the musicians and staff has enabled the symphony to pursue meaningful engagement with patrons, donors and the community, including hosting 20 virtual events for donors, creating 25 videos for various programs of education and community engagement, sections for music students and members of the Nashville Philharmonic, 40 personalized thank-you videos were recorded for donors and some 7,000 thank-you calls were made to patrons.

Co-presented by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Nashville Symphony, this Church Street Park event featured musicians Ryan Joseph and Lauren Saks talking about the similarities and differences between a violin and a violin.  This was one of the many events the symphony participated in during the pandemic.

The symphony was also able to host several chamber orchestra performances last spring with limited capacity, social distancing and masks.

And just a few weeks ago, the symphony announced its 2021-22 season along with a ratified contract with the Nashville Musicians Association, AFM Local 257.

“I have to express a deep and deep feeling of gratitude to our musicians for working with us to secure a lasting contract for the association and bring them as close as possible to where we are,” said Valentine. “It is an agreement that we think is reasonable that puts us on the road to reconstruction.”

Valentine added that the organization was in fact able to raise funds while the doors were closed. The Accelerando music education program continued. An album recorded before the pandemic won a Grammy Award and on January 1 the musicians were reinstated before their unemployment benefits expired.

This is in part thanks to a Shuttered Venue Operators grant and several payments from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). But that’s not the only thing that helped bring the symphony back to life, according to Valentine.

“The community of Nashville has been amazing. People rose to the challenge. They stayed with us. Most of our ticket buyers have kept their money in an account with us or donated it. We raised more money than we imagined. We thought we would see a drop and it did not happen.

He said of the $ 5.5 million in pre-sold tickets, the symphony only issued about $ 1.3 million in refunds.

“Most of the people in our community said they believed in us and were going to stay with us by leaving their money in an account and using it to purchase tickets during the restart year. What that meant was that we started the year with a lot of pre-sold tickets. It is a remarkable city in which we live, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the community.

… makes you stronger

While the 2021-22 season is not a traditional full schedule, it was designed to be more of a build-up to get back to normal. Performances will begin this fall with social distancing and limited capacity protocols in place. There will be smaller orchestras on stage so the musicians can be safely removed.

“We wanted to gradually prepare for the end of the season where we hope to have this climax as we celebrate our 75th anniversary. Let’s make the most of it!

The symphony’s first classical performance at the Schermerhorn, “Fanfare for Music City”, is scheduled for the weekend of September 16-18. The remainder of the season will feature his popular family, film, pop, jazz and classical series as well as the symphony exploring certain corners of his repertoire that might not have been possible in a typical season.

“We are here at a time when the community needs what we do more than ever before,” said Valentine. “Music has great power to help people heal. To help people feel things they can’t express in words and to express those kinds of emotions where there simply are no words. We are all going to play an important role in helping our communities heal emotionally and physically in terms of economic recovery. Without the arts, our lives would be so empty.

For more information on the 2021-22 season of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, visit www.nashvillesymphony.org.

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