The first music director was William Strickland, who was with the orchestra until 1951, and established high standards from the beginning of his term. Successive music directors were Guy Taylor (1951-1959), Willis Page (1959-1967), Thor Johnson (1967-1975), and Michael Charry (1976-1982). Under Charry, the orchestra moved to its own permanent facility at the new Tennessee Performing Arts Center, where it gave an annual ten-concert classical series and a pops series. It also functioned as the orchestra for the Nashville Ballet and the Nashville Opera.
In 1983, Kenneth Schermerhorn became music director, raising the orchestra's standards to a national level. It participated in the music score to the PBS series Liberty! The American Revolution, which included diverse soloists such as James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, and Wynton Marsalis. The Sony Classical CD of the soundtrack was one of the first national releases of the orchestra. Its first straight classical release was an album juxtaposing Antonin Dvorák's "New World" Symphony with New York composer David Amram's Kokopelli. Following the establishment in 1998 of the "Symphony 2000" plan designed to advance the orchestra into the ranks of the best-known major U.S. orchestras, it started making a series of recordings with Naxos Records and has since earned numerous Grammy awards and nominations. In 2006, a new performance space, Schermerhorn Hall, was opened, providing a dedicated and intimate place for concerts and recitals. At the same time, Schermerhorn stepped down and a search for a new director began. During the 2009-2010 season, the Nashville Symphony's director was Giancarlo Guerrero, and under his leadership, it continued to maintain high standards of programming and performance.