Axios Nashville

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Good morning. It's Thursday, and we're ready to roll.

⛈ Today's weather: A chance of thunderstorms with a high of 90°.

Situational awareness: A shooting after a high school graduation ceremony held last night on MTSU's campus left one person dead and another critically injured, per News Channel 5.

Today's newsletter is 926 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Lee's voucher program gets a win

Photo illustration of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Gov. Bill Lee's school voucher program was in line with the state constitution.

  • The 3-2 decision overturns rulings from lower courts that blocked the program.

Why it matters: Lee's program would create education savings accounts, commonly called vouchers, that would allow eligible students to use public funding to attend private school.

Flashback: A bill authorizing vouchers in Tennessee's biggest cities narrowly passed the General Assembly in 2019, but the measure was mired in court challenges and controversy.

  • The high court's ruling is a significant victory as Lee nears the end of his first term.

Between the lines: The Supreme Court reheard the case after Justice Cornelia Clark died last year.

  • Court of Appeals Judge Thomas "Skip" Frierson, II, stepped in temporarily for the case. He joined Chief Justice Roger Page and Justice Jeff Bivins in the majority.
  • Justices Sharon Lee and Holly Kirby dissented.

The intrigue: The program was originally designed for students in a handful of counties, but lawmakers winnowed it down so that it applies only to the Nashville and Shelby County districts.

  • Those local governments sued, saying the state couldn't create such a program that applied only to them.
  • While some state courts agreed, the Supreme Court found the program's narrow design did not violate the state constitution.

What he's saying: Lee said the opinion "puts parents in Memphis and Nashville one step closer to finding the best educational fit for their children."

The other side: State Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said the Home Rule Amendment to the constitution should bar the program.

  • "While the decision itself is bad, the worst result of the Tennessee Supreme Court's school vouchers decision will be the school vouchers," Yarbro tweeted.
  • "In state after state after state, vouchers lead to worse education outcomes."

What's next: Yesterday's ruling was in response to a specific constitutional question that arose during a broader lawsuit over the vouchers, so the ongoing lawsuit will continue in state trial court.

2. Delgado Guitars brings Nashville vibe to Geodis Park

Luthier Manuel Delgado and his family pose with the guitar he custom built for Geodis Park
Luthier Manuel Delgado and his family pose with the guitar he custom-built for Geodis Park. Photo: courtesy of Delgado Guitars

To ensure that the new Geodis Park has an authentic Nashville vibe, the Nashville SC collaborated with local artists to fill the new stadium.

Driving the news: Among the artwork is a guitar built by luthier Manuel Delgado of East Nashville's Delgado Guitars.

  • Delgado has been asked to custom make guitars as artwork in the past. He made a guitar for Maker's Mark and another for Arrow McLaren Racing, which was built using parts from one of the company's race cars.
  • For the guitar at Geodis Park, Delgado used leftover materials from the stadium's construction.

Why it matters: The collaboration with the SC is just the latest example of Delgado Guitars' inroads in Nashville's creative community. The company, which relocated to Nashville in 2005, counts band members from Old Crow Medicine Show and Los Lobos among its clients.

  • Delgado tells Axios the collaboration with the Nashville SC was especially meaningful because the team prioritized working with artists from diverse cross-sections of the city.
  • "As a small business owner — we've been in business 94 years — but you're always trying to figure out ways to stay relevant and to stay in business, to be quite frank," Delgado says.

Details: Delgado matched the colors used to paint the back of the guitar to the Nashville SC's proprietary uniform colors.

  • But the guitar at Geodis Park isn't just a pretty piece of art. The instrument, which is on display in a suite inside the stadium, can actually be played.

What he's saying: "I'm a luthier. I handmake musical instruments," Delgado says. "There's no machines — I'm making it. The instrument has to be the most important thing."

  • "But if we can do something visually that brings in somebody who may not be in this [musical] pool that we're swimming in, and we can make a connection to whatever their interests are, I think that's really meaningful."

3. The Setlist

Illustration of a neon sign in the shape of an arrow reading "THE SETLIST."
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏅 Music journalists weigh in on who should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. (Tennessean, subscription)

Advocacy groups are continuing efforts to kill an ethics reform bill the legislature passed this session. (Tennessee Lookout)

💰 Tennessee State University will give 100 full-ride scholarships to Nashville students going into high-demand fields. (WPLN)

Look who’s hiring

🌎 Find a job that’s out of this world with our Local Job Board.

  1. Associate Director of Data Analytics and Systems at Vanderbilt University.
  2. Supervisor, Client Implementation at Health Equity.
  3. Associate Director, IT Professional Services Category Management at The Hartford.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a Job.

4. TN's most popular baby names

Illustration of a baby wearing a "hello my name is" sticker.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Tennessee parents made William and Olivia the most popular baby names in the state last year, according to data released earlier this month by the Social Security Administration.

By the numbers: There were 428 Tennessee babies named William and 377 named Olivia last year, according to the data.

Details: Charlotte, Ava, Emma and Amelia rounded out the top five female names.

  • Liam, James, Noah and Elijah were the most popular male names.

💭 Nate's thought bubble: I was astonished not to see Dolly among the top 100. Another iconic country music name, Waylon, is getting clearly catching on, coming in at No. 17 on the male side.

  • I was also surprised that Peyton cracked the list for most popular female names, but not male names in a state where Peyton Manning is synonymous.

💭 Adam's thought bubble: "Bills, Bills, Bills" isn't just a selection on the latest Axios Nashville playlist. It's also the de facto theme song in Tennessee maternity wards.

5. Ukraine, from the frontlines

Photo illustration of a Ukrainian soldier with a map of Ukraine and the Donbas region in the background
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A new documentary episode of Axios' podcast "How It Happened" is out this morning. "Putin's Invasion Part V: The fight for the Donbas" goes to the war's frontlines — the Donbas, the eastern borderlands of Ukraine where the most intense fighting is now happening.

  • This is told through the eyes of a journalist who has been covering the war there and a soldier who has been fighting there.

Our picks:

🤘 Nate's song of the day is "The City" by the legendary punk band the Dismemberment Plan.

✌️ Adam is vibin' with bison.