When the the Tennessee Theater’s mighty Wurlitzer organ is being mentioned, only one name comes to mind and that is none other than Dr. Bill Snyder. Bill has been around the theater for decades and he has always been the warm-up act for movies and live performances. However, his warm-up acts are merely just a single part of his importance to the Tennessee Theater.
In 2003, the theater was extremely close to being demolish. However, Bill served as fundraising chair and managed to secure $28 million, which help to restore the theater to its original 1928 grandeur. That was the time when it was one of the greatest movie houses of the South. During this present day, many of those old movie houses are already gone. However, the Tennessee managed to survive because when they were restoring the theater, they also added an improved stage along with dressing rooms. “The ones that have been able to survive are the ones that have been converted to primarily a live performance facility. And that’s what happened at the Tennessee,” stated Bill.
At the age of 81 now, Bill has sufficient time to devote to the Tennessee Theater, but for much of his life he was an educator and administrator, serving as chancellor at UT Knoxville. Despite that, he always had a love for music. In fact, he started taking up piano lessons when he was only in third grade. “I took to it like a duck to water and really enjoyed it. And I got interested in organ in high school and started taking organ lessons and started playing in churches because I never thought I’d ever have an opportunity to play down here,” he said. Eventually, he got the opportunity he didn’t think he would get.
Bill’s love affair with the Tennessee Theater actually first came about more than 30 years ago. It occurred the very first time when he sat down to play the Mighty Wurlitzer. “I remember it very well because for one thing it was my birthday, October 18, 1979. And I remember I pushed the button and the console started rising and I asked myself, what have I gotten myself into,” he said, laughing. That turned out to be one of his greatest experience and memories. For more of the story, you can read it here.