Monthly Archives: July 2014

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Kenneth Schermerhorn’s Legacy

Photo: Harry Butler, 2000 Kenneth Schermerhorn with The Nashville Symphony

Photo by Harry Butler, 2000

The Musicians of the Nashville Symphony respectfully request that our Board of Directors revisit the legacy of our former Music Director.

When Kenneth Schermerhorn began his 22-year tenure in 1983, the Nashville Symphony was making the difficult transition to full-time status. Well before his untimely death in 2005, the orchestra had become full-time, with 80+ players, the season had been extended, and musicians’ salaries were steadily increasing to place them in the ranks of the top 20 US orchestras. He left us a clear legacy, and it was much more than the concert hall bearing his name.

Schermerhorn’s last five seasons were especially impressive. The Nashville Symphony performed to great acclaim in Carnegie Hall (2000) and it was that performance (and subsequent buzz) that helped make the case that a growing orchestra needed a great hall to showcase its personality and excellence as an ensemble. Martha Ingram’s and Kenneth Schermerhorn’s leadership were crucial to that momentum. Meanwhile, the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recordings became a world-wide megaphone, declaring that our symphony was indeed worthy of respect and interest. Reviewers agreed. Kenneth Schermerhorn led the symphony to its first three Grammy nominations with three separate recordings of the American composers: Elliot Carter, George Chadwick, and Amy Beach.

During the NSO’s Carnegie Hall debut and the ensuing “Time for Greatness Campaign,” the focus was on building a top-notch orchestra. That certainly included the construction of a first-rate concert hall which would showcase symphonic music in Nashville. In an interview for the printed program for the Carnegie Hall debut, Larry Adams asked Schermerhorn what he wanted to do in the coming years. His reply was, “I would like to leave a world-class, justly remunerated symphony that is flexible and strong and authoritative.”

The Nashville Symphony 2000-2001 Annual Report states “The Symphony’s enhanced endowment assures that funds will always be available to attract and keep the nation’s finest musicians.” Beginning in 2006, a total of 7 Grammy Awards have been won for recordings by the Nashville Symphony under the direction of Leonard Slatkin, Alistair Willis, and lastly, Giancarlo Guerrero. The common denominator in all the Nashville Symphony’s 14 Grammy nominations and 7 Grammy Awards is the orchestra, not a building or a conductor.

The financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the flood in 2010 took a heavy toll on the orchestra’s finances and understandably a significant amount of effort went toward saving the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The musicians, many who had made personal financial contributions toward the construction of the hall, agreed to freeze their salaries for an additional season, push back all negotiated increases by a year, and then a 15% cut in salary to help save the building.

Meanwhile, the goals of our first-rate orchestra began to be eclipsed by efforts to preserve this world-class hall. Today, the Nashville Symphony ranks 30th in musicians’ salaries, and cities like Atlanta, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Raleigh pay higher musician salaries than Nashville.

As the city of Nashville enters a period of robust growth and a ranking as the 2nd fasted growing economy in the nation, it is our hope that our leaders can continue to sustain the legacy of Kenneth Schermerhorn to grow a world-class orchestra. Musicians in the top ten US orchestras earn two or three times as much as Nashville’s musicians earn.

Schermerhorn established a vision for our orchestra that is shared by the musicians who knew him and the newer musicians who were drawn to Nashville because of his vision. We love symphonic music as well as all the other kinds of music Nashville has to offer. We love our hall, but most of all, we greatly appreciate our audience. Music City needs to continue building a great orchestra, not just preserve a great building. Together, we can make this happen.

“I would like to leave a world-class, justly remunerated symphony that is flexible and strong and authoritative.” ~ Kenneth Schermerhorn

Musician Profile: Laura Ross, 2nd violin, joined in 1984, from Royal Oak, Michigan

Laura Ross, 2nd violin, joined in 1984, from Royal Oak, Michigan

Laura Ross, 2nd violin, joined in 1984, from Royal Oak, Michigan

Things to know about me – I’m the product of a Michigan public education, love history, and have lived in Nashville longer than the Wolverine state.

In Michigan, we had lots of performing arts programs in my public schools; and I played in excellent youth and community orchestras in junior high and high school. I spent eight summers at one of Michigan’s two world-renowned music camps; and attended one of the top university music schools in the country at the University of Michigan.

Playing in the NSO has brought me full circle. To prove how small the music field is, there are seven NSO musicians (including me) and a couple NSO kids and staff members who attended the University of Michigan. NSO cellist Lynn Peithman and I grew up together playing in youth orchestra and later, in U of M’s Honors Quartet. I recently discovered that an NSO musician, a staff member, and I were born in the same hospital!

I’ve been learning about, and representing, orchestras since 1989. I have been serving as secretary of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) that represents the top 52 U.S. ballet, opera and symphony orchestras since 2002. My friend Julie Ayer wrote the book in my photo – a history of the founding of ICSOM.

Nashville has grown into a wonderful and diverse city with yummy restaurants representing many cultures. Spring is beautiful and I love the flowers and trees in my garden but I could do without the pollen! I’m a proud East Nashville resident but do stray to the west side to sing in St. George’s choir. Nashville has so much to offer – friends, food, culture – it can only get better!

Musician Profile: Lynn Peithman


This is my 30th year with the NSO. Although I was born and raised in Michigan, Nashville grew on me quickly.  This is my home, and I do feel that members of the Nashville Symphony are my extended family.

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance and a Master’s degree in Chamber Music, both from the University of Michigan.

I have an 8 year old son who is about to start 3rd grade; and, we recently opened our home and hearts to a sweet, 5 yr. old rescue kitty, named Sam. I moved to Green Hills just before my son started kindergarten because I wanted to live in a great public school zone since private funding was not an option. I show up at school every chance I get – either to have lunch or help out.

One of my favorite pastimes is reading to my son – yes, he still lets me, even though he is an excellent reader. I am also enjoying being a soccer and basketball mom; it is keeping me busy but I am still spending time with my son.

My favorite sport is tennis, and now that my son has started, we can volley together. He will likely be surpassing my ability before long. We also have a ping pong table at home, and it gets a lot of use.

I love to read, and I’ve been part of a book group for over 20 years.

My son and I are really good at building Lego sets – not quite sure who enjoys it more.

I am proud to be a Nashville Symphony cellist, and I continue to appreciate all the amazing talent around me. 

Meeting and Greeting our audience

Before our final concert of the season, several of our musicians went out in front of the hall to meet our patrons. This mother and daughter team is from Leitchfield, Kentucky – Monica and Samara Heavrin, who are pictured with orchestra members John Maple and Mindy Whitley.