On December 3, 2003, standing in front of a grand piano on a cleared building site, Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and Nashville Symphony Music Director and Conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn ceremonially broke ground for the Symphony’s $120 million concert hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which will host its first concert in September 2006.

After Purcell and Schermerhorn turned the first spade of dirt, many of the several hundred supporters in attendance took a shovel in hand, at the urging of Symphony Executive Director Alan D. Valentine, and made the ceremonial groundbreaking a true community effort. In keeping with the building’s mission of presenting the best music of all genres, the ceremony featured performances by the Fisk Jubilee Singers and ensembles of Nashville Symphony musicians.

The mayor and the maestro at the December 3 groundbreaking ceremony

“Today, we take the first ceremonial steps toward securing The Nashville Symphony’s long-term future in a building what will not only be Nashville’s and Tennessee’s finest concert hall, but also has a good chance of being the best in the world,” Valentine said. He added that actual construction would commence very soon, following the closing of financing for the project.

Motioning to the grand piano that served as the visual centerpiece of the ceremony, Schermerhorn noted that a piano will be situated in roughly the same spot when the new hall opens in a little less than three years. Of course, he added, rather than sitting on a recently cleared city block, the piano will be on the stage of the resplendent Laura Turner Concert Hall, as the 1,900-seat performance space will be known, in honor of the mother of longtime Symphony supporters, Cal and Steve Turner. Steve Turner has served the project as chair of the concert hall building committee.

“Though we are just beginning to build this glorious hall, its foundation has already been laid by the 85 musicians of The Nashville Symphony, whose commitment to the highest standards of artistic excellence has brought us to this day,” Schermerhorn said. “Our orchestra is earning national, even international acclaim – being favorably compared to the best orchestras in the world. The virtuosity of The Nashville Symphony is a perfect match for the magnificent acoustics of this new venue. The combination will be astounding.”

Artist's rendering of the new Nashville Symphony hall

The design and construction team for Schermerhorn Symphony Center includes design architect David M. Schwarz/Architectural Services; architect of record Earl Swensson Associates; consulting architect Hastings Architecture Services; acoustician Akustiks; theater planner Fisher Dachs; cost consultant Donnell Consultants; construction manager American Constructors; and owner’s representative Mercedes Jones.

To be located on a city block between 3rd and 4th Avenues South, north of Demonbreun, Schermerhorn Symphony Center will be adjacent to the landing of the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge and directly across from a large park bordered by the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Gaylord Entertainment Center and Hilton Suites Nashville Downtown. The site was donated by the city of Nashville and, as mentioned, the leader of the city, Purcell, joined the leader of the orchestra, Schermerhorn, in breaking ground for the project.

“This is not just a moment that is important for Nashville today. It is a moment for the Nashville of the future, for generations and generations to come,” Purcell said. “We stand here on a piece of land that has long been a gathering place for our city. In a previous century it was known as Haymarket Square, a civic space where people gathered and conducted the business of their daily lives. Now, with the approval of Metro Council, this property will continue its great tradition, as it becomes the site of one of the most important civic gathering places to be built in Nashville in generations.”