by John Pitcher
"Attendance for our classical concerts on Thursdays was much lighter than we had hoped," says Alan Valentine, the NSO's president and CEO. "People who go to our pops series are entertainment buyers who are attracted to the hall for different reasons, and we think those concerts can be more profitable. The bottom line is we need to bring in a lot more revenue to support the hall."
That fact became painfully apparent last week, when the orchestra posted a note on its website indicating it would not renew a letter of credit on about $100 million in bond obligations. The NSO is hoping that action will prompt its lenders to renegotiate the amount of its debt, which was incurred to build the Schermerhorn.
Given that you can't make a classical symphony be more efficient — it takes the same number of musicians to play Beethoven's Fifth Symphony today as it did when it premiered in 1808 — it's hardly surprising that Valentine has decided to focus most of his energies on increasing revenue. Astute observers of the Schermerhorn have probably already noticed some big changes.
Over the past year or so, the Schermerhorn has gone from being primarily a symphony hall to being a regional entertainment presenter. On nights when the symphony isn't performing, the Schermerhorn has been booking comedians such as Bill Cosby and Sarah Silverman, and popular music acts such as Lyle Lovett and B.B. King.
The NSO hopes to increase revenue from its pops series next season by bringing in higher-profile acts like Chicago and Kenny Loggins. It's also looking at replacing the pops series' signature table seating with aisle seats, which can accommodate many more people. Moreover, the orchestra recently hired a new director of artistic administration, Laurence Tucker, a veteran artist representative who is as adept at handling temperamental maestros as schedules and programming.
And in perhaps its biggest coup, the NSO has talked Amy Grant and Vince Gill into moving their popular Christmas show from the Ryman Auditorium to the Schermerhorn. Grant was instrumental in saving the symphony when it fell into bankruptcy in the 1980s. Now Grant and Gill's Christmas show could become the Schermerhorn's version of the Nashville Ballet's annual Nashville Nutcracker — the cash cow that makes the rest of the year possible.
Classical fans are not being left totally in the cold. The symphony has cut seven Thursday performances, but it is adding a new Coffee and Classics Series, which will feature three short Friday morning concerts. Admittedly, the NSO will present just two performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 7 next season. But it will make up for the loss with bigger stars, such as gala headliner Renée Fleming.
"Classical music will always be the Nashville Symphony's core product," Valentine says.
Read the full story in tomorrow's Scene. Below, the NSO release with the entire concert schedule.
NASHVILLE, TN. (March 20, 2013) The Nashville Symphony’s newly announced 2013/14 season will be a star-studded celebration of music, with some of music’s biggest names making an appearance at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Among the highlights, Amy Grant and Vince Gill will perform their popular Christmas show with the orchestra, and Nashville-based pop icon Ben Folds will premiere his brand-new Piano Concerto. Other notable artists scheduled to appear with the Nashville Symphony this season include soprano Renée Fleming, Chicago, Branford Marsalis, Roberta Flack, Kenny Loggins and Anita Baker.
The 2013/14 season also marks the 50th anniversary of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, who will take the spotlight several times throughout the year.
Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero says, “This season is one of the most exciting I have ever programmed. Audiences can count on having an incredible experience at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, whether we’re performing majestic classics by Beethoven and Mozart or vibrant contemporary works by Joan Tower or Ben Folds. And with our Pops, Jazz and Children’s series offering the same high level of programming, we truly have something for everyone.”
“Every week, our musicians are playing at the very top of their game, and our audiences come expecting to be blown away. We won’t let them down next season!”
SunTrust Classical Series
Each performance in the Nashville Symphony’s Classical Series will take listeners on a musical adventure, beginning with “Russian Spectacular,” featuring Mussorgsky’s musical thrill ride Night on Bald Mountain and Prokofiev’s jaw-dropping Third Piano Concerto (September 5-7, 2013). Other highlights include:
• Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid (October 4-5, 2013), which takes listeners on a trip to the Wild, Wild West. On the same program, Bruch’s gorgeous Second Violin Concerto will feature Nashville Symphony Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki.
• Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (November 7-9, 2013) is a dazzling musical adaptation of the ageless Russian folk tale.
• Beethoven’s music will be performed throughout the season, including his monumental Third Symphony (November 21-23, 2013). On the same program, the Nashville Symphony will perform and record two works by Joan Tower, who led the orchestra to its first GRAMMY® wins in 2008.
• Giancarlo and the orchestra continue their quest to perform the complete cycle of Mahler’s symphonies with the Symphony No. 7, popularly known as “Song of the Night” (January 10-11, 2014).
• Ben Folds will be rockin’ the Schermerhorn with the world premiere of his Piano Concerto (March 13-15, 2014).
• Mozart gets the spotlight in “Rock Me Amadeus” (April 25-26, 2014), a concert devoted entirely to the Austrian genius’ music.
• Branford Marsalis joins the orchestra to solo on John Williams’ Escapades and Villa-Lobos’ Fantasia for Saxophone (May 15-17, 2014).
• The season closes with a big finish when the Nashville Symphony Chorus joins the orchestra to perform Brahms’ powerful A German Requiem (May 29-31, 2014) as part of its golden anniversary celebration.
Coffee & Classics Series
Next season the Nashville Symphony invites concertgoers to start their weekend early with a brand-new daytime concert series. Enjoy complimentary coffee and pastries before these Friday-morning concerts:
• Copland’s Billy the Kid (October 4, 2013)
• Haydn & Strauss (February 28, 2014)
• Mozart Masterpieces (April 25, 2014)
Currently on sale only to subscribers, the Nashville Symphony’s concert season features a number of special events. All of these performances will feature the Nashville Symphony:
• Season Opening Gala with soprano Renée Fleming (September 21, 2013)
• Handel’s Messiah (December 12 & 13, 2013)
• Christmas with Amy Grant & Vince Gill (December 19-21, 2013)
Bank of America Pops Series
The stars are coming out for the Nashville Symphony’s 2013/14 Pops Series! Highlights include:
• Chicago® (September 12-14, 2013)
• A Tribute to Patsy Cline with Mandy Barnett (November 14-16)
• Roberta Flack (January 16-18, 2014)
• Kenny Loggins (March 20-22, 2014)
• The Midtown Men, featuring four stars from the cast of Jersey Boys (April 3-5, 2014)
• Neil Sedaka (May 8-10, 2014)
There’s no better setting for live jazz than the crystalline acoustics of Laura Turner Concert Hall.
• The series kicks off with world’s best-selling jazz instrumentalist, trumpeter Chris Botti (October, 18, 2013).
• Marcus Roberts Trio pays tribute to the music of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane (January 31, 2014).
• GRAMMY®-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves (May 2, 2014) performs with her band.
The Ann and Monroe Carell Family Trust Pied Piper Children’s Series
The Nashville Symphony’s Pied Piper Children’s Series makes classical music fun for the whole family! Each performance incorporates storytelling, puppets, film or acting to make the music come alive. These affordably priced Saturday-morning concerts are preceded by a variety of fun crafts, a musical petting zoo and other interactive activities for people of all ages.
• Peter and the Wolf (November 16, 2013), featuring puppetry by Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Chair Productions.
• The Snowman (December 7, 2013), with the orchestra accompanying a screening of the popular animated film.
• Knights & Princesses (February 15, 2014), featuring fairy tale-themed music and the lively juggling troupe Playing by Air!
• The Firebird (April 5, 2014), a family-friendly adaptation of Stravinsky’s classic with the stage troupe Enchantment Theatre Company.
Subscription and ticketing information
Season tickets are available now. Prices start at:
• $160 for the SunTrust Classical Series (6 to 14 concerts)
• $88 for the Coffee & Classics Series (3 concerts)
• $330 for the Bank of America Pops Series (8 concerts)
• $130 for the Jazz Series (3 concerts)
• $50 for The Ann & Monroe Carell Family Trust Pied Piper Children’s Series (4 concerts).
For more information or to subscribe, please call 615.687.6400 or visit www.NashvilleSymphony.org/seasontickets. Tickets to individual concerts will go on sale in mid-July.
In addition to securing the best choice of seats in advance, Nashville Symphony subscribers enjoy many special privileges that enhance the concert experience. Some of these benefits include the best prices on concert tickets (up to a 20 percent discount); a Patron Loyalty Program with discounts at local businesses; flexible ticket changes; free parking and shuttle service; and much, much more! For a full list of benefits, visit www.nashvillesymphony.org/seasontickets.