Picking up where we left off in Part 3, this installment in the series examining the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center (SSC) in Nashville, TN will examine the musician facilities, back stage facilities, box office, and dressing rooms…
Room To Grow
Compared to their old facility, the Nashville Symphony musicians now have space that allows them to feel like a part of the institution as dedicated musician areas comprise nearly the entire south portion of the main floor immediately behind the stage. The illustration to your left shows the different spaces musicians have at their disposal (click to enlarge).
When I asked players about the space they could use in their old facilities several of them returned the question with a blank stare followed shortly by “what space?”. One violist said “all we used to have was a collection of folding tables, a few chairs scattered about, a vending machine, and a coffee maker. Plus everything was dark, you ended up bumping into people all the time.”
Fortunately, compared to the old location, the new facilities must convey the impression that they just won the lottery as they now have a variety of amenities designed to make them feel like a part of the institution rather than per service contract employees.
As the photograph to the left demonstrate (click to enlarge), the lockers also serve as a table to rest cases and perform maintenance at a comfortable standing height. The tops of every locker cabinet is padded and carpeted to protect instruments from damage. No need to worry about the lessons you learned in kindergarten, each musician receives their own locker so there’s no sharing. What’s more, there are several unused lockers indicating there’s room to grow the size of their core.
No need to show up to drive through traffic dressed in formal black as the players have dedicated men’s and women’s changing facilities and bathrooms. The women’s facilities are slightly bigger and have additional toilets given the current ratio of men to women in the symphony. The pictures to your left are of the men’s facilities (click to enlarge).
The one SNAFU discovered after the building opened was in the locker rooms. Although each musician has an individual clothes lockers (no more hauling clothes back and forth like a nomad), the designers inadvertently forgot to include benches, a situation management is quickly working to rectify. Another nice feature is the inclusion of one shower in each changing room, a convenient feature if a player is rushing right from the gym to a concert; the shower is pictured to your left (click to enlarge).
No more bumping into each other back stage, or at least if they do it isn’t because of a lack of sunlight. Each of the entire musician’s lounges is flooded with light from windows running along the entire length of the south facing wall. The picture to you left shows the light streaming in from the early morning (click to enlarge)
To the south of the locker cabinets is the full musicians’ lounge. It has six padded, upholstered chairs, a matching loveseat, several matching end and coffee tables, and two café style tables with matching padded seats. The picture to your far left shows the lounge furniture (click to enlarge). The only thing I could find that the full lounge was missing was ample electrical outlets for players that will inevitably begin bringing laptops with them (after all, they get a free wireless internet signal).
Heading west from the full lounge and through the kitchenette, the players have a semi-quiet lounge. Here they can relax and talk out of direct ear shot and sight lines from the rows of main locker cabinets. This lounge features several upholstered chairs and loveseats as well as end and coffee tables. There are two large south facing windows which brighten the room up quite a bit.
The west wall of the semi-quiet lounge is nearly all glass, and separates that space with the quiet lounge, as shown in the picture to your far left (click to enlarge). The quiet lounge is completely separated from the remaining musician spaces as a place where players can go to gather themselves before a service without the need of audible intrusions from players warming up or carrying on with loud conversations. The décor of the room is a soothing blue and like the neighboring semi-quiet lounge, it has plenty of natural light.
Directly west of the full lounge is the kitchenette, coffee bar, refrigerator, and soda machine. Although the photograph to your far left (click to enlarge) shows a standard commercial coffee maker I overheard a conversation with one of the stage managers telling another musician that they received a Starbucks Barista machine capable of making coffees and espresso drinks. It had arrived but it would take a little while for it to be installed. On the opposite side of the room is a standard soda vending machine and a very nice full refrigerator and freezer with ice and filtered water dispenser, as pictured in the photo to your far left (click to enlarge).
Players with larger instruments are afforded separate lockers than those located in the main lounge area. For bassists and cellists, there is a separate room altogether located on the west side of the building featuring extra high lockers and a double wide entrance door, pictured to your left (click to enlarge). Brass and woodwind players have oversized lockers located directly behind the stage in the main hall area.
Percussionists have a dedicated room large enough to hold everything they plus both sets of timpani on the east side of the building. Located right next to the loading docks the Nashville percussionists no longer have to worry about lugging the equipment around to load up trucks for tours and run-outs as the loading bays aren’t more than 30 feet away, which are pictured to your left (click to enlarge). In the picture to your far left, Bill Wiggins, principal timpanist poses in the percussion room along with his omnipresent coffee mug (click to enlarge). The percussion room looks like it’s in disarray because the custom cabinetry required some additional work and is not yet complete. And although it is not pictured, the musician facilities also feature a separate harp storage room.
If the percussionists, or any musician, need to get into the hall at odd hours to practice or retrieve something from their lockers they’ll know that they can get into the building 24/7 as there is a full time security station located right at the stage entrance. Although the uniformed security staff are not SSC employees, the core security personnel are assigned to the SCC as a regular post, allowing them to get to know the players and staff. My interaction with several members of the security team indicates they are all professional, polite, and very attentive.
I can’t stress how much of a positive influence it is to have dedicated musician facilities such as these help contribute to a productive and collegial atmosphere, not only between musicians but among musicians and managers. To help drive that point home, every musician has their own, secure mailbox that they check everyday for memos, announcements, and any correspondence that might be addressed to them that was sent to the center. In effect, players have a mailing address at the SSC, truly making this new building their home. In the photo to your left, violinist Kenneth Barnd checks his mail (click to enlarge). And just like the locker cabinets, there are more mailboxes than musicians, which indicate there’s room to grow.
The musicians get nice new digs but what about the conductors and guest artists?
The music director’s suite was originally designed for the buildings namesake, the late conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn, so I had high expectations that this was going to be a very posh space. Located on the main level looking directly into the courtyard on the west side of the building. The illustration to your left shows the location of the music director’s suite as well as the six additional guest artist dressing rooms (click to enlarge).
Although the music director’s suite was a very nice set of rooms it wasn’t as opulent as I expected, which I consider a good thing. It has its own grand piano, several upholstered chairs and couches along with a number of tables and serving carts as pictured to your left (click to enlarge). Notice the large floor to ceiling windows as well, a very nice design element.
As you can see in the photographs to your left (click to enlarge), I’m not entirely certain why the lighten mirror is twice the size of similar mirrors in the remaining dressing rooms, but the suite’s dressing room is also equipped with a wet bar, and private bathroom.
The photograph to your left shows how the remaining dressing rooms look (click to enlarge). Although the location of each varies the layout and amenities in minor aspects, they all look essentially like this.
Get Your Ticket And Stow Your Coat
Although the SSC is designed with a layout where each side of the concert hall is nearly a mirror image, they decided to locate the box office only on the west side of the building, as illustrated in the image to your left (click to enlarge). I wondered about the wisdom behind this decision as the construction of future parking lots in the area may end up dictating that traffic patterns may favor the opposite side of the building thus forcing patrons to trek all the way across the building to pick up their tickets.
Only time will tell with regard to traffic patterns but I was very impressed with one technological feature that was designed into the building in the form of touch-screen ticket kiosks. There are six located throughout the building, two in the box office, and two each in the east and west foyers. The picture to your far left shows the kiosks located in the box office and the following picture shows how they look set into the marble foyer. The photograph to the near left shows the main box office counter (click to enlarge).
The kiosks are connected with the main ticket database and can sell new tickets or allow patrons to retrieve tickets placed on will-call. According to the box office manager, they would like to find a way that allows patrons to change seats as well but they’ll need to become better established in the building before they can reach that point.
In order to help promote the use of the kiosks, I hope they have plans to post ticket representatives in each of the foyers to walk patrons through using the system and to begin establishing a habit of using the kiosks on a regular basis. I would have loved to see a demonstration of the kiosks in action but they were just getting them installed on the day of the gala so they were not yet operational.
A distinct policy for this new venue is patrons are not allowed to bring heavy coats into the concert hall. According to the acousticians, the presence of too many heavy coats will have an adverse impact on the hall’s sound so to help remove the hassle of not being allowed to bring your coat inside; the SSC designers have littered every floor with numerous coat check rooms. The largest of them is shown in the photograph to your left (click to enlarge).
After learning about their policy my immediate thought was whether or not they plan to charge for the coat check but according to Christy Crytzer, Director of Media Relations, all coat check facilities are complimentary.
There’s much, much more to examine within the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, including a tour through the green room, the elegant donor’s lounge, and much more behind the scenes items. I thought I would be able to cover everything in an entire week but there’s just too much and I do not want to cut anything out unnecessarily (after all, this isn’t a newspaper so why fall victim to their limitations).
Nevertheless, next week is the scheduled appearance of the highly anticipated 3rd Annual Orchestra Website Review so we’ll have to pick this series about Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center back up after those articles are completed.