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VOL. 130 | NO. 206 | Thursday, October 22, 2015

Grammy Museum to Celebrate Mississippi's Musical Talent

MARY ALFORD, Delta Democrat-Times

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GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — With a history of producing music legends such as Elvis Presley and B.B. King, it's no surprise that Mississippi is the home of the first Grammy museum outside of California.

Emily Havens, executive director of the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, wowed Greenville Rotarians at their weekly luncheon Thursday as she informed them of everything the museum will be bringing to the area, from a rotating exhibit to artifacts, including dresses Whitney Houston and Lady Gaga wore on the red carpet, to Mississippi exhibits.

Havens said Mississippi was given the opportunity to house the Grammy Museum because many scholars and historians attribute Mississippi as the birthplace of all American music.

"This one will be much like the museum in Los Angeles, but it will be more Mississippi centered. It will tell the story of blues and American music," Havens said, adding they want to educate and inspire the next generation of American music.

Construction of the museum

Delta State University was selected as the home of the new museum, Havens said, because it is a great educational institute.

The museum is located on 4 and one-half acres on Delta State's campus, which Havens said they leased for 99 years. The building is a 27,000-square-foot facility and is currently under construction. However, Havens said, it won't be for much longer.

"Most of the general contracting is done and now, the artifacts in almost all of the exhibits are being installed and fabricated right there in the museum," she said.

The project is estimated to cost $20 million, and they have already raised $18.9 million. She said about 50 percent was raised from the state, city and the county and the other 50 percent donated by private donors.

"We're really excited that we have so much interest in our local community. We have been very deliberate in trying to get the majority of the money for this museum right there in Bolivar County," Havens said. "About 15 to 20 percent have come outside of the county and throughout the state."

Mission of the museum

Havens said the main mission of the Grammy Museum will be to provide unique learning opportunities, comprising creative and technological processes of the recording industry, and to educate individuals on the history of the Grammies.

"A lot of people think that we're just going to be about Mississippi; we're not," Havens said.

The museum will celebrate all aspects of the Grammy Awards, but, Havens said, there will be a specific focus on Mississippi and the achievements of Mississippians.

To achieve their mission, Havens said they have begun networking with several other organizations and museums throughout the Delta and beyond.

"To broaden our reach, we have networking we're doing to make sure we're partnering throughout the state of Mississippi and Memphis on a lot of tourism and education, including reaching out to their schools," she said.

One attraction Havens said marketing has been working to partner with is the home of the King of Rock and Roll: Graceland. She said they are working to create a Graceland-to-Grammy package.

"Last year, they had 675,000 visitors to Graceland, so we're excited and hope to get a third of that to Cleveland and the Delta to see what else the rest of the state has to offer," Havens said.

The Grammy Museum is also partnering with the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Delta State University and Dockery Farms.

"The number of international tourists that they get at Dockery every week is really very incredible, and we're excited to be able to partner with them and let those tourists know that it is not just Dockery," she said. "We also have the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland, then we've got the Delta Museum in Clarksdale, the Grammy Museum being built and the B.B. King Museum."

What the museum has to offer

Upon entering, Havens said visitors will be fully immersed in the Grammy experience. They will have access to content-rich interactives, films and artifacts, which can be explored in a variety of ways. Everything in the museum reveals the legacy of recorded music and the many ways in which it intertwines with social and cultural history.

"About 75 to 80 percent of the museum will celebrate the entire recording academy and about 10 percent will really focus on Mississippi," Havens said.

The museum has a plethora of exhibits lined up, including the Sander's Sound Stage, Great Grammy Performances, The Evolution of Grammy Awards, which she said will show the transformation of the award for the 1950s to present day, and a red carpet exhibit.

"On the red carpet, we will have outfits from the red carpet, all women's dresses worn by Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Lady GaGa, Katy Perry, just to name a few," Havens said. "Beautiful, beautiful dresses."

She said there will also be song writer and producer pods, where a visitor can go in and write their own songs, putting their own lyrics and musical instruments to it.

There will also be an Iconic Instruments exhibit, which will have Bruno Mars' drum set, Bob Dylan's guitar from his world tour and more.

"It's been exciting to start getting in our artifacts and receiving them and all of the awesome things we're going to be able to bring to this side of the country with the Grammies," Havens said.

There will also be Culture Shock and LandMark Moments exhibits, not to mention exhibits that solely focus on Mississippi.

Havens said there will be a Mississippi Music Table that allows visitors to search any artist and instantly get connected to other musicians that artist may have influenced or been influenced by. She said there will even be a Mississippi music bar, where visitors can dial up 150 grammy winning songs.

There is also a 2,000-square-foot temporary exhibit, which Havens said they will rotate every three months.

"We're really excited that we are going to open with the Beatles. This exhibit will have gone through five American cities and Liverpool before coming here," she said. "We think it is going to be great for our state and very well received."

Havens said after the Beatles, they will rotate in Stevie Ray Vaughan, followed by Mary Wilson and the Supremes and end the year with Taylor Swift.

A knack for education

More than 80 percent of everything they do with the Grammy Museum will focus on education.

Museum staff will host a ribbon cutting engagement that they are encouraging teachers to incorporate into their classrooms. Students will be asked to submit an original song, essay or art piece centered around the theme, The Roots of America Music are Planted Deep in Mississippi. The teachers will select the best work in their classroom and then submit it to the museum. Once they review the work and chose the winner, that student's class will get to go to the museum on the day of the ribbon cutting. The deadline to submit an entry is Nov. 6.

A professional development workshop also is set from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2 at Delta Music Institute at Delta State University. It is hosted by Grammy Museum in LA and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center. It will be free instruction on how to incorporate music into the school curriculum.

For more information on education opportunities through the Grammy Museum, email education@grammymuseumms.org.

Havens said the museum is set to have a grand opening March 4-6. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission costs $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, $8 for students, $5 for school tours and children 5 and younger are free. An annual membership will also be available.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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