Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee Member of the Nashville Symphony since 1977
What inspired you to become a musician?
My father was encouraged to come from Iowa to Nashville as a musician in 1940, playing clarinet, sax, and violin — mostly big band style, but also jazz standards. He met my mother, who played piano and loved orchestral music. My brother loved pipe organs, Bach, and original rock ’n’ roll, so I had a nice potpourri of music at home. It was just natural that I would also play music. I attended orchestra concerts and played in the Nashville Youth Orchestra.
You’re retiring at the end of this concert season. What have been the highlights of your 40 years in the orchestra?
So many cool things: playing flute solos on two of our GRAMMY®-winning recordings; playing Jeff Tyzik’s Tin Whistle Suite for Whistle and Orchestra and the whistle solos in The Lord of the Rings; two trips to Carnegie Hall; being selected to spend a week in Argentina on an orchestra exchange program; and having opera star Luciano Pavarotti blow me a kiss in a rehearsal after we played a flute/voice duet in one of his songs.
How has the orchestra changed while you’ve been a member?
I auditioned for the Nashville Symphony right out of grad school at Northwestern, and this was the only opening in the whole country. It was only a part-time orchestra, so musicians usually had to freelance, teach, or find additional work. Then came the growing pains of becoming a full-time orchestra, financial issues and insecurities relating to the economy fluctuations, the building of a beautiful new hall envisioned by music director Kenneth Schermerhorn, and of course the flood in 2010!
What have been some of your favorite pieces to play?
I love the large Germanic, Russian, and Scandinavian Romantic period and early 20th century symphonies, ballets, and tone poems.
What is it like to play in the orchestra with your husband, assistant principal bassist Glen Wanner?
It is really a pleasure, because it gives us lots to talk about! We listen to the repertory or practice our parts together, and oftentimes can commute to concerts and rehearsals together.
You and Glen have also collaborated outside of the Nashville Symphony.
We love outdoor activities and saw the need for area cycling guidebooks. After much research and many miles of cycling, we self-published Bicycling Middle Tennessee and Bicycling the Natchez Trace. We’ve had a lot of fun with these.
You have another interesting family connection with the Nashville Symphony.
In the Schermerhorn’s Curb Family Music Education Hall, there is a framed 1956 photograph of my brother John Richards, age 12, at the piano with symphony music director Guy Taylor and singer Eddy Arnold. A seventh-grader at Isaac Litton Jr. High School, he won the Orchestra Composition Contest and had his composition Waltz played by the Symphony.
John has always loved pipe organs and has another cool connection with the Symphony: Some of the pipes in his home organ in New Hampshire belonged to Arthur Henkel, the very first Nashville Symphony conductor, who led an early version of the orchestra from 1920-31. Henkel was also an organist and actually broadcast Sunday-afternoon radio shows on WSM-650 AM from his home.