In 2002, members of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce proposed the idea of the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) as a way to celebrate and preserve the influence African Americans have had on music. They hoped to provide Music City residents and visitors with diverse cultural offerings. The Chamber established a task force to determine if the idea was feasible, and to not only gauge interest but to also explore the possibility of creating this project.
The research concluded and agreed that Nashville needed to incorporate a site that attracted more African American conventions and visitors. Moreover, it would entice people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to learn and experience a unique musical and cultural perspective that only Nashville can offer.
As the project matured over the next several years, 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. Nearly ten years after the initial proposal was discussed among members of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Museum of African American Music, Art, and Culture changed its name to the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM).
Construction was initially slated for Jefferson Street but in 2015 the City of Nashville announced plans to redevelop its old convention center site. Included in these plans was a prominent, state-of-the-art location for NMAAM. Since that time, NMAAM has managed to develop unique programs and other offerings to serve the community without a physical exhibit space.
The National Museum of African American Music broke ground in early 2017 with a grand opening slated for Fall 2020.
NMAAM’s story is essential in many ways. While the concept was to marry the celebration and preservation of African American music, a significant aspect of the project is the anticipated economic impact. As an educational facility, national tourist destination, and economic development engine for Middle Tennessee, NMAAM will be a vibrant museum where youth, artists, and families will find creative and cultural inspiration.
When completed, NMAAM’s state-of-the-art performance hall will screen films, host lectures, and stage concerts from local to international artists. The library will house classrooms, along with a vital repository of digitally mastered African American music. A boutique café and store will provide additional ways for the community and visitors to enjoy their visit.