As a music lover, I was so excited when I arrived in Nashville “Music City U.S.A.”, Tennessee to visit Jeff Elkins and Robin Davis, both independent proposal consultants. I arrived just before Christmas and it was very cold so my first stop was the Goodwill store to pick up this toasty little sweater. The city was alive with the sights and sounds of the season – quite literally. Leaving the Goodwill store, I ran into my first celebrity. Well, celebrity-in-the-making, perhaps. Jim was volunteering as a Salvation Army bell ringer but is also a singer/songwriter. Of course he is – Nashville is filled with a bazillion musicians, including my hosts who used to play together in a band called Strat 5. Anyway, Jim was kind enough to let me sit in with him while he played “Silent Night.” In return, I generously donated to the red bucket. I hope Jim makes it big someday.
Hangin’ out on the Bench
I first spent time with Jeff in Hendersonville, TN (home of Grammy winning country/pop star Taylor Swift). Almost before I was unpacked, Jeff requested I review Jeff’s notes on a current project and help him craft an executive summary. Once I started working I realized I could help Jeff by recommending some changes to the layout of his home office that would make things more efficient.
Jeff had a meeting that afternoon with one of his clients and he suggested I come along. Once there we reviewed the strategy on a multi-million dollar proposal for a large government municipality; my global expertise came in VERY handy, and my previous experience with IT companies really helped me translate the key messages from “tech speak.”
The next day Jeff had an orientation meeting with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT), which supports a wide range of needs in Tennessee. Jeff loaned me a Netbook for that meeting and I loved it —it was just my size!
On my last evening there, Jeff and I kicked back and played a little bluegrass, which is one of his other passions. I really enjoyed picking his mandolin on some of those old-time country tunes – we even tried our hand at “I May BE a Panda But I Won’t Panda To You.” It was a great way to wrap up the first week in Nashville.
Rockin’ Robin, tweet, tweedle-lee-dee
Next, I headed on over to visit with a good friend of Jon and BJ, Robin Davis. On the day I arrived, Robin was documenting the proposal process she designed for a client. Since I’ve been around so many different shops, she asked me to help ensure she was following best practices. I offered some advice on ways to make the process more efficient and then got busy making a flowchart for the client’s team to review. Robin then asked me to help create the proposal process training presentation for the client’s sales team. A perfect task for me since I’m a master presenter! I quickly whipped up a compelling and fun presentation and coached Robin on how to deliver it in the most effective way.
After a quick trip to Starbucks for a hot non-fat Chai tea latte (I asked if they might have a bamboo shoot to put in it but, as seems to be the case at most coffee shops I’ve visited, they didn’t have any.) While Robin was on a call with a prospective client, I monitored her Twitter account for her. That was pretty cool. There’s SO much information out there – some useful, some pretty strange - it was a blast!
Time for some fun
After a fair amount of working time, I was in need of some serious downtime. So, Robin and Jeff took me around to see the sights of the city. I can’t do that on an empty belly so our first stop was the Hard Rock Café on the banks of the Cumberland River. There was great music, fun memorabilia to look at, and an overpriced, but tasty, cheeseburger. Proposal Panda cannot live on Bamboo alone.
Nashville is the official “Home of Country Music” so we headed over to the mother church of country music, the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974, and today, still hosts some of the hottest acts around. My hosts tell me this place has the best acoustics in town, even though you have to sit on hard wooden church benches.
Next on our list was the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The building is designed to look like a piano keyboard! The Museum, established in 1961, includes a vast collection of items that tells the story of country music history. The Museum hosts regular live performances and public programs, and also includes a Museum Store and on-site dining. I had great time learning about the dramatic history of country music and I have a new-found respect for it.
But, this is music city so it’s not just about country music. Around the corner from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony. Built in 2006, the building takes up a full city block and was inspired by many of the world’s greatest symphony halls built in Europe in the 19th century. The hall features a custom-built concert organ and a convertible seating system that is designed to give the hall unique versatility. My hosts had the privilege of playing on the Schermerhorn stage and can attest to the hall’s acoustic clarity and warmth
After the Schermerhorn, we walked a block to Lower Broadway – host to a multitude of honky tonks and shops. We visited a fun little shop that offers tourists their fill of Nashville-themed trinkets. I resisted getting the giant blue foam cowboy hat that caught my eye – Robin and Jeff said it wouldn’t fit in my box. ☹ Right outside of the store I ran into Elvis. That’s right, ELVIS!! Ok, not the real one, but a cool statue of him, nonetheless. I rested on his guitar neck while the three of us belted out Blue Suede Shoes. Here I was in Music City U.S.A., singing on the street, just like many other struggling musicians. For just a moment, I got to experience what it must be like to chase your musical dreams.
Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?
Well, it’s that time again and I must move on to visit new people and experience new places. Nashville was a blast and I enjoyed spending time with Jeff and Robin. I’m looking forward to seeing them again when we all attend the APMP National conference in June.