Mission & History
The Nashville Symphony inspires, entertains, and educates through excellence in musical performance.
Achieving recognized excellence in orchestral performance.
- Delivering consistently creative and innovative programming, with a focus on the creation, promotion, and preservation of American repertoire.
- Producing outstanding education and community engagement programs.
- Creating, enabling, and leading cultural impact.
About the Nashville Symphony
Led by Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero and President and CEO Alan D. Valentine, the Nashville Symphony has established an international profile with its innovative programming and steadily expanding discography. Founded in 1946, the orchestra is one of Tennessee’s largest and longest-running nonprofit performing arts organizations. With 170 performances annually, the Symphony’s concert schedule encompasses a diverse mix of classical, pops, jazz and family programs, along with extensive community outreach efforts.
One of the most active recording orchestras in the country, the Nashville Symphony has released 28 recordings on Naxos, the world’s leading classical label, and two recordings on Decca. These recordings have received a total of 20 GRAMMY® nominations and eight GRAMMY® wins, including two for Best Orchestral Performance — one awarded to Joan Tower’s Made in America and the other to Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony. Throughout its history, the Nashville Symphony has maintained a commitment to championing the music of America’s leading composers, which has resulted in a series of innovative commissions featuring Nashville-based artists, including bassist Edgar Meyer, banjoist Béla Fleck, and pop singer Ben Folds.
Music education and community engagement have been at the heart of the Nashville Symphony’s mission since the orchestra’s beginnings. The institution provides more than 100,000 hours of free education and community engagement programming each season to children and adults throughout the Middle Tennessee community. In 2016, the orchestra launched the Accelerando initiative, which is designed to prepare young musicians from underrepresented ethnic communities for collegiate study and professional orchestra careers.
Located in the heart of Nashville’s thriving downtown, Schermerhorn Symphony Center is home to the Nashville Symphony. Notable for its remarkable acoustics and distinctive architecture, this 197,000-square-foot facility has become an integral part of cultural life in Music City and is regarded as one of the finest concert halls in the United States.
The Nashville Symphony's beginnings can be traced to 1945, when World War II veteran and Nashville native Walter Sharp returned home intent on establishing a new symphony orchestra for Middle Tennessee. With the assistance of a small number of fellow music lovers, he convinced community leaders of this need and the Nashville Symphony was founded. Sharp retained William Strickland, a young conductor from New York, to serve as the first music director and conductor. Strickland was responsible for setting the high performance standards that the orchestra and its conductors have maintained to this day.
Guy Taylor (1951-1959), Willis Page (1959-1967), Thor Johnson (1967-1975) and Michael Charry (1976-1982) followed Strickland in the role of music director, with the orchestra performing at historic War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville until the opening of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 1980. From 1983 until his death in early 2005, the Nashville Symphony flourished under the dynamic leadership of Music Director and Principal Conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn. A noted conductor, composer and music educator, Maestro Schermerhorn led the ensemble to new levels of artistic achievement, while nurturing the tradition of excellence that has characterized the symphony since its inception. Under his leadership, the orchestra performed a critically acclaimed debut concert at Carnegie Hall and undertook a sold-out East Coast tour in 2000, and it embarked on fruitful partnership with the Naxos label that has, to date, yielded 20 critically acclaimed recordings.
In 2003, the Nashville Symphony broke ground on the $123.5 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the orchestra's new home, which opened on September 9, 2006. This cultural center in downtown Nashville has attracted global attention for its acoustical excellence and distinctive neo-Classical architecture, and its opening marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the history of the Nashville Symphony. While the orchestra conducted a search for a new music director to succeed Maestro Schermerhorn, renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin assumed the post of Music Advisor. Under his guidance, the orchestra earned three GRAMMY® Awards for its recording of Joan Tower's Made in America in 2007 and produced an internationally syndicated radio program, American Encores.
With the arrival of current Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero in 2008, the Nashville Symphony has continued its spectacular rise to prominence with an active schedule of recordings, commissions and world premieres. Since the beginning of its partnership with Naxos in 2000, the orchestra's recordings have received a total of eight GRAMMY® Awards out of 20 nominations.