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Vanderbilt to partner with National Museum of African American Music

by Jun. 27, 2019, 8:30 PM

University announces foundational gift

The National Museum of African American Music hosted the sixth annual Celebration of Legends Gala in partnership with Vanderbilt University, which served as the presenting sponsor, on Thursday, June 27, at the Music City Center. L to r: Christopher Hardy, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente, Lydia Howarth, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, Doreatha Churchwell, Vanderbilt University Interim Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. André L. Churchwell, and Blair School of Music Dean Mark Wait.  (Photo by Nathan Morgan for Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University is joining with the National Museum of African American Music in a long-term partnership to enrich educational and research opportunities around the musical legacy of African-American composers, performers and supporters and their impact on American culture and musical history.

The university’s pledge of foundational support, which totals $2 million in in-kind contributions and direct financial support, will expand the museum’s archival collection, contribute to innovative programming, support the completion of the facility and more.

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced the innovative partnership at the museum’s sixth annual Legends Gala held June 27 at the Music City Center. “We are proud to partner with the National Museum of African American Music in building global awareness of the musical legacy and impact of African American composers, performers and supporters,” Zeppos said. “This museum will expand the opportunities of our Vanderbilt community, Middle Tennesseans and visitors from around the world to engage in learning and discovery.”

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announces Vanderbilt University’s foundational partnership with the National Museum of African American Music at the 2019 Celebration of Legends Gala on Thursday, June 27, at the Music City Center.
(Photo by Nathan Morgan for Vanderbilt University)

Included in Vanderbilt’s partnership with the museum is a collaboration with the university’s Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries to support an expanded collection of books, scores, sound recordings and material objects related to African American music. This collection will be available for loan, display and study at the museum and will also serve as an important resource for scholarly research on Vanderbilt’s campus.

“The National Museum of African American Music will be an outstanding addition to Nashville’s rich community resources, and this partnership will continue to extend Vanderbilt’s preeminent academic experience beyond the classroom,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente. “I look forward to the myriad programming, collaborations and scholarly research projects that this partnership makes possible, and to further encouraging our students to embrace lifelong learning experiences that spark or enhance our appreciation for creativity.”

President and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music H. Beecher Hicks III with Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente at the Celebration of Legends Gala on Thursday, June 27. 
(Photo by Nathan Morgan for Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt, in collaboration with the museum, will host speaker events that will include prominent guest lecturers, panel discussions and performances. Departments across the campus will host the events to encourage the broadest engagement by faculty, students and staff. The speaker series will launch after the museum opens.

The university and museum also envision future faculty research endeavors and Immersion Vanderbilt projects for undergraduate students that may be designed around museum holdings and ongoing collaborations between the many university classes that reflect the museum’s repertoire.

“I’m pleased that Vanderbilt’s continued strong role as a community advocate and partner for organizations that align with the university’s values is reflected in this foundational gift and partnership,” said Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations Nathan Green.

Grammy Award-winning artist Gloria Gaynor speaks to those in attendance after being honored with the “Rhapsody & Rhythm” award by Gospel legend Bobby Jones at the National Museum of African American Music’s annual Celebration of Legends Gala on Thursday, June 27, at the Music City Center. In addition to Gaynor, honorees of the Rhapsody & Rhythm award included George Clinton, lead musician of the Parliament-Funkadelic collective, and rapper, producer and originator of the human beatbox Doug E. Fresh. (Photo by Nathan Morgan for Vanderbilt University)

The museum, scheduled to open in downtown Nashville in early 2020, will be one of the only such resources in the country solely dedicated to educating, preserving and celebrating the influence that African Americans have had on all genres of music—including classical, country, jazz and hip hop.

“With our dedication to expanding the horizons of musical education, I am excited for the possibilities of this partnership to elevate the cultural and intellectual life of our campus, community and region,” said Mark Wait, the Martha Rivers Ingram Dean of the Blair School of Music and professor of music. “A museum focused on African American music will offer many opportunities for student and faculty engagement and will further elevate Nashville’s profile as a center for all genres of music.”

H. Beecher Hicks III presents Gail Williams with a record in honor of David Williams II’s legacy and impact on the  National Museum of African American Music at the Celebration of Legends Gala on Thursday, June 27.
(Photo by Nathan Morgan for Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt’s relationship with the National Museum of African American Music began several years ago, and the ties were strengthened by the late Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics and Athletic Director David Williams II, who served as co-chair of the museum’s campaign steering committee and was an early supporter.

“I am deeply grateful to Chancellor Zeppos and the entire Vanderbilt University leadership team for their commitment to and investment in our mission. This partnership with one of the nation’s best research universities will dramatically enrich the reach and impact of our programming, and we look forward to the many new opportunities we will be able to offer our community and visitors as a result,” H. Beecher Hicks III, president and chief executive officer of the National Museum of African American Music, said. “I am also deeply grateful for the legacy of impact that David Williams had on the museum in its formative years, and for his and Gail Williams’ generous support.”

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos was presented with a record in honor of his commitment to Vanderbilt partnering with the National Museum of African American Music on Thursday, June 27, at the Celebration of Legends Gala. (Photo by Nathan Morgan for Vanderbilt University)

For more information on the museum, visit the NMAAM website.

Melanie Moran and Jalen Blue contributed to this story.

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