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A Perfect Partnership:  The Nashville Symphony on Naxos
Nashville Symphony Members Discuss Life in a World-Class Ensemble

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Send your questions for  conductor and Music Director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz.  Current highlights for the Maestro include the Seattle Symphony's Carnegie Hall debut and Centennial Season this year,  as well as the ongoing success of the Milken Archive of American Jewish music, for which Schwarz is an adviser.  Send your questions for Gerard Schwarz to, or read more below.
This month members from the Nashville Symphony answered questions sent by visitors.   Below are the selected questions with answers from individual musicians as well as the symphony organisation as a whole.  Keep reading to learn more about preparation for performance, community activities, and favourite works.

How do you prepare in mind-body-soul for a performance?


“I try to be well rested for one thing.  I perform much better after having a nap in the afternoon.  I used to feel guilty about doing so, but when you think about it, sometimes we have to play the most challenging part of the concert between 10 and 10:30 p.m.  It makes sense to refresh yourself, so it's easier to focus.”     -Carrie Bailey, Principal Second Violin

“When I am preparing, first I like to sit down with my part and a recording and get a general idea of what I'm dealing with. Then I deal with the practical aspect of just learning the notes and rhythms in my part. But these things are just the bare bones of it.....after you establish that base you need to spend time thinking about the composer, the style, the time period the music was composed in, and how all those things are going to factor into the picture you are trying to create with the piece. Then when you go to rehearsal you find out what tempi you will be playing, and do your best to present the conductor's vision of the music.”  -Zeneba Bowers, Assistant Principal Second Violin

“Most of our preparation has already taken place days, weeks, sometimes years before a particular program, so it's a matter of total focus and concentration.  I try to pace myself, so that I 'peak' in performances.  This means eating carefully (high protein), resting ahead of time if possible, a slow and careful warm-up before the concert, listening to recordings, and then--right before the moment of delivery--some centered breathing.  If all goes well, I realize later that I was ‘in the zone.’”     -Lee Levine, Principal Clarinet

For the violinists:  Do you use a carbon fiber bow? If so, what kind?  What is the best rosin?

"I have never used a carbon fiber bow, but have heard good things about their durability (particularly for outdoor concerts).  I use a French rosin by P. Guillaume.  It grips well, but isn't sticky.  Plus, (and here's the best part) it comes in a beautiful little box."     -Carrie Bailey, Principal Second Violin

Has the Tennessee state legislature been pretty forthcoming with funding for the Nashville Symphony?

“The Nashville Symphony is fortunate to receive funding from a variety of individuals, foundations and corporations. The State of Tennessee is one of our many supporters.”  -The Nashville Symphony

Can you tell--as you're all playing--if a performance is phenomenal?  Does the sound just "lift off" for everyone?

Absolutely...our concert in Carnegie Hall was such an example, and not just because of the hall.  We were fortunate to be able to make the whole event a tour, and as we performed the program each time we improved.  By the time we were in New York, it was an amazing sound and feeling.  Subsequently, there have been times that we've achieved the same feeling and sound, and not always in a classical setting.  Things just seem to click into place and the result is a wonderful sound and feeling that we're all working together.  It is exciting.”     -Carrie Bailey, Principal Second Violin

“This is an interesting question. Frequently, after concerts as we are out having beers and discussing the show, we have differing opinions of what went well and what we'd like to fix. I think things are very different for each musician based on where they are sitting (acoustically), their own personal performance, and their individual opinion. Sometimes it seems to me that it's like having a bunch of people all in the same house, but in different rooms, and then asking them to offer their opinion of the house based on the one room they were in. I guess it's just the nature of playing in a large orchestra--the best place to listen to us is in the audience! There you can see and hear the complete picture.” -Zeneba Bowers, Assistant Principal Second Violin

Do you ever play free concerts for the community, or have special events just for students?

“The Nashville Symphony very regularly presents free concerts to audiences throughout Middle Tennessee. We occasionally venture into surrounding states, as well. Some of our most popular community concerts are offered during the summer months, when we perform outdoors at area parks.  The symphony also has an incredibly far-reaching education program that touches the lives of most Middle Tennessee students at least once each school year. To learn more about our education programming, please visit our Web site at”     -The Nashville Symphony

I started a group 2 years ago called ALIAS. We play 6 benefit concerts a year for various charities in town. Nearly all of our musicians are from the Nashville Symphony. Our last show benefited Hands on Nashville and featured world renowned bassist Edgar Meyer. At our concert series in May benefiting Big Brothers/Big Sisters, we are beginning an educational program that will allow students to join us for our dress rehearsals and to observe and ask questions of the musicians. You can learn about us on our website,”      -Zeneba Bowers, Assistant Principal Second Violin

For the clarinet section:  What are your favorite pieces of all time?

“My favorite pieces for clarinet and orchestra are Copland's Concerto, Rossini's Variations, Debussy's Rhapsody, and--most of all--the Mozart Concerto.  Recently I have become familiar with an obscure work by the Israeli composer, Paul Ben-Haim, called Pastoral Variee, a beautifully lyrical work that blends Mediterranean ideas with Western Classical idioms.

As a clarinet section, our favorite works for the orchestra are naturally those which feature the clarinet section at its best:  Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, all of the Mahler, Strauss and Brahms works, Mozart's Symphony No. 39, and Shostakovich Symphony No. 9, to name only a few.”     -Lee Levine, Principal Clarinet

Which clarinet concerto do you think is most likely to win a concerto competition?

“The concerto most likely to win a competition is the one the clarinetist most enjoys playing.  The key is to play with total commitment to the music, and that is easier to do if you really love the piece.  If the player has strengths in technique and articulation, then he or she might sound best on the works by von Weber.  If tone quality and lyrical phrasing is your forte, then the Debussy Rhapsody or Copland Concerto might be more suitable.  Mozart requires true elegance of style, and superb musicianship.”     -Lee Levine, Principal Clarinet

What other CDs have you recorded?

In addition to its most recent offerings (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and a CD of works by Elliott Carter), the symphony recently recorded all nine of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ works titled Bachianas Brasileiras. The multi-CD recording will be released in 2005.  In 2002, the symphony recorded its widely acclaimed CD featuring works by American music icon Amy Beach, including the composer’s Symphony No. 2 and her Piano Concerto with vanguard pianist Alan Feinberg.  In this same year, the symphony released a recording of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and a recording of works by George Whitefield Chadwick.  Additionally, The Symphony has recorded an all-Hanson CD and an all-Ives CD, both of which have received rave reviews from such prestigious publications as Gramophone, Absolute Sound, Stereophile, Billboard, and The Houston Chronicle.”      -The Nashville Symphony

What does a great conductor do for an orchestra? How does he affect the overall attitude of the ensemble?

“A great conductor will make the focus of rehearsing and performing a team effort.  No matter the level of the players, a great conductor will bring you all together and work towards one goal...and, once again, will make the overall level of the orchestra improve and ultimately sound better.  How does that affect the overall attitude of the orchestra? ...feelings of hope that we can do the pieces justice and provide enjoyment for those who attend.  And of course it's more fun to play together when things are going well.”     -Carrie Bailer, Principal Second Violin

“A great conductor brings an orchestra together, and inspires the musicians to give everything to their performance. To bring 85 or 100 voices together as one is an incredible feeling to be a part of something like that. There's nothing else like it that I've found, and it's the primary reason I chose this profession. A great conductor inspires people to learn more, do more, work harder, think more deeply, than they imagined they could. A great conductor is a teacher and an artist.”     -Zeneba Bowers, Assistant Principal Second Violin

“The conductor has a tremendous effect on the overall attitude of the orchestra, for better or worse.  More than anything a conductor is a motivator:  like a great sports coach, getting many different people with diverse beliefs and personalities to pull together as a team, helping everyone to achieve a sound that was better than they thought they were capable of creating.”     -Lee Levine, Principal Clarinet

What's your question for Gerard Schwarz?

The 2003-2004 season marks Gerard Schwarz's 19th year as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony and his third season as Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Maestro Schwarz is also Conductor Emeritus of New York's Mostly Mozart Festival, having served there as music director from 1984 to 2001. Maestro Schwarz recently stepped down as Music Director of the New York Chamber Symphony in 2002, taking the orchestra he founded in 1977 through its 25th anniversary.

In addition to guest conducting major orchestras throughout North America and Europe, Maestro Schwarz also serves as an adviser to the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, an "international undertaking to record, preserve and distribute a vast cross-section, comprising hundreds of outstanding pieces of American Jewish music from the past 350 years" (  Schwarz has made several recordings for the Archive, including works by Bernlinski, Adolphe, Milhaud, Achron, and an April release (US-only) with the Seattle Symphony, Toch's Cantata of the Bitter Herbs.  Other Naxos releases with Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony have appeared on the acclaimed American Classics, including recordings of works by Piston, Diamond, Creston, Lazarof, and Hovhaness. 

Send your questions for Gerard Schwarz to, or fill out the form below.



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