Deck the Hall!

It’s time once for again for our band of elves to decorate the hall for the holiday season!

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Our own ever-festive Associate Concertmaster Gerald Greer supplied and helped set up the trees!

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What do you call four violists Onstage at the Nashville Symphony…

What do you call four violists Onstage at the Nashville Symphony? …A good start! We had a fun time filling the hall with the sumptuous sounds of viola quartets for the Onstage Oct. 26th. We also enjoyed giving a brief history of “everything you wanted to know about the viola but were afraid to ask!” Left to right: Melinda Whitley, Michelle Lackey Collins, Clare Yang, Daniel Reinker.

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Roar!!!

One of our educational ensembles performed a version of Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens at Liberty Elementary School in Franklin this Friday. Complete with slide show! Left to right: Anna Lisa Hoepfinger, violin; Jeremy Williams, violin; Stephen Drake, cello; Clare Yang, viola; Kevin Jablonski, bass.

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We welcome our new musicians!

The Musicians of the Nashville Symphony would like to welcome our newest members to the orchestra. Julia Harguindey joins us as Principal Bassoon while Alec Blazek fills the position of 2nd trumpet. Melissa McCarthy Steinberg takes the helm as our Principal Librarian. Stay tuned as we get to know the newest members of our orchestra.

Julia Harguindey, Principal Bassoon

Julia Harguindey, Principal Bassoon

Alec Blazek, Trumpet

Alec Blazek, Trumpet

Melissa McCarthy Steinberg, Principal Librarian

Melissa McCarthy Steinberg, Principal Librarian

Seth MacFarlane

Noted television producer, actor and singer Seth MacFarlane came and did a show with us last night. Afterwards, he joined us for a group photo –

Seth MacFarlane with the NSO

Seth MacFarlane with the NSO

Kristi Seehafer – Violinist, Runner, Cancer Survivor

Kristi after her 5th half marathon in the New England Challenge

Kristi after her 5th half marathon in the New England Challenge

Kristi Seehafer, a member of our first-violin section, is celebrating an important milestone – the 5-year anniversary since her diagnosis with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. During her initial surgery, the doctors learned that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Only during her initial PET scan (pre-chemotherapy), did they find that the cancer had spread to her bones, and was Stage 4.

Kristi wants people to know that the most important lesson she learned is to listen to your own body. Her cancer was discovered only four months after a normal mammogram. She also wants people to know that a cancer diagnosis, even Stage 4, is not a death sentence. Kristi is now considered cancer free, and will return to normal (rather than diagnostic) mammograms next year.

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Now, she has returned to the exercise she loves most – running. Kristi had planned to run her first full marathon just after her initial surgery. Although she walked a half marathon one month after finishing chemotherapy, it has taken this long to recover from neuropathy and the effects of treatment.

She has come full circle, running 100 miles each month, belongs to the Fifty States half-marathon Club, and values her friendships there. (Although she has run full marathons, she prefers half marathons, saying they are “more fun.”).Her goal is to run a half marathon in all 50 states. She just finished her sixth half marathon in the Club, and recently participated in five half marathons in five days in five states (the New England Challenge). Another running goal is to run an event with her two nieces, one of whom is already a runner.

Kristi credits her current healthiness to running, a dietary supplement she now takes, and her diet, which stresses alkalinity through eating high-alkaline foods like vegetables, while limiting acidic foods such as meat, wheat, sugar, and alcohol. She stresses that anyone can become healthy, even with a serious health issue.

Kristi grew up in Wausau, WI and during high school played piano in her brother’s polka band, often getting up after late Saturday-night wedding gigs for her other job, singing at a Christian Scientist Church (no, she was not a Christian Scientist). She attended Concordia College, beginning as a voice major, then switching to violin. While at Concordia, she played in the Fargo-Morehead Symphony and Opera.

The first professional orchestra concert she attended – Kenneth Schermerhorn conducting the Milwaukee Symphony – made her realize her love for playing violin in a symphony orchestra. After living life for several years, she returned to college, receiving her Masters of Music from Northwestern. It was a challenge being older than the other students, but obviously Kristi thrives on challenge.

Her goals now are to continue running, and eventually figure out what to do when she retires.

Kristi has a very enlightening blog at http://kristiseehafer.com/

Curb Youth Symphony Side by Side concert 2016

We played our annual Side by Side concert with the members of the Curb Youth Symphony on May 19th. A great time was had by all! Here are some pics from the stage and backstage.

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“You have to audition to be Librarian?”

As we enter 2016, the NSO will hold a series of auditions for principal bassoon, principal librarian, section second violin and second trumpet in January, March and May.

Auditions details for 2016
Auditions generally follow a rather standard process: An ad appears in the International Musician, and usually 100-300 musicians fill out an application online. The audition list is sent to potential candidates, and those committing to take the audition send a check to reserve an audition time. Unless the candidate withdraws before the deadline, the check is returned at the time of the audition.

Sometimes, depending upon the number of applicants, the audition committee that is chosen by the orchestra committee, along with one or two members chosen by the music director, may review the resumes limiting the number of people invited to the audition. Those who have not been invited may submit a recording with specified excerpts for reconsideration by the committee. Once all the candidates have been invited and paid their audition deposit, they travel to Nashville for two or three days while the audition committee listens to candidates perform the same orchestral excerpts behind a screen for as many as 60-80 times. After each hour the committee votes — by simple majority — which candidates will be advanced to the next round.

There are semi-finals, super semi-finals, finals and super finals that finally reduce the numbers to (we hope) the best candidate, who will be offered a position in the orchestra. The committee controls all rounds of the audition until the finals, when the music director takes over and the committee serves from that point on in an advisory role.

Auditioning a new principal librarian
The NSO contract covers both librarian positions in addition to the musicians you see onstage during each concert. Interestingly, while our contract has covered both librarians since 2007, a number of orchestras — including 52-week orchestras such as National (Washington D.C.), San Francisco and Dallas — have recently succeeded in covering their librarians for the very first time. This means that librarians must also audition for an open position, but the audition process is far different. Since I’ve had so many raised eyebrows when I speak about our principal librarian audition, which was held Sept. 28-29, 2015, I thought I‘d share some observations from that process.

Our principal librarian won the Boston Symphony’s position more than a year ago, so this audition was to fill that position. The committee chosen included a broad cross-section of the orchestra: Jennifer Goldberg is current interim-principal librarian; concertmaster Jun Iwasaki and principal second violin Carrie Bailey, who work closely with the library to bow string parts; principal percussionist Sam Bacco, who works with the library when deciding how many percussionists are required; principal keyboard Bob Marler, who often obtains copies of his music in advance due to the intricacy and difficulty of certain works; principal trumpet Jeff Bailey, violist Clare Yang, cellist Keith Nicholas, and bass clarinet Dan Lochrie, who also brought personal experience to their roles as committee members. In addition, the music director was consulted about his requirements for the position when the test and interview questions were formulated.

For this audition, there were 41 applicants. Following the review of candidate applications and resumes, 16 candidates were invited and sent preliminary homework to submit prior to coming to Nashville. Only nine candidates submitted homework but two withdrew prior to the audition leaving us with seven candidates in the preliminary
round. Preliminary homework was sent to all candidates at the same time with a deadline of just under four weeks. Candidates were asked to complete various, real world orchestra library tasks to see how candidates performed when they had time to prepare or fix music.

None of the seven candidates who came to the audition had been part of a bargaining unit, but their collective experience included working in smaller regional orchestras, in larger ICSOM orchestras, and in university music libraries. On the day of the audition, each candidate had two hours to complete a written exam, which tested his or her general knowledge about instruments, music, musical terms and specific library issues. Candidates were then tested on their skills, familiarity with the orchestra’s software program, and ability to follow instructions working under pressure to complete three tasks in 30 minutes using all the resources of the library in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Finally, the committee questioned each preliminary candidate about what the role of
the principal librarian consisted of, to share work styles, and how they had or would handle specific issues that regularly occur in the library. After the homework, tests and skills materials were reviewed the committee compared notes and chose three candidates to move to the semi-finals. That evening the semi-finalists were asked to complete two assignments – tasks that commonly occur with a tight or strict deadline.

Interviews by the committee in the second round covered the materials and tests performed by each candidate as well as information garnered from the previous day’s interview. Following this round, the committee voted to forward two candidates to the finals. Maestro Guerrero met with each candidate individually to assess their skills and review the results of their work. Once he concluded his interviews, the committee and Guerrero met and agreed that no candidate displayed the skills and knowledge that Goldberg had already. A few days later a meeting and vote were held to offer the principal librarian position to Goldberg, if she was interested. After careful consideration, she recently turned it down. This May a new principal librarian audition has been added to hire a principal librarian.

By Laura Ross

Musicians of the Nashville Symphony give back to the community

Musicians from the Nashville Symphony volunteered their time and talents in the public schools during Read to Me week. The children at Stanford Montessori in Donelson enjoyed hearing them read and even play their instruments.

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Musician Profile: Paul Tobias, Violin, joined in 1975, from Memphis, Tennessee

Paul Tobias, Violin

Paul Tobias, Violin

You’ve been a member of the orchestra for 40 years. As you look back over your time in the Nashville Symphony, what stands out the most? Any specific memories, thoughts or feelings?
In a word, change. We’ve changed buildings twice, music directors several times, and all but three musicians, including myself. The level of performance today is staggering. Things we couldn’t attempt when I started are now routine.

Do you have a favorite piece or pieces of repertoire that you’ve especially enjoyed performing with the Nashville Symphony?
After the smoke of 40 years has cleared, two favorite compositions are left standing: 1. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, the greatest piece ever written by an American (at least so far), and 2) Ravel’s La Valse, in which the composer rebelliously breaks every rule of counterpoint and orchestration and still manages to create an interesting and fun 12 minutes. You might say it’s a mini-metaphor of my own life. The little boy who would do something just because he was told “no” must make sense and harmony out of life. It’s a struggle, but also surprising sometimes how well things work out.

You also served as orchestra personnel manager for the Nashville Symphony in the late 1990s. How did that experience influence your work as a performing artist?
I was the last person to be a playing personnel manager. Its influence would not show in my performance now, but was profound nonetheless. Being in charge of people changes you. Once you have truly walked in the shoes of both sides, you can never go back; you can never again see things quite the same way. One thing I learned that I did not know was how much the rank-and-file members of the office staff love the musicians and what we do. They take low-paying, difficult positions which are under-appreciated, just because they love music and musicians and want to help. When you get to know them, you wish you could have an attitude and outlook such as theirs.

Do you perform outside of your work with the Nashville Symphony? If so, with whom and where? How did you get involved, and what do you enjoy about these additional performance opportunities?
I began playing outside jobs for the same reason everybody else did — our job at NSO didn’t pay enough to live on, so we all went looking for extra work. You name it, I’ve done it. Recording, television, touring, weddings, pit work, arranging, contracting and much more. I played in live shows at the Opryland theme park for nearly 20 years. The specialty for which I am best known is a strolling violinist, playing requests all over the spectrum — everything from Mozart to Free Bird to old TV commercials from the ‘60s. My outside work has taken me to most of the United States and Canada, as well as Japan, Korea and mainland China. I even had my own rock ’n’ roll show for many years with 20 strings and a drummer. Touring probably was the most instructive of my outside jobs. When you spend a long time living in one place, it’s easy to think that place as all there is. Only seeing the world in person can bring home how much bigger it is than you ever imagined. It gives you perspective.

Who has had the greatest influence on you as a musician?
My mother and father, who never dreamed that both their sons would be musicians. It was a foreign world to them, but they truly believed in us. In return, they demanded hard work and excellence and monitored me constantly to make sure I was delivering. They said I could accomplish anything if I wanted it badly enough. Though we lost Dad in 2011, I still hear him saying, “There’s no such thing as can’t.”

Nashville has changed since you joined the orchestra. What do you like most about our city now, and what do you miss the most?
The best thing about living in a city for 40 years is that almost every place in it holds a memory from your past. For instance, I can look at the downtown skyline and remember playing for the openings of many of those buildings. I miss the Opryland theme park most. It was the heart of Nashville’s tourism industry. There I made all my best friends in Nashville, one of whom became my wife of 27 years.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not rehearsing or performing – do you have hobbies, volunteer or participate in any civic or social organizations?
Life doesn’t leave much room for hobbies right now. When I retire in a few years, I have a number of projects planned, starting with seeing more of my two granddaughters, now ages 5 and 4. I have written my memoirs up to 1988 and will continue with this as time permits.

What’s the last book you read, and/or what are you reading now?
The last book was Killing Reagan by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. I have just started a biography of baseball player and “philosopher” Yogi Berra. You can see I’m interested in history. My favorite author is James A. Michener, and I own and have read all his great historical novels.

What would you most like people in the audience to know about the Nashville Symphony?
That the job of a musician resembles a professional athlete, NOT an office worker. They would understand us much better by keeping this in mind.

Is there any question you wish I’d asked, but didn’t?
Perhaps this one. Question: From where do you draw your inspiration as a performer? Answer: It’s been different at each stage of my career. As a young musician, it was the music itself. As a middle-aged musician, it was the money. Now I’m an old musician. What else would you call a 40-year player? My inspiration is my audience. The more fun they have, the more I have.