After a long-awaited opening originally slated for 2020 and postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic conditions, the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville officially opened Jan. 18, 2021. Now it reigns as the only museum in the world dedicated solely to preserving African American music traditions and celebrating the central role African Americans played in shaping American music.
The museum integrates history and interactive technology to honor the musical heroes of African American music of the past and present. Tours begin daily at 9 a.m. and occur every half hour.
National chairs include musicians and singer-songwriters Darius Rucker, India Arie, Keb’ Mo’ and CeCe Winans. Modern country music artist Vince Gill is among the group's board of directors.
In 2002, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce members proposed the idea of NMAAM as a way to celebrate and preserve the influence African Americans had on music. They established a task force to explore all of the possibilities. As the project matured, the scope changed from a local to a national initiative, and simultaneously narrowed its focus from music, culture and arts to focus exclusively on music.
Construction for the museum initially was slated for Jefferson Street, but in 2015, Nashville city officials announced plans to redevelop the former convention center site. Included in those plans was a prominent, state-of-the-art location for NMAAM. Since that time, NMAAM developed unique programs and offerings without a physical exhibit space.
The National Museum of African American Music broke ground in early 2017.
"As an educational facility, national tourist destination and economic development engine for Middle Tennessee, NMAAM is a vibrant museum where youth, artists and families find creative and cultural inspiration," says museum president and CEO Henry Beecher Hicks III. “We've been preparing for this for more than 20 years, but this museum has actually been 400 years in the making. We welcome music lovers from around the world. We also thank the thousands of people who've supported us, as we celebrate the history of African American music, which truly is the soundtrack of our nation.”
NMAAM’s state-of-the-art performance hall now screens films, host lectures and stages concerts. The library houses classrooms, along with a vital repository of digitally mastered African American music. A boutique café and store provides additional ways for visitors to enjoy visits.
The museum offers volunteer roles, as well as a speakers bureau and capital campaign. Online donations can be made ranging from $25 to $1,000.
During last April, NMAAM and the CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, announced a partnership that offers the museum’s collaborative project, Music Legends & Heroes, to select high schools within Metro Nashville Public Schools. As part of the Music Legends & Heroes program, several musicians, including country artists Breland, Willie Jones, Reyna Roberts and Tiera mentored students, sharing their histories and answering questions about the industry.
“NMAAM and the CMA Foundation have long shared the same mission of supporting Nashville schools through extensive music education and programs, so this partnership was a natural fit,” says Tamar Smithers, NMAAM education and public programs director.
“We were thrilled to partner with the National Museum of African American Music, which has become an important fixture in the downtown Nashville landscape,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA chief executive officer. “NMAAM’s mission to educate the world, preserve the legacy and celebrate the role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack goes beyond any single genre. We're delighted to work on the Music Legends & Heroes program, which provides students the opportunity to learn about all music.”
Visit Musem Wednesdays through Mondays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Amplify museum store open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Adult (18 and older) — $24.95 each
- Youth (Ages 7-17; 6 and younger are free) — $13.50 each
- Senior (Age 65 and older) — $18.75 each
- Student/Teacher/Military (valid ID required) — $18.75 each