I set out to investigate Nashville two months ago; an idea that came about from a chat with Tom Brislin (Spiraling).
On the balmy evening of August 21st 2009, Tom and I had positioned ourselves upstairs at the serving area of Bar East Ale House in NYC. I had just met with NJ band Suspyre, their manager and UsaProgMusic editor Jill Hughes Kirtland, and Tom himself, for the article “Age of Aquarius; Renaissance Raising”.
With brew in hand, we began an extended conversational “trip” that looked into the depths of ourselves as musicians, but more so about the searching for that success which only each motivated individual can define. Where do we go from here, we asked each other rhetorically.
Nashville has a thriving music scene exclaimed Tom, eager to convince me that he had heard this city had more to offer than country music. I on the other hand, wasn’t so easily persuaded.
How could a city famed for its country music exports – by chance Tom and I arrived in Nashville on the weekend of the Country Music Awards – be able to support anything else? It was much smaller than the twin cities of Dallas/Fort Worth, of which I have been a resident since 2005. Everyone knows that strength comes from a unified front. If Nashville’s strength was its country music, I couldn’t imagine it being able to support the multi-faceted ever evolving music scene as successfully.
As musicians, we often have to ask ourselves two important issues that generally affect our profession; how to survive practicing one’s craft, and how we might deal with the inevitable challenges that come in the form of competition and changes in the musical tide; all which keep one’s craft honed.
Tom and I were both curious about the transmigratory nature of the scene and the rumours of the “music city” that made it sound so attractive. So we made this pact; that should we decide to explore the place when our schedules coincided, we would look into the musical complexities of the place together and if it truly could sustain a musical career. This “date” was to become the middle of November.
Thanks to the graciousness of Ron Losby (President, Steinway & Sons America) and Steinway Piano Gallery Nashville’s Brandon Herrenbruck, who kindly drove us to our various meetings, my calendar of events took no more than a month to put together and consisted of a musical spread that no travel agent could possible prepare to be consumed within a week.
My social calendar resembled the following:
[Prelude to the 3rd Coast – youtube synopsis is at the end of page. Other published articles and their associated youtube videos can be found via links below.]
08:30hrs Meet Bill Metcalfe and Brandon Herrenbruck of Steinway Piano Gallery Nashville.
09:30hrs Meet Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s Senior Director of Communications, Alan Bostick.
10:00hrs Meet Alan Valentine, CEO of the SSC (Schermerhorn Symphony Center, pronounced Skermerhorn).
11:15hrs Meet the Music Director of the Nashville Symphony, maestro Giancarlo Guerrero.
16:00hrs The three of us; Brandon, Tom and I drive through Music Row on our way to meet Dr Paul Magyar of the Covenant Church. The church has a Steinway B and a pipe organ in its beautiful Sanctuary that rings acoustically true to a delightful 3 second delay.
09:30hrs A private viewing of a rehearsal by the Nashville Symphony was scheduled for me in the Laura Turner Concert Hall of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
11:00hrs Meet with Anesthesiologist and Steinway artist, Steve Hyman.
13:00hrs Meet with Marilyn Shields-Wiltsie, head of the Steinway Society Nashville and former student of American pianist-conductor, Leon Fleischer.
16:00hrs Meet with Jazz artist Beegie Adair and professor of jazz studies, Vanderbilt University.
19:30hrs Thanks to Rocky Gribble of Yellow Rose Productions Texas, I got to make contact with country artists Thom Shepherd (writer of Craig Morgan’s #1 hit single “Redneck Yacht Club” and Megan Linville, both who performed that evening at the Tin Roof.
11:00hrs A visit to Naxos’ American headquarters (Naxos is the largest classical music label) with a tour by its Director of Operations, Jonathan Eby.
12:00hrs Lunch at Puckett’s, a Southern treat for Tom and me by Brandon Herrenbruck.
13:30hrs A visit to Grand Vista Music Studio where I sit with its Director, Paul Binkley, engineers, Gary Dales and Justin, its Chairman David Manstran and award winning songwriter Marty Raybon (formerly of Shenandoah).
14:30hrs Back at the Steinway Piano Gallery. Tom and I get a chance to play the two 9ft grands facing each other in the display room. I audition the 9ft Heirloom grand, where genuine Steinway parts were used in its refurbishment.
08:30hrs. I visit the school of music of the Belmont University and meet co-ordinator of keyboard studies, Professor Daniel Landes, who shows me the performance analysis software he has written.
10:00 I meet the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Belmont, Dr Cynthia Curtis.
[youtube synopsis next].
Footnote: I would like to thank Tom Brislin, who could not resist playing all the Steinway pianos we came across, for helping with the video camera work when I was busy with interviewing and taking photographs.
Embedded in this article are snaps I took during our road trip from NJ to Nashville for your viewing pleasure. I need to also thank Tommy Edds (Regional Manager, Steinway) for assisting in making Nashville possible. Stay tuned for a collection of articles, videos, CD and show reviews from my trip to the ‘Music City’.
Photos & videos (c) 2009 Shueh-li Ong (unless specified, all articles written by Shueh-li Ong bear the photography, videography and digital work of its author.)