Kyle Young, Director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, recently conducted a media tour of the new $37 million facility, set to open May 17 in downtown Nashville. As a surprise conclusion to the walking tour, critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter Steve Forbert performed a short live set for journalists and industry figures in the new museum’s Ford Theater.
“It’s really great, it seems to have perfect acoustics,” Forbert said about the Ford Theater. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, the troubadour apologized in advance that he was suffering from a cold. “I’ve had a cold for about a week — I’m keeping it as a pet,” he joked before launching into moving renditions of three of his own compositions. Forbert — who emerged in the late 1970s with hits like “Romeo’s Tune” — performed “Running on Love,” “Strange” and “It’s Been a Long Time,” a song from 1978, newly released on a Forbert compilation, Young Guitar Days.
Forbert’s mini-concert came at the end of a media tour that began with a slide presentation from Seab Tuck, one of the principals of
Tuck Hinton Architects, the Nashville-based architectural firm that designed the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in
collaboration with exhibit designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates.
Throughout his short lecture, Tuck used slides to explain the symbolism that went into the design of the new museum. He explained
that country music is about “the land, farms, small towns and the roads that connect those towns. It’s about water towers, churches,
general stores, bridges, prisons, barn dances, jukeboxes and beer. It’s about the artists themselves. It’s about radio.”
Taking all of that into consideration, the architects were able to incorporate a number of country symbols into the design of the
building itself, from the steeple atop the new Hall of Fame’s rotunda that replicates 650 WSM’s radio tower, to the conservatory’s
heavy, bolted steel beams that recall the railroads that first connected the country and transported the music and the musicians to a
“One of the things my partner [Kem Hinton] and I have been interested in is how buildings tell stories,” Tuck explained, citing examples such as the Parthenon in Greece and various Gothic cathedrals. Among the goals for the new Hall of Fame and Museum design was for the grand new building to relate contextually to other buildings in the area and achieve visibility.
Tuck also spoke of how the architects worked closely with the exhibit designer, Ralph Appelbaum, so the designs would all work together. Another highlight of the new museum is that visitors will now be
privy to the inner workings of the facility and its vast collections — the audio lab and the recording archive will be visible through glass walls. “The archives are set dead center in the middle of the
museum experience,” Tuck said.
After Tuck’s lecture, the Hall’s Director, Young, took the assembled journalists and industry figures on a walking tour of the new
“Exciting times in Nashville,” Young said, noting that the new museum is part of an unprecedented wave of downtown cultural expansion that includes the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Adelphia Coliseum, the Gaylord Entertainment Center, and the new Nashville public library. “We’re glad to be a part of what is an extraordinary revitalization of downtown.”
Young led the group through the museum’s sweeping conservatory, then up to the third floor, where the official museum experience will begin. As workmen hammered and artifact specialists assembled priceless exhibits, Young pointed out a few of the high-tech
offerings visitors will experience at the new facility: video scrapbooks on screens, interactives and the visible audio remastering suite.
Descending the spiral staircase to the second floor, Young showed the location of some of the “listening labs” and a theater where continuous films will play. “There will be many ways to access the various layers of the museum experience,” he said. “Visitors can go as deep as they want.”
Young also pointed out an exhibit area that will be curated by country artist Marty Stuart, who is also president of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Officers and Trustees. Near the future Stuart exhibit were the designated areas that will contain the complete office of noted “Nashville Sound” producer Owen Bradley, as well as a songwriter’s theater.
The former Hall of Fame and Museum, located on Music Row, officially closed its doors last December as staff prepared for the move to the new facility in downtown Nashville. Young contrasted the vast differences between the two structures. “We’re walking through a space that is roughly four and a half times the size we
used to have,” he said. “This new museum has allowed us to tell the country music story, a story that is also the story of America,
in a remarkable way.”
In the rotunda, which will house the bronze plaques of the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Young noted the location of the nearby running fountain that leads to the first floor, as well as the area that will contain the world-famous Thomas Hart Benton mural “The Sources of Country Music.”
Leading the tour back down to the first floor, Young pointed out the booth that will house XM Satellite Radio, which will broadcast live
shows directly from the new museum. “This is a creative community here [in Nashville],” Young said. “The work is being done here.
We’re telling the story of the city, we’re telling the story of the industry.”
The media tour wound its way to the Ford Theater, where guests were treated to the performance by Forbert. Afterwards, Young took
questions from the press.
“Yellow pine from Hattiesburg, Miss.,” he said when asked what type of wood covered the theater’s rich, satin-finished floor. Young
also reiterated that live music would be a central component of the new museum. “Music in a music museum is a real challenge,” he said. “There’s a tendency to not pay enough attention to that. The music, and hearing the music, is central to this place. There’s a
real premium in letting people consume it the way it should be consumed in the galleries and the theaters.”
Young emphasized that there would be plenty of exciting music experiences on tap in the new facility. “We really want a lot of this to be event-driven,” he said. “Events, CDs, books. XM Radio works wonderfully, it adds to the experience. All this allows us to do what
we’re all about, drawing upon the record collection. It continues to build equity in the name.”
Young also noted that the Nashville business community has been an avid supporter of the new museum since day one. “The industry really stepped up well and early,” he said. “I’ve been blown away by the support, and it’s not stopping.” As proof, Young pointed out a recent piece of information that attests to the solidarity of the town. “On our opening on May 17, a lot of record labels [on Music Row] are closing for several hours in the morning to be here and show support for the new Hall of Fame,” he said.
The new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will celebrate its grand opening on May 17. The new facility is located at Fifth
Ave. S. and Demonbreun St. in downtown Nashville.