NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When music fills the air inside Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center, it brings a joy that can't be contained. "Music has great power to express that for which there simply aren’t words," said Alan Valentine, president and CEO of the Nashville Symphony.
But there are also things that happen in this grand symphony hall that can't be explained. "I’ve experienced some things, I don’t know if I’ve felt them," said Tony Meyers, chief of security for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
"It was really pretty freaky," said Valentine.
The strange occurrences began with the very first note, when the hall opened in 2006. "In rehearsals, all of a sudden, lights would start flickering," explained Giancarlo Guerrero, the current music director for the Nashville Symphony.
"The lights were on, they were confirmed to be on. And then 15 minutes later they weren’t on. It happened more than once on one evening," said Meyers.
"The guys in the light booth were like, nobody’s touching anything," said Valentine.
But each lighting professional told them the same thing, there was nothing wrong with the system. "We had the power to the building checked out to make sure that we weren’t having some sort of power fluctuation. Nothing there. And this went on for actually more than a year," said Valentine.
There have been other odd occurrences too. The chief of security for the symphony says there's one particular door that seems to always lock itself. "I have no explanation for that," said Meyers.
Well, there could be one explanation. "We have to give it up to the maestro," said Meyers.
The maestro is Kenneth Schermerhorn. He was music director for the symphony for decades, but he never stepped foot in the finished building that now bears his name. "Unfortunately, he passed away just before it was completed," said Meyers.
Well, at least he never stepped foot inside here alive. But he does reside at the hall in death. "We interred Kenneth’s ashes in the sculpture in the garden," said Valentine.
Now it should be noted, the staff here doesn't believe the Maestro is a malevolent spirit. "It was sort of like — OK — just letting us know he’s here," said Valentine. "We started having fun with it," added Guerrero.
In fact, they think it's possible he's either lingering around for protection or is just up to a little mischief. "We blame him for everything that goes wrong, unfortunately," said Meyers.
"His sense of humor was just incredible," said Valentine.
But there was one night that Valentine thinks the Maestro made a house call while he was asleep in bed. "This is going to sound really crazy so I don’t know if I want to say this, but it felt like somebody slammed into me and I just kind of jolted awake in the middle of the night. And I thought — Kenneth, immediately," explained Valentine. "I was kind of half awake when it happened the second time. And I thought, I think he’s trying to tell me something."
Valentine now thinks what the Maestro was trying to tell him was to pick Giancarlo Guerrero as the new music director. "I wish I had that ability to meet that wonderful man and that wonderful musician. Because it sounds like we would have gotten along really well," said Guerrero.
Sure enough, when they did pick Guerrero, some of the Maestro's haunts halted for several years. Then came the pandemic.
"That was the most eerie thing to me — was during that pandemic time," said Meyers.
Meyers kept watch over the building, all by himself. Or at least he hopes he was. "I’ve had doors close and open, sound like doors opening and closing," said Meyers. "It’s still settling, we’ll leave it at that. Please don’t tell me there was a ghost with me."
Thankfully, Meyers' isolation has ended. "We came back after the pandemic a couple of weeks ago and we were in the middle of rehearsals. And lights started flickering again and we all looked at each other, and those of us have been here long enough said -- wow, Kenneth is back," said Guerrero.
So the next time you find yourself in the Schermerhorn, make sure you make room for the Maestro!
"One never knows what Maestro has in store for us," said Meyers.
Tickets are still available for the Nashville Symphony's live performance of the score of The Princess Bride, as the film plays. You can purchase tickets here.