Bradley Mansell

Hometown: Sharon, Pennsylvania
Member of the Nashville Symphony since 1984

What inspired you to become a musician — was there a moment of epiphany, or a particularly influential person who encouraged you?
My inspiration for music in general came from my mother, who was a singer. Literally from the time I was born, I was around her singing at the piano. I was just drawn to it. I was such a pest, wanting to climb up on the piano bench when she was practicing, that when I was 6 she started giving me piano lessons.

When I was 15, I went to hear The Cleveland Orchestra. They played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and the minute they played those first two chords, I was like, “OK, that’s what I’m going to do.” It just grabbed me by the hairs on the back of my neck, and that was it.

Which composers’ music do you most enjoy performing?
Bach always comes to mind first, but as an orchestra musician my favorite would be Prokofiev.

You’re a faculty member at Blair School of Music. How does your work as a teacher influence your work as a musician?
Teaching and performing are definitely connected, in that when you’re teaching, you’re constantly aware of what you do as a player. It’s a learning experience as much as a teaching experience, because you learn about your playing by teaching.

One of the really important things about teaching is that with students who aren’t going to pursue music as a career, you’re teaching them an appreciation for music, which is how we build audience – that’s the audience of the future. Whether students want to go into music for a career isn’t as important as teaching them to love music.

You’re active in the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM). Can you explain the role of the organization and your involvement?
ICSOM is part of the American Federation of Musicians. It was organized in 1962 because there was a need to have a separate entity that deals specifically with our own issues as symphony musicians, and it has grown into an organization with 51 orchestras. It’s a network of sharing information. I am the delegate from the Nashville Symphony, and that means I’m responsible for giving information about the Nashville Symphony to the other delegates. We also obtain information from delegates when we have questions about what’s going on with our orchestra.

One thing you take away from being a delegate is that any issue that might occur in the Nashville Symphony, you can pretty much expect has occurred in another orchestra. At the end of the day, there’s not a lot of difference between orchestras in general. What we do is the same, whether it’s in Chicago, Nashville, Cleveland or Columbus. We might be doing it on different levels, but we’re doing the same thing.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not rehearsing or performing?
One of my favorite things to do is cook. I love to experiment with pretty much every type of cuisine. I’ve started making my own granola; you have a blank slate of what you can do, and I’m finding that to be a lot of fun. I really like utilizing local ingredients that are in season when I cook.

What do you like about living in Nashville?
I love the fact that Nashville is now more neighborhood-oriented than when I moved here. I love exploring different neighborhoods and the fact that each has its own personality.

What’s the last book you read?
I’m an avid reader. I just finished David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

What would you most like people in the audience to know about the Nashville Symphony?
When people see us onstage, what they probably don’t realize is that we’re more like our audience than they know — the things we like to do outside of what you see us doing onstage are probably similar to what everyone else in the audience likes to do. People see us in tails and gowns, and they think of us a certain way, but we’re pretty much like you guys.