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Chink of light: Orchestra finds new sponsor as bank moves in to sell the hall

You may have read that the Nashville Symphony is being forced by the bank to sell Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and may have to declare bankruptcy protection as a result.

Oddly, its financial embarrassment has not deterred concert sponsors. Local-based Aegis Sciences Corp. has chipped in $300,000 to next season’s  Classical Series – even if it has to be played in the forecourt of a repossessed building.

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  1. Isn’t a Symphony without a Symphony Center a bit like having an egg without a shell?

  2. It is unbelievable that they are in this situation so soon after building. Wasn’t Kansas (or someone) in similar trouble not long after *their* building rose? Anyway, who’s running these organizations anyway? Bankers?

    • I think it’s all a hangover from when money (and credit) was easier to come by during our last bubble, and a lot of organizations made poor decisions to renovate, rebuild, purchase their halls, pay their musicians $150K a year with guaranteed annual raises (and the top administrators twice that), and various other unsustainable things that they just figured could go on forever, because this time was different and the economy would never falter.

    • “Anyway, who’s running these organizations anyway? Bankers?”

      The bankers are running the world, in case you haven’t noticed.

  3. Look, this isn’t what it appears to be. I am not an expert in this situation but I know that Nashville is one of maybe 3 orchestras in the US who own (at least until now) their own hall. They tell you that when you take the tour of the hall. It’s very very unusual. Every other orchestra rents.

    From what I can see, this is just a strategy to keep the Symphony afloat. Of course they’re going to stay in Schermerhorn Hall. They’ll just be renting or leasing the space instead of owning in outright, just like almost every other orchestra in the US does. It’s probably a lot cheaper than the mortgage.

  4. And as far as as Mr. Schemmerhorn goes (the hall is named for him). Yes, he was Music Director of Nashville, yes, he did great things for the orch. and the city, but he also dumped his 1st wife when she had breast cancer to marry a wealthy heiress who could buy or build him whatever he wanted. She built him a hall and that’s why it bears his name.

  5. R. James Tobin says:

    Now just what is a bank proposing to DO with a reposessed concert hall?

  6. What would the bank do with a repo’ed hall? What would anyone do? Rent it back to the orchestra, of course, along with anyone else interested. Or sell it to someone who would do the same thing. Airlines do this all the time with planes; it’s called a lease-back. I wonder if something like this might change the game in Minnesota.

    • Is there an airline that is not operating in bankruptcy? Why would you lease-back something you “bought”…or, at least, committed to buying? (Both questions are rhetorical.)

      • [a] depends if you include pension fund liabilities. If you do, then, for example, British Airways is a massive pension fund with a toy airline to play with.

        [b] er, to unlock capital. Basic principle – if you’re cash is all tied up you can’t use it to further develop your business, so a sale-and-lease-back arrangement allows you access to that cash. For a fee, of course, but often this is a fee worth paying, if you have something productive you can do with that money to develop and grow your business. That should’t have been a rhetorical question; the answer is that it is simply standard business practice, and should hardly be a surprise.

  7. My understanding is that there is language built in to the deed of this building whereby it has to remain a performing arts center or the city will demand the new owner actually purchase the land it’s built on (which was initially donated, or close to it). Perhaps this is not totally accurate but the piece I read made it sound like this is more of an embarrassment than a threat to the orchestra’s existence.

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