Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”
Here are five music museums that celebrate the world’s love of music. Whether your group likes to sing along to “My Girl,” belt out the heart-wrenching lyrics to “With or Without You” or get out on the dance floor and shake their hips to “Jailhouse Rock,” everyone can find something to enjoy.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, situated on the shores of Lake Erie, stays true to the words of Billy Joel, who said, “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”
Younger groups will likely enjoy “Right Here, Right Now,” which features personal items and costumes from currently trending artists like the Black Keys, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. There are exhibits dedicated to legendary performers including Metallica or U2, as well as one of the most comprehensive collections of Beatles memorabilia in the world. Artifacts from all four Beatles, some never before displayed to the public, are on exhibit.
“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics,” which opened in May, is already proving to be a big draw. The exhibit combines recordings, videos, photography and artifacts to show the impact of music and how musicians have helped shape popular opinion and the political stage. Items on display include Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” Fender Stratocaster and correspondence between the FBI and Priority Records about Public Enemy’s song, “Fight the Power.”
The exhibit, said Sharrona Burns, director of sales, is “just fantastic and very pertinent with what’s happening right now in the country with the presidential election coming up.” The exhibit will run through the end of the year, but if you miss it in Cleveland, it opens at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in January 2017.
This summer the museum hosts the “Summer Jams” concert series, featuring 40 days of live music on the plaza. The series is “something we haven’t done at this level since we opened,” said Burns.
National Blues Museum
The National Blues Museum has been in the works for years but was finally realized in April when the museum opened its doors in St. Louis. The museum celebrates great blues musicians like B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf.
As they enter the museum, visitors will see a wall of suitcases that tell the story of the genre and where the blues came from. According the Dion Brown, the museum’s founding executive director, “It’s really touching, to see what it represents.“
Artifacts and instruments, such as Lucille, B.B. King’s guitar (on loan from the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi), and photos of famous blues musicians also help tell the story.
The museum’s interactive exhibits have quickly become popular with groups. At “Jug Band Jammin’,” visitors can play the washboard, spoons or wood sticks. After practicing for a few moments, they can watch their jam session, played back on a screen. As groups make their way through the museum they can also become blues musicians by writing and performing their own lyrics then pairing them with music tracks to create their own sample, complete with cover art. Their finished tune can be emailed to them at the end of their visit.
The National Blues Museum has partnered with other organizations to bring music to the public in the Gateway City. In August the museum and City Arts will stage a blues festival at the Gateway Arch. The museum also has live music every Saturday.