The orchestra has not had a music director since conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the ensemble since 1983, died in April 2005. During his 22-year tenure with the Nashville Symphony, Schermerhorn dramatically raised the orchestra's profile, leading it on tours, recordings and telecasts.
Slatkin, who is music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. and principal guest conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, will advise the Nashville Symphony in matters of programming, musician appointments and choosing guest artists and conductors. He will also assist in the ongoing search for a replacement for Schermerhorn.
Slatkin will conduct the gala opening of the new $123.5 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center on September 9, an engagement planned before this latest appointment was made. In June, he conducted the Nashville Symphony in a recording of works by American composer Joan Tower, tentatively scheduled for release early next year on the Naxos label. It is one of several recordings the orchestra has made recently on the label's American Classics series. Slatkin will also lead the ensemble in up to four additional recordings — including John Corigliano's Dylan Thomas Trilogy in 2007.
Orchestra officials are enthusiastic about working with Slatkin, according to The Tennessean. "From the moment I met him, I knew he was someone with whom I could have a great partnership. The chemistry that existed between Leonard and the orchestra, the staff and others in the organization was just amazing," symphony president and CEO Alan Valentine told the paper.
Musicians seem to be equally positive. English horn player and oboist Roger Wiesmeyer, who also serves on the symphony's music director search committee, said, "He was so nice to us. He heard exactly what was going on, he knew how to fix it, and he knew what to say to get the best product out of us. I had a great time working with him, and I know that a lot of my colleagues share that feeling."