I Have a Voice:
Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage
Special Exhibit, Curator Talk at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Bristol, Tenn./Va. (February 14, 2019) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum explores the vast musical influences of African American musicians from across the Volunteer State with a new special exhibit, I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage, open now through April 30, 2019.
“The story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions told in our museum is enhanced by exploring the wider context of music history, and special exhibits and related programming are a great opportunity to highlight that context,” says museum Head Curator Rene Rodgers. “We are excited to have the Tennessee State Museum‘s I Have a Voice exhibit at the museum, giving our visitors a chance to dig deep into the influences and impact of African American musicians within a variety of genres and strands, many of which can be felt in the music of our region.”
I Have a Voice gives a snapshot of African American Tennesseans’ important contribution to American music, including spirituals, blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and soul music. In turn, their music has influenced and enriched music around the world. From the early blues legends of W. C. Handy and Bessie Smith to the soul hits of STAX Records in Memphis, visitors can learn about various performers, getting the chance to hear the voices and the stories of many of the African American musicians from Tennessee who made their mark on American music and beyond.
As companion programming to this exhibit, Tennessee State Museum curator Rob DeHart will be at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum on Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. to explore some of the outstanding artifacts related to Tennessee’s wide-ranging musical heritage. From 19th-century parlor music to bluegrass and blues, come hear the fascinating stories that these objects have to tell! Attendees to this curator talk will also have the opportunity to explore the exhibit before and after DeHart’s talk. This program is free and open to the public; due to limited seating, please reserve your spot online through the Event’s page.
“We are so pleased to be partnering with the Tennessee State Museum to give attendees to this talk the chance to explore the varied musical influences, achievements, and history found in the state of Tennessee – and it’s a great way to make the connection between objects and the stories they tell,” says Rodgers. “Whatever your musical taste, there’s probably a story for you!”
Rob DeHart is a curator at the Tennessee State Museum, where he focuses on cultural history and science and technology with a special emphasis on the Antebellum South. A graduate of the public history master’s program at Middle Tennessee State University, he worked in collections and programming at various small history museums before arriving at the State Museum in 2010. His exhibitions have won regional and national awards, and he currently serves as a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Rob’s musical background includes playing double-bass as an extra with the Nashville Symphony and playing guitar with a swing band on Printer’s Alley.
I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage, on display in the museum’s Learning Center, has been created and is being traveled by the Tennessee State Museum.