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H. Beecher Hicks III details plans for national museum celebrating Black music

H. Beecher Hicks III is the president and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music. His relationship with the project commenced in 2010 when he began serving on NMAAM’s board before becoming CEO in 2013.

The 56,000-square-foot museum is designed to house six permanent galleries and one rotating gallery in downtown Nashville. It will highlight the contributions African Americans have made to American music and culture  and is scheduled to open in late summer 2020.

Rolling out spoke with Hicks about the need for such a museum, why Nashville was chosen and how it got its tagline, “One Nation Under a Groove.”

Why is there a need for the National Museum of African American Music?

The [museum] tells a unique story. Most music museums focus on a label, a genre or an artist, but we really put all of that great music into context. I think we are as much a history museum as we are a music museum.

Why was Nashville selected as opposed to Detroit, LA or Atlanta?

I’d say for two reasons. First, Nashville really does bill itself as America’s music city, and it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. It actually has more people employed in the music industry per capita than any of those other cities by a factor of three or four.

Secondly, if you look back over 50, 60 years, then you do point to cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit as being centers of American music. That’s great. But I think if you go back a little bit further and you look at this historical context we’re putting this museum in, and you ask yourself where American music really came from, it was born in the Deep South.

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