It was established in 1970 to educate, archive, and celebrate the contributions of its members to the world of music. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (NaSHOF) has become part of Nashville’s rich history in music and celebrates the beginning of the songs we enjoy today. NaSHOF is now permanently housed in the lobby of the new Music City Center (MCC) to honor all 185 of its members, six of whom are duos. We decided to take a look at the NaSHOF and its new home, the new Music City Center, to see the joint impact its first year in business has had on Nashville.
“I would say the impact of the NaSHOF’s location in the new Music City Center thus far has been more cultural than economic,” claims Mark Ford, NaSHOF’s executive director. “It’s extremely gratifying to finally have a permanent physical presence in such an amazing new facility, free of charge to all who come to see it.
“Our presence at the Music City Center lets visitors understand the importance of songwriting, while letting them realize that songs were created by actual, incredibly gifted writers, most of whom were not the artists. Don’t get me wrong – the NaSHOF is on its way to becoming a tourist spot. It’s just right now we have a relatively small footprint, but we add an overall value to both the Music City Center and the area in general,” states Ford.
The stunning views of the Nashville skyline from the Music City Center may be as breathtaking as some of the lyrics in the songs written by the Songwriters Hall of Fame Members. The grand opening of this beautiful facility was May 19-20, 2013. Thousands of people came out to tour the Center, to enjoy the festivities, and to take in the free concerts. The building was open for public tours, music played throughout the facility and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening. As you might expect, there was plenty of music on hand. Brad Paisley, the Nashville Symphony, Phil Vassar, Vince Gill with The Time Jumpers, and Sheryl Crow all performed during the celebration. “This kickstarted the rest of the year, and so far, business has been great!,” claims Mary Clippard, marketing and public relations manager for the Music City Center.
“During 2013, we had a number of smaller groups at the MCC, but on January 1, 2014 some of our larger groups started to roll in, such as Archery Trade Association and American Bus Association, and we really don’t slow down during 2014,” states Clippard. “We have a major show about every 11 days, so things are very busy here. The amount of short-term business we’ve received, the number of local groups and organizations that have booked lunches, receptions, and dinners, along with a number of proms, weddings, etc. has exceeded our expectations. We are very excited to have had such a great reception from the local community as a new venue for events,” explains Clippard.
Since the MCC has put the NaSHOF front and center, the obvious question comes to mind. With so many deserving candidates, you might wonder what it actually takes to decide who will receive the honors and become a member of the NaSHOF, so we asked the former chairman of the NaSHOF, Roger Murrah, about the process. “To be considered for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, a songwriter must be closely associated with Nashville and whose first significant song occurred 20 or more years ago. There’s a committee of hall of fame members and historians that deliberates in depth, then they create a ballot of songwriters and songwriter/artists that must be approved by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Board of Directors,” explains Murrah. “Once approved, the final ballot is voted on by NaSHOF members, professional songwriter members of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the NSAI board of directors and the NaSHOF board of directors. That is the process it takes to decide who will become a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
“There is a dilemma that pervades halls of fame in general, which is how the process can appear at times to move too slow on the induction of one or more deserving individuals. A lot of circumstances contribute to such a dilemma, which can be misconstrued as being intentional or political in nature, when that is not the case at all,” relates Murrah. “The fact of the matter is, there is just no perfect process. Each process of a given hall of fame is – of necessity – always under scrutiny for improvement, to accommodate deserving individuals. It requires patience on everyone’s part, so the integrity and fairness of our Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame process is one of its qualities that I am most proud of.”
When Murrah was asked what the economic impact NaSHOF has on Nashville’s economy, he expressed that the impact the industry of songwriting has on the city of Nashville is staggering.
“There would be no ‘Music City’ without the songwriters who write the music. As I say that, I hasten to add honor and give credit to everyone in our industry who contribute in a thousand ways to make our songs successful. We need the industry and the industry needs us. With children, they say ‘it takes a village.’ With music, it takes an industry,” states Murrah.
“There are a lot of things most people don’t know about the NaSHOF,” claims Pat Alger, current chairman of the NaSHOF. “We have a father and son who are members, a husband and wife who are members, and three sets of brothers. Many hall of fame members have recorded hits written by other HOF members, and HOF members have produced hits on other HOF members. In the coming months, the new website will premiere some of these unknown facts, and I encourage everyone to check these things out. We are extremely excited about the potential of the NaSHOF at its new home,” encourages Alger.
“The biggest challenges for the NaSHOF board and its nominating committee is the same as for any Hall of Fame: how can we get everyone in who deserves the honor? Every year, more and more songwriters qualify for the nomination, and so many deserving songwriters don’t make the final ballot. We all feel that frustration,” claims Alger. “For those up and coming songwriters who aspire to become a member, don’t forget you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails to reach your destination. Have a great work ethic, because you can’t write enough great songs. The world around you is full of inspiration, but it’s up to you to provide the perspiration,” Pat Alger explains.
There is no doubt that the members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame were filled with inspiration – members like Thom Schuyler, who expresses just getting nominated is a rare honor. “I was nominated seven times before I finally got inducted in 2011. It has been over two and a half years and it is still surreal. I am still in a daze, and I thank God for blessing me with this every day.”
Schuyler is not the only NaSHOF member who is flabbergasted by this honor. Gary Burr claims, “It remains the shining professional achievement of my life. Everything else is icing. Every time I drive by the Music City Center, it reminds me that I live in a world-class artistic city. I am honored to be a member of NaSHOF and part of the city of Nashville.”
In the grand scheme of things, the Music City Center and NaSHOF is having a significant effect on the Nashville community. “The Music City Center’s financial success is measured by the amount of groups they bring into the building and the city. When a large group comes to the Music City Center, the attendees stay in downtown hotels, eat in local restaurants, visit various entertainment venues and use transportation services. This influx of tourists creates job growth,” claims Mary Clippard.
The Music City Center has also been the driving force in the recent growth of the SoBro area in Nashville. Shortly after the Music City Center opened, SoBro welcomed a brand new 800-room Omni Hotel, a 255-room Hyatt Place, a 215-room Hilton Garden Inn and a new expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame. A number of other new restaurants, bars and shops have also popped up in the area since the opening of the MCC.
The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame is a great addition to the New Music City Center, and tourists will be able to experience what we take for granted every day. Nashville citizens take a lot of pride in their artists, songwriters and the way we project ourselves to the world. Nashville is definitely not afraid to take a leap of faith, in hopes of a better tomorrow. So, there is no question of the impact that the MCC and NaSHOF has had so far on Nashville. Just imagine the future projections that will keep Nashville thriving for years to come.