Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Music industry recovers after flood destroyed instruments, venues

In a white clapboard house on a quiet street in Berry Hill, a six-month marathon effort to save dozens of flood-damaged musical instruments remains a daily labor of love with the goal of salvaging Nashville's best-known industry from near disaster.
Joe Glaser's repair shop has resuscitated about 100 guitars — along with musicians' livelihoods — some of which were "given up for dead" after being found warped or smeared in river sludge when the Cumberland River overflowed after torrential rains in early May.

Damaged goods sat waterlogged in artists' homes, in recording studios and inside the massive SoundCheck music storage warehouse near the river, where working musicians and big-name stars alike stored thousands of valuable instruments.

"In the beginning, when I saw all of those instruments, I thought, 'Oh, no way. It's too many. They're warped. They're dead. It's hopeless,' " said Glaser, who has been repairing guitars in Nashville for 30 years.

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"Then we just focused on one instrument at a time. In a lot of cases, instruments couldn't be saved. But in others, in a peculiar way, the guitars sound better. They've got more soul."

Nearly every aspect of Nashville's music industry was hurt in some way by May's flood, but slow and painstaking restoration efforts such as Glaser's are getting musical landmarks back in shape, companies back on their feet and musicians back in business.

For instance:

• SoundCheck, the 160,000-square-foot warehouse and rehearsal studio that stored an estimated 60 percent of Nashville musicians' instruments and professional gear, reopened in July. Insurance and Small Business Administration loans covered $2.2 million in damages to the facility, but owner Ben Jumper said few musicians had insurance to cover an estimated $10 million in damages to individual instruments stored there.

• The Schermerhorn Symphony Center sustained $40 million in damage when up to 24 feet of water flooded the building's basement and sub-basement. Two weeks ago, power was finally restored. Two 10-hour shifts of workers continue on the highly specialized restoration work required to maintain acoustic perfection in the hall, while experts in San Francisco work to save a valuable and badly damaged organ. The symphony is on track to reopen with a New Year's Eve concert, featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman.

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CS Week conference group donates $60,000 to flood relief