Worlds Collide, Businesses Thrive


The month of October got off to an exciting start with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. First up was the sold out performance with Yo-Yo Ma. The excitement was palpable for everyone: audience, staff, board, orchestra, and even random people on the street who’d never thought of the symphony until seeing the marquee with Yo-Yo’s name on it.

There is an awesome effect that happens to an orchestra and its audience when Yo-Yo Ma comes to play. Everyone plays at levels above and beyond what they felt possible as Yo-Yo invites everyone to join him in music making with just with a wink or a smile. And the smiles happening around the orchestra were just the best; during rests in the Dvorak concertos, I glanced around to see colleagues absolutely beaming.

Yo-Yo Ma and me


The audience, some of whom came from other states and other countries just to see this performance, also could not help but smile. And to nobody’s surprise, at the end of the concerto, the sold out house of 1700 glad souls erupted with cheers and a 10 minute standing ovation! Yo-Yo came on and off stage, acknowledged various soloists in the orchestra, and was a true gentleman with CSO music director, Kayoko Dan by motioning for her to stand on the podium beside him and receive applause which was well deserved.

He guided the audience the same way he guided us, letting everyone know in a non-verbal way how amazing the maestro was, how remarkable the flute solo was, how outstanding the orchestra played, and much more. It was lesson for us all, on stage and off, how gracious and caring a person can be by inspiring and enriching us all to expand and share our own enjoyment of music. The whole experience was really beyond words.

Businesses Thrive

The following week CSO had another classical concert set which pushed the orchestra into a vastly different musical direction. The fast turnaround of music meant that some of the musicians who travel to Chattanooga from great distances stayed in town to practice and take in some of the local restaurants and sites during their days off. Many local musicians eagerly shared their favorite eateries and invited colleagues to various outdoor and cultural activities.

As I sat with several groups of colleagues at restaurants around town, it became clear that the CSO musicians, whether local or traveling, brought more than just talent and wonderful music making to the CSO and Chattanooga, they also brought their pocket books and frequently patronized local restaurants and businesses. Several musicians have even become Facebook friends with local restaurant owners and are now seen as “regulars”!

Carl Johnston enjoys a delicious sandwich at Maple Street Biscuits, one of the many restaurants musicians frequent.


So essentially, when the CSO plays a Masterworks week, area restaurants and businesses see symphony musicians enjoying their foods and atmospheres. These musicians do a great service beyond playing rehearsals and concerts by sharing their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. Sharing pictures of food, tourist activities, and local experiences unique to Chattanooga, musicians are vital ambassadors for the city and orchestra.

Tea With Strangers

Chattanooga is new to the social project called Tea With Strangers (TWS). When the online article about TWS popped into my newsfeed asking for hosts, I thought, Why not? I figured it would be a fun way to meet more friends in Chattanooga, but also a way for me to branch out of my normal social circle of musicians.

The concept is really fun; people sign up to sit down for two hours in a tea or coffee shop and talk. Nobody has previously met; people just join and don’t know who else is coming.

As host, it is my job to keep a conversation going and engage people to talk and find commonality, differences, ideas, and dreams. By the end of the two hours, the five people who joined me were fast friends. Randomly and remarkably some discovered they had mutual friends during the two hour chat.
It was really moving and inspiring hearing people’s stories, passions for what makes their lives worth living, and their approach to happiness. Coming from vastly different backgrounds and jobs, it was a balancing feeling getting to understand and know people who might not normally meet.

Tea With Strangers
A wonderful group of people to talk with for two hours.

At the end of our two hours, I mentioned I had a concert the next evening and invited anyone who wanted to come to attend. It was so wonderful to see one of my new friends from TWS after the concert! And completely randomly, one of our mutual friends came to the same concert which was discovered later on Facebook posts. Next time maybe they can go together!

There were a lot of “small world” and “worlds are colliding” comments these past two weeks. The music world is already very small, but having new friends who have a connection in some cursory manner through my orchestra or the CSO patrons or staff, was just the best!

Chattanooga is definitely a city full of amazing connections, both personally and for businesses. What a lucky city!

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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