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Robert Moody is Keeping Music Alive in Memphis

Famously riding into the hearts of Memphians in 2005 and finally finding his "home" for the holidays!

Robert Moody unforgettably rode into Memphis and onto center stage on a Limited Edition Elvis Presley Harley Davidson in 2005. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) had invited him to guest conduct the Elvis Presley Birthday Concert. He made such an impression that the MSO kept inviting him back until they finally sealed the deal, making him the Principal Conductor in 2015 and Music Director in 2018.  

Moody’s enthusiasm for Memphis and the music community is infectious. “Memphis is one of the greatest music cities in the world,” says Moody. “Anyone thinking of Memphis immediately envisions delta blues, rock ‘n roll, soul and on and on!” He describes Memphis as a “music melting pot,” in which he has challenged himself to collaborate with the city’s ballet, opera, and theater communities. “I knew that being part of a thriving music scene in Memphis would mean the symphony must become inseparable in people’s minds from all the other wonderful genres of music,” says Moody. “A 70+ member orchestra is actually the world’s greatest synthesizer. With so many instrumentalists and different instruments on one stage, there is really no limit to the variety of music we can play.” 

As Director, Conductor, and performer, Moody’s extensive musical career spans the US and much of the world. Serving symphonies and orchestras in Portland, Winston-Salem, Arizona and New Mexico nationally to Columbia, Germany, and, South Africa! 

Perhaps Moody’s greatest contribution has been keeping the music alive in Memphis during the pandemic. While traditional music venues were forced to shut down, Moody got creative, using this opportunity to expand his audience beyond the typical symphony crowd. With the help of sound engineers, they produced group performance videos comprised of individual players each recording their parts for thousands to enjoy. With Moody’s leadership, the symphony played outdoors and in churches across the Mid-South. Moody fully realized the importance of music to this town during the Symphony at Sunset Memorial Day performance at the Levitt Shell, the first time a full orchestra had been on stage in 15 months. “Live music is a journey like no other. Musical experiences bring people together in a manner that religion and politics can’t. Music has a unifying, healing quality.”   

Moody is quick to point out that a significant reason that the MSO was able to operate during the pandemic was due to their endowment. “A handful of key Mid-South leaders came together to ensure that the MSO would thrive throughout the entirety of the 21st century and beyond." While growing the endowment, Moody will continue providing premiere concerts and educational experiences with an emphasis on Memphis’ youth.

This month's Magic of Memphis! concert is sure to be a “home run,” as the MSO chorus is joined by amazing singers from the Memphis Black Artists Alliance with special guest Dr. Vernell Bennet-Faris, the new president of LeMoyne-Owen College and a professionally trained soprano. Keep an eye out for a Rockette-style “kick-line” of dancing Santas, too! 

Perhaps Moody’s creative approach to the symphony is rooted in his unlikely introduction to music. He first picked up a cello in the 4th grade when his then girlfriend jokingly added his name to a sign-up sheet following a presentation on string instruments. Moody complied, went to class and the rest is history! He credits his parents, neither musically inclined themselves, for supporting this unexpected request for a cello and subsequent lessons. Moody went on to graduate from Furman University and the Eastman School of Music.

When Moody is not performing, conducting, directing, or riding an Elvis Presley Harley, he can often be found running or playing with his three pets: two dogs and a cat. He is an avid snow skier, hiker, Jeopardy watcher and lover of all things outdoors and anything chocolate. Moody and his partner recently purchased a home in Memphis, moving permanently from Charlotte and settling in just in time for the holidays.

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