Monday, June 10, 2013

Music City?

Boot-$cootin' Yee-Ha!
We are in the middle of the huge wealth machine for the local business community: the CMA Music Festival. The amount of money this event brings in is so big that even the most catastrophic flood in the history of the city was not allowed to delay its 2010 opening less than a month later. And in fact that year's event and the revenues it generated were promoted in many ways as resources the city used to recover.

In spite of the wealth that CMA has produced since the flood, other music venues seem to be on life support. But can we be known as "Music City" rather than just "[Country] Music City" with these recent mishaps?

  • Bank of America foreclosed on the widely acclaimed Schermerhorn Symphony Center, striking many as beat down of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, which has not received adequate financial support (for a city of this size) in recent years. Nashville's upper crust lusts over the old Downtown thermal site for a publicly-funded amphitheater locale for outdoor symphony performances. But the embarrassing realities at hand have gone national even as the Mayor submits his latest capital budget. Symphonic music in Nashville is on the ropes, but does Music City care? 
  • The business community and Mayor's Office responded anemically to the international scope of the National Folk Festival, which arranges 3 year stints in host cities. September 2011 was the event's first year in Music City; it became the last year of the festival. What a wasted opportunity to have been able to host the 75th anniversary folk festival this year. Instead, Nashville will be known as "The City Where the Folk Festival Died".
  • The long-delayed building of the National Museum of African American Music has set adrift from its logical home on Jefferson Street, the nerve center of African American musical history in Nashville, to the prospect of a nebulous co-existence in the old Nashville Convention Center with the House of Blues. Will a narrow, commercialized focus on African American music in a Downtown oriented towards the country industry bring any more money or audiences in? Or will it just be backwatered and forgotten if it does ever materialize?

A different kind of treasure.
Museums, special events, and symphony halls are often more trusts supported by the community without regard to whether they shake the money maker or not. They provide living milestones for remembering where we have come from and touchstones for expressing values (sometimes more profoundly than money). I fear that Metro politics is so entwined with the power of money that our leaders let cultural icons die or rust away when the latter do not maximize the dollars. There is a place in cities for large-scale events that draw obscene amounts of bling (like CMA). But there is wealth to go around and to certify that less popular, but no less important musical traditions have mediums in a place that lays claim to the title, "Music City".


  1. Have you heard anything about the parking lot at the corner of Rosa Parks and Jefferson Street? Does the state have any new plans for it now that the museum is (maybe) moving downtown?

  2. Have not heard anything yet. The museum sign promoting its location on Jeff St was still up a few days ago when I went by.