A New Museum Will Celebrate The Special Place Blacks Hold In American Music History

“This is the museum that will tell the story of the American soundtrack.”

A new museum that won't have a physical location for another two years is on an active mission to show others how African Americans have made a significant impact on American music.

The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., started off as an idea from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce in 2002 and quickly became the subject of a task force to assess what the level of interest would be for this kind of museum.

Now, 15 years after that initial study, the site has broken ground on its future home. Contrecia Tharpe, the museum's marketing manager said that it's currently operating as a "museum without walls," she said to A Plus, by bringing different kinds of educational programming to the community and working its way to hosting events in other states. In the meantime, it's also collecting artifacts from artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and other influential Black musicians.

"This is the museum that will tell the story of the American soundtrack," she said. "So while we say African-American music, this is just showing how Blacks have contributed to more than 50 genres of music."

Throughout its programming so far, Tharpe recalls how little facts about music history resonate with people hearing them for the first time. For instance, many people didn't know that the banjo instrument has an origin story that started in South Africa.

"Even in our presentations that we do now, we always have people say, 'Oh my gosh, I didn't know that,' " she said.


As the museum continues to prep for its 2019 opening, exhibits have been planned to include a wide variety of music genres from gospel to rock. The exhibit below brings in an interactive element where visitors can learn to scratch a record and change the music they’re listening to, according to Tharpe.

To Tharpe, presenting a broad history that features multiple music genres will make visitors feel like there's a place for them in Nashville.

"People will be able to see themselves and they'll be able to relate to different stories because it will feature things that speak to everyone," she said.  

And when it comes down to a visitor's feelings, she believes the museum will evoke the same feeling people get when they can connect to music.

"Music is universal, so it has everyone together in some sort because music makes you feel, it recalls memories, it speaks for you when you don't have a voice, it heals you when you're in pain," she said. "So music is just this cure-all, be-all, end-all kind of thing."

Take an exclusive look at more of the future displays that will have a home at The National Museum of African American Music:








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