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Mighty Musical Monday celebrates 15 years of free Wurlitzer organ concerts, honors organist Dr. Bill Snyder
Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock presents a proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly declaring “Dr. William T. Snyder Day” at the 15th anniversary celebration of Mighty Musical Monday on Oct. 30.
The Tennessee Theatre celebrated 15 years of Mighty Musical Monday free organ concerts with a special performance Sunday, Oct. 30. The concert featured several local performers, as well as Tennessee Theatre organists Bill Snyder, Freddie Brabson and Paul Swiderski.
“The 15th anniversary concert provided an opportunity to celebrate the amazing Wurlitzer organ and venue that we have in our community, as well as to recognize the musicians and performers who have made Mighty Musical Monday one of the most popular organ concerts in the country,” Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said.
The Mighty Wurlitzer organists lead the special concert, which also featured several of Mighty Musical Monday’s most frequent and popular guest artists, including Kelle Jolly with Will Boyd; Natalee Beeler Elkins; Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego; and Liz Peterson.
In 2001, when the Mighty Wurlitzer organ was fully restored, a tradition began of playing monthly free organ concerts called “First Monday.” The purpose of the concerts was to open the doors of the venue to the community, as well as to ensure the newly restored instrument continued to be regularly played and enjoyed.
From the first concerts with crowds that rarely topped 200, the monthly event has grown to welcome up to 1,000 patrons every first Monday at noon and has been renamed the James A. Dick Mighty Musical Monday series – after the man credited with saving the theater from demolition.
The concerts expanded over the last decade to also feature community musicians, vocalists and dancers. From senior center choirs to belly dancers, Mighty Musical Monday’s diverse guest artists attract visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
“You cannot speak about Mighty Musical Monday without mentioning its champion and founder, Dr. Bill Snyder,” Hancock said. “His passion and love for the Mighty Wurlitzer and theater have allowed this series to continue to grow well beyond our expectations, and its popularity continues to expand.”
At the event, a tribute video to Snyder was played as a finale to the concert and a proclamation from the Tennessee State Assembly was read naming the day “Dr. Williams T. Snyder Day.”
Snyder has been the house organist since 1979 and has curated the free concert series for the last 15 years. Snyder was a founding member of the board of directors of the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation in 1996 and served 14 years on the board, including taking on the role as fundraising chair for the $25 million restoration.
“Mighty Musical Monday concerts have truly been a labor of love,” Snyder said. “During our fundraising that began in 2002, our tagline for the theater was ‘Magnificence. Memories. Magic.’ I have always felt that the Mighty Wurlitzer and Knoxville’s Grand Entertainment Palace have embodied a sense of wonder and a door into the past.
“I have enjoyed sharing that magic with thousands of guests of all ages through our free organ series and look forward to this program continuing to introduce new generations to our theater.”
Snyder has been helped for years by Robin Flenniken, who assisted Snyder and the Tennessee Theatre staff with promotion. Flenniken reached out to Knoxville’s senior citizens and worked with senior centers and clubs, as well as assisted livings facilities and senior living communities. Those efforts created a dedicated group of seniors who enjoy stepping back in time each month for the organ concerts.
About the Tennessee Theatre
Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie palace. The Tennessee Theatre is the Official State Theatre of Tennessee and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Theatre is the region’s leading performing arts and music venue with advanced technology, staging and lighting that draws top entertainment to the Knoxville area. For more information, visit www.tennesseetheatre.com.