Nashville Symphony Sees the Light at the End of Tunnel. Maybe

The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, tied down into bitter financial struggles recently, seems to have caught a break.

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, weighed down by bitter financial struggles recently, seems to have caught a break. A break worth tens of millions, in fact. It seems that the 2006-built Schermerhorn Symphony Center, located in downtown Nashville, will be able to avoid foreclosure from its lenders including Bank of America, SunTrust Bank and Regions Bank. Foreclosure was scheduled for June 18, but the Nashville Symphony reached an agreement with its lenders, with significant help from billionaire local businesswoman Martha R. Ingram, a driving force behind the cultural center, reported Philanthropy News Digest. Ingram reportedly provided a significant part of the outstanding obligations, resulting from a $102 million bond issued for the construction of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Liquidity provided by Ingram is rumored to be, at least in part, covered by a long-term charity donation that was accelerated to avoid the center’s June 28 foreclosure auction.

According to the Nashville Business Journal’s coverage of the story, The Nashville Symphony had an outstanding commercial bank debt of $80 million as well as $15 million in swap arrangements. Following the deals it struck with its lenders, the cultural institution has reduced its overall debt from almost $100 million to $20 million, which is now owned by Martha R. Ingram. However, the symphony’s contribution has not been made public. The debt was tied to a 2004-filed $102 million loan for the construction of the new symphony hall. The symphony also faces further difficulties as the July 31st expiration of its musicians’ collective bargaining agreement looms over. Although negotiations have begun, with tensions running high, the symphony is not out of the woods yet, especially after the recent lay-off of its in-house dining staff, which included 16 full-time and 21 part-time food service employees and two full-time events employees. Five full-time staff members, however, were offered part-time positions, reported the Nashville Business Journal.

Named in honor of the late Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony for 22 years, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center is located in Nashville’s SoBro neighborhood across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Construction began in 2003 and finished in 2006. Designed in the style of late 19the century European concert halls, the symphony features a 1,844-seat, three-level main concert venue dubbed Laura Turner Concert Hall, which features a custom-built Schoenstein & Co. of San Francisco concert organ. The orchestra level seats of the main venue can also be transformed into a 5,700-square-foot hardwood ballroom floor. The symphony center also houses the 3,000-square-foot Mike Curb Family Music Education Hall. It also features a colonnade-enclosed public garden—the Martha Rivers Ingram Garden.