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The Newest Jewel in the Music City

The National Museum of African American Music

The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville is dedicated to spreading awareness and knowledge of what the African American culture has done for music through time. Located at the intersection of 5th avenue and Broadway in Downtown Nashville, the museum is huge, 56,000 square feet, and located right in the middle of the Music City.  This museum takes all genres of music that African American’s have influenced, and makes a one stop shop for all of it.

The mission statement for the NMAAM is “To educate the world, preserve the legacy, and celebrate the central role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack”.  The vision is “The National Museum of African American Music is the premier global destination for music lovers of all generations and inspires, educates, and transforms your appreciation of American music. They have decided to place this Museum in Nashville because of the historical significance that the great Music City has with the African American culture. Tennessee was the center of the Great Migration, where over 6 million African Americans left the south for Northern Urban areas in the early 20th Century. They brought their immense musical culture with them. NMAAM hopes to make this museum the “final jewel in the city’s crown.” They also plan to “strengthen and diversify the “Music City” brand with compelling connections to both local and national musical distinctions.”

Rivers of Rhythm Exhibition

A few of the galleries that are available at the museum are: The Roots Theatre where you can experience immersive films, The River of Rhythm Pathways, which follows a timeline for African American music traditions, Wade in the Water, which follows the evolution of the African American Religious experience up until today, and many more. At this time, NMAAM is the only museum “dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans. The Museum’s expertly-curated collections will share the story of the American soundtrack by integrating history and interactive technology to bring the musical heroes of the past to the present.” Along with fascinating galleries full of information, the museum also is home to some artifacts that “support its mission and vision to educate and transform the appreciation of African American music-history and culture”. Some of those artifacts include: instruments, stage costumes, sheet music, recording equipment, and photographs. They plan to use these artifacts as another method of telling the story of what African American culture has brought to the many styles and genres of music.

Wade in the Water Exhibition

One aspect of NMAAM that they are very proud of is their  “Museum without walls” offerings. These programs are events that happen outside of the music that are accessible online or in person. The three programs are My Music Matters, From nothing to something, and Sip and Stanzas. My Music matters is “a weekly intimate chat with an artist, academic, music industry insider, and/or influencer that explores their career, personal perspective of the industry, and why the music that’s important to them matters to us all.” From Nothing to Something is “an educational series that exposes both youth and adults to the ingenuity of African Americans through music. This interactive presentation showcases how, despite limited resources, African Americans used everyday items or materials to create instruments. Teaching artists perform live demonstrations with their respective instruments and invite participants to create their own FN2S instrument.”

Finally, Sip and Stanzas is a monthly program that “deeper dive into all things music and culture, with a panel of featured museum and academic experts.” These three programs are a huge part of what the NMAAM stands for.

This museum has been a work in progress for some time now. The original plan was proposed way back in 2002. Over the next several years the project “matured” to what it is today. In 2015, the city of Nashville announced plans to redevelop the old convention center site. This was the perfect opportunity for NMAAM to become a real thing. In 2016, NMAAM created multiple “programs to further educate the community on the achievements and influences of African American music. The interest and excitement exceeded our expectations, and we reached over 132,000 individuals across the country. Our success stems from offering both adult and youth programs for diverse audiences.” In 2017, NMAAM broke ground on their new site. The construction of the actual museum had taken place 15 years after the initial idea was proposed. In August of 2020 the construction of the Museum was finally complete. The plan was to have a grand opening on Labor Day weekend of 2020. NMAAM plans to open its doors to the public officially on January 30th, 2021.

The Museum, as of right now, is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11-5. This will last until the end of February. For More Information see https://nmaam.org.



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