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When Karl Dean was elected mayor of Nashville in 2007, he saw an opportunity to build on one of the most recognizable brands in the world. “We knew that the Music City image, or that portion of our identity, was just so vital, and we needed to make sure we worked not only to preserve it but also to develop it further,” he says.

To that end, he helped launch the Music City Music Council in 2009. A partnership between the mayor’s office, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Council is co-chaired by Dean and former RCA and Lyric Street label executive Randy Goodman.

“From the outset, the goals were that we wanted to attract creative people to live and work in Nashville, to improve the city’s live-music scene and to develop a system of music education in our public schools,” Goodman says.

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Joy Williams and John Paul White are the Civil Wars
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Though still in their relative infancy, the efforts seem to be working. So far, the Council has established a partnership with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center to help incubate local startup businesses in digital media, music and entertainment. It’s also developed a sweeping education plan, called Music Makes Us, to place the city’s public schools at the forefront of music education nationally. And it’s nearly completed construction on the city’s first low-cost artist residence, the Ryman Lofts. Scheduled to open in late 2012, the 60-apartment community boasts unconventional floor plans, large meeting spaces and an overall setup designed to stimulate creative collaboration between residents. “The entire community was created with artists in mind,” Goodman says. “It’s ultimately a place for them to nurture and grow, individually and together.”

Dean, who is known around the city as the “education mayor,” says Music Makes Us is a vital component in Nashville’s future. “I believe the music and the arts are not frills,” Dean says. “Multiple studies indicate that students with a strong music-education background score higher on SATs and tend to outperform their nonmusical peers. Musical instruction increases students’ mental flexibility [and] helps with reasoning, and there’s a tie to math and science. It’s an essential element in our kids’ education.” Launching this fall, Music Makes Us will offer classes in songwriting and composition, rock band and hip-hop performance, and technology-based production, as well as recording and DJ remixing. “And at the same time, we will preserve traditional curriculum in band and orchestra and choir,” Dean says.

Goodman is also tasked with bringing new business to the city. Nashville’s location, reasonable costs and high quality of life have all served as major draws for companies looking to move to town. Over the past two decades, performing-rights organizations like BMI, publishing houses like Sony/Tree and management companies including Front Line have all expanded their presence in Nashville considerably. Meanwhile, corporations like Viacom — which owns CMT, MTV and VH1— have been shifting people and resources from both the coasts into the area. At one point in the mid-’90s, the influx of former Big Apple residents was so great that a New York–style deli, Noshville, was opened and continues to thrive today with multiple locations.

“A lot of companies, they look at their operations and ask: ‘How can we make this business make more sense?’ ” Goodman says. “And, ultimately, coming to Nashville makes more sense for a lot of them.”