By Celine Thackston, Grants and Research Manager, Nashville Symphony –
The Nashville Symphony joins arts organizations across the state in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Tennessee Arts Commission. Since its inception in 1946, the Symphony has developed an international reputation for its focus on contemporary American orchestral music. The support of the Tennessee Arts Commission over the past 50 years has helped to foster a spirit of creativity and innovation for the Symphony, with a particular focus on commissioning and recording Tennessee artists.
The first native Tennessean to have a work commissioned by the Nashville Symphony was Gilbert Trythall, whose Dionysia was performed by the Symphony in 1965. A Knoxville native, Trythall was a member of the music faculty at George Peabody College (which later merged with Vanderbilt University) from 1964-75. He was a pioneering composer of electronic music in the city, and in addition to a number of experimental recordings and musical collaborations, he’s best known for his synthesis of electronic country music via the albums Country Moog and Switched on Nashville. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Northwestern and Cornell Universities, Trythall went on to compose Chroma I for Orchestra, Electronic Sound, and Light, which was commissioned for the 25th anniversary of Nashville Symphony and premiered in 1970.
Over the last 50 years, the Nashville Symphony has commissioned and premiered a number of works from Tennesseans, both natives and “adopted” residents. These include collaborations with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, who lived in the East Tennessee town of Seymour as a youth; Bill Pursell, noted pianist and composer who arrived in Nashville in the 1960s; 16-time GRAMMY® Award-winning banjoist Béla Fleck; multi-Platinum singer-songwriter Ben Folds; and innovative bassist and multi-GRAMMY® Award winner Victor Wooten.
On March 16-18, 2017, the Nashville Symphony will continue this tradition, welcoming Edgar Meyer to the Schermerhorn for the world premiere of his first-ever orchestral piece without a soloist. Meyer’s initial involvement with the Nashville Symphony was not as a composer or soloist, but as a core member of the orchestra. He auditioned for the Symphony 33 years ago and was a regular member for three seasons before moving on to other artistic ventures. Since that time, he has toured internationally and written several commissions for the Symphony, including the Concerto for Double Bass and Banjo (2003); the Triple Concerto for Bass, Banjo, and Tabla (2006); and the Double Concerto for Violin, Bass, and Orchestra (2013).
The Nashville Symphony deeply values the work of the Tennessee Arts Commission, whose support over the last 50 years has enabled the growth of original classical music in Tennessee. This body of repertoire draws on the diverse talents of artists in our state through collaborations that push the boundaries of classical music, and helps the Symphony to draw new listeners of all ages and backgrounds. The Tennessee Arts Commission’s support of the Nashville Symphony has been key in fostering this creativity, in the process helping our orchestra find new ways of remaining relevant to our community.