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Tennessee State Museum presents “I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage” through June 24th, 2016


Tennessee State MuseumNashville, TN – The Tennessee State Museum and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) have collaborated to present museum visitors and theater audiences with an exhibition that gives a snapshot of Tennessee’s rich African American musical heritage.

The exhibition, I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage, is free to the public and on view in the G Level Gallery in the lobby that connects the Tennessee State Museum and TPAC in the Polk Cultural Center.

I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage

I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage

From the Beale Street blues clubs in Memphis to the R&B scene on Nashville’s Jefferson Street to Knoxville’s Gem Theatre, the Volunteer State has been the birthplace of some of the most influential music in the world.

This exhibit documents that development while giving the State Museum the opportunity to showcase many important items from its permanent collection.

Motown: The Musical, the record-breaking Broadway hit, comes to TPAC’s Jackson Theater stage in February 2016. Tennessee’s musical heritage shares the sounds that were associated with America’s Motor City — Detroit. In fact, many of Motown’s records were pressed at Nashville’s United Record Pressing plant.

The history of African American music follows the hardship of slavery in America. American slaves adapted their African ancestors’ music to hand clapping, singing, the fiddle, and the African–derived banjo. Expressing their sorrows from bondage, and joy for their ultimate deliverance, the slaves found an original, musical voice sung in their spirituals and folk music.

I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage

I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage

This voice has left a monumental cultural stamp on American music, including blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and soul music. In turn, this music has influenced and enriched music around the world.

The exhibit introduces viewers to many famous Tennessee music legends — from Bessie Smith who was nicknamed the “Empress of the Blues” to B.B. King often referred to as the “King of the Blues” — from Grand Ole Opry star DeFord Bailey to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Tina Turner. The exhibit gives visitors a chance to hear the voices of the many Tennessee African American men and women who made their mark on American music from ragtime to Motown.

Visitors can view YouTube videos of various performers and musicians featured in the exhibition on their smart phones or tablets through the use of QR-coded links.

The exhibit begins on G Level Gallery of the Polk Cultural Center which houses both the Tennessee State Museum and TPAC. A second part of the exhibit is on view on B Level of the museum. It showcases several important items from the museum’s permanent collection, including performance outfits worn by Grand Ole Opry member Bailey and entertainer Isaac Hayes.

Around the corner from the B Level exhibition is another presentation which presents the history of the internationally–acclaimed Fisk Jubilee Singers — the a cappella ensemble comprised of students from Fisk University.

There is no admission charge for the museum, which is open every day except Monday. I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage will be on through June 24th, 2016.

About the Tennessee State Museum

In 1937, the Tennessee General Assembly created a state museum to care for World War I artifacts and other collections from the state and other groups. The museum was located in the lower level of the War Memorial Building until it was moved into the new James K. Polk Cultural Center in 1981.

The Tennessee State Museum currently occupies three floors, covering approximately 120,000 square feet with more than 60,000 square feet devoted to exhibits. The museum’s Civil War holdings of uniforms, battle flags and weapons are among the finest in the nation.

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