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African-American Music Museum to Be Built in Nashville

Museum has already begun community outreach programs, teaching schoolchildren about early instruments

Marvin Gaye performs in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Rob Verhorst/Redferns
April 9, 2014 9:05 AM ET

A museum honoring the musical and cultural contributions of artists from Otis Redding to Marvin Gaye is set to be built in Nashville. The planned National Museum of African American Music will also honor black musicians who were local to Music CityFrank Howard, Jimmy Church and Marion Jamesgiven Nashville 's long history of music outside of country. Construction could begin as early as next year, according to The Associated Press, as it is part of the redevelopment of the site of the old Nashville Convention Center downtown.

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The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce created a task force in 2000 to study the idea of honoring black musicians, but development on the museum was not immediate. The project had a budgetary goal of more than $43 million, but that was later reduced when the city made the Convention Center available. The city committed $10 million to the project in 2006, and Mayor Karl Dean has said that the offer is still good. "I believe there is strong interest and demand for this type of museum, and the planned location is in a vibrant section of our downtown," he said.

The museum's goal is now $25 million, and its President and CEO H. Beecher Hicks told The Tennessean that it is about two-thirds of the way to that goal. He said that it was not necessary to achieve the full funding for the project for construction to commence.

In addition to serving as a tourism attraction, the museum will honor Nashville's history of black music. Although it is best known for country music, its "Music Row" on Jefferson Street hosted a number of live music venues that the likes of Little Richard, B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix played until the Seventies.

The museum has already started community programming including teaching Nashville schoolchildren about instruments like spoons, the washboard bass and the cigar-box guitar. It also has started an emerging artist concert series. On April 10th, it will receive proceeds from a tribute concert in honor of Outkast.

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