Ashland City Council member Gerald Greer has been performing with the Nashville Symphony for 29 years, serving as first violin.
Now, he would like a hometown concert. Or a concert just about anywhere.
Greer, 56, said that the symphony has played in all of the county seats for the counties that touch Davidson County except for one — Cheatham County.
Greer said that one of the motivating factors in running for a council seat is his vision for encouraging the arts in Ashland City and Cheatham County.
“Before all of the pandemic started, I was in the beginning stages of putting together a music scholarship competition for Cheatham County students that would help students further their musical studies,” he said.
One of the bigger frustrations for Greer is the shutdown of the Nashville Symphony due to the coronavirus. Greer has been impacted both as a live concert musician and as a musician for recording sessions.
“I haven’t work in eight weeks,” he said. “The Schermerhorn Symphony Center seats 1,800 people. You can’t play to a crowd that large with people shoulder to shoulder in the audience. And with musicians onstage, there is a foot to 14 inches between chairs. You can’t even do recording sessions with musicians spaced six feet apart.”
He also noted that the space would have to be disinfected between each concert and each session.
“As one of our longest-tenured musicians with a nearly three-decade history, Gerald has been an important part of the Nashville Symphony’s growth and its ascension to one of the country’s finest and most well-respected orchestras,” Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero said.
“Gerald’s contributions go beyond his musical talent; he has been a respected leader and enthusiastic advocate for the organization; has always been affable as well as approachable; and his camaraderie with his fellow musicians is truly unique. It is no surprise to me that Gerald is putting some of those very same traits to good use in serving and leading his own community, and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”
The music lessons
For Greer, who is originally from Hampton, Va., and moved to Ashland City from Franklin in 2016, the first notes of a call to music were brought to life via a request for a record player at the age of 2.
“I was always fascinated by musical instruments,” he said. “I saw a tambourine and I wanted it.”
He said that in third grade he wanted a classical instrument. He found that a trumpet was too loud so he got a clarinet, and then he sat down and began to teach himself to read music.
“In fifth grade there was no band,” he said. “They offered strings. I wanted a cello, but they did not have one. So, I got a violin.”
He said that his old clarinet is now part of a lamp in his studio.
When it came time for college, Greer had the choice to go to Julliard in New York but he instead chose to pursue his music and studies at North Carolina School of the Arts.
He talked about having been a teacher at the Blair School of Music in Nashville, and he stressed the discipline that is required with making music that will have an emotional, physical and thought-provoking impact.
“There’s not a lot of time to learn music, you need to know how to sit with a piece,” he said. “You must figure out problematic spots and work on those with a metronome. You play things through until you get it five times in a row. Then, you move on. If a piece is especially frustrating, you move on and revisit it later.
“I will purposely play a piece faster because it prepares for nerves. If I start rushing in performance I’ve already been there via practice. It’s a high stress job. We make it look easy, effortless, but it’s a very athletic workout in its own way.”
He said he enjoys the diversity of music in large part because of the appeal of Nashville — Music City.
“Standard repertoire with Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms is still in demand,” he said. “But we also play a lot of contemporary music. You may have Led Zeppelin one day and then pop or country.”
Greer admits that the virus shutdown has brought on the blues, but not the musical ones.
He is busy looking after 28 animals his Robin Hood Ranch, a 500-acre property that includes a house built in 1959. The house’s former owners include Judge Neil Robertson, Sidney Arthur Robin George Drogo “Kim” Montagu, 11th Duke of Manchester and Louise Mandrell.
What has captured Greer’s heart and imagination is the recent arrival of Eeyore, who is almost two months old.
“He was born on April 9,” Greer said. “Here we have 28 animals that include 10 miniature donkeys, six horses and a host of dogs. Most of the animals are rescue.”
Greer said he has been encouraged by his role on the city council, including being asked for his input for the design of both Fire Hall No. 1 and Ashland City City Hall.
“It’s nice to see that Ashland City is growing,” he said. “We need to find ways to attract people that will help the community upgrade and encourage the arts like Liepers Fork. We need quality growth. Main Street could feature the arts. The river needs to tapped and showcased for tourism. We could have an arts festival. I’m so encouraged by the Art League of Cheatham County.”
He said he believes that the physical beauty of Ashland City and Cheatham County is perfect for tourism and encouragement of the arts.
“There is the potential for an artist colony or retreat,” he said. “With walking trails, the Bicentennial Trail, the landscape with its hills and pastures and the river truly set up the call for an artist community.”