Newly appointed board works to bring music museum to Cleveland
Photography by Jordan Thomas
Mississippi just got another step closer to having its own GRAMMY museum. With the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, a GRAMMY museum could be the ideal thing to create real tourism synergy in the area, according to Judson Thigpen, executive director of the Cleveland/Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce. The first major step towards making a GRAMMY museum a reality in Cleveland took place recently with the establishment of a board of directors for the museum.
The 18-member board will be led by Thigpen, who currently serves as the interim chair of the board. The group met in late November and talked briefly about the status of the project, and to review proposed bylaws. “Once the by-laws are passed, we will move forward with a strategic plan, a fundraising campaign and the design of the building,” says Thigpen.
The corporate name of the organization in charge of the museum is the Cleveland Music Foundation Inc. The Foundation has applied for a 501c3 non-profit status.
According to the GRAMMY website, www.GRAMMY.org, the GRAMMY is the recording industry's most prestigious award, presented annually by The Recording Academy. A GRAMMY is awarded by The Recording Academy's voting membership to honor excellence in the recording arts and sciences. It is truly a peer honor, awarded by and to artists and technical professionals for artistic or technical achievement, not sales or chart positions.
The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles explores and celebrates the enduring legacies of all forms of music: the creative process, the art and technology of the recording process, and the history of the GRAMMY Awards, the premier recognition of recorded music accomplishment.
So why a GRAMMY museum in Cleveland? “There is no doubt that Mississippi is the birthplace of American Music,” says Allan Hammons of Hammons & Associates in Greenwood. “That’s exactly what we told the GRAMMY folks in Los Angeles. Without Mississippi, there would be no American music. We gave the world Jimmy Rogers, the father of country music, B.B. King, the king of the Blues, and Elvis Presley, the king of Rock ‘n Roll.”
Thigpen says that the Chamber is working to focus on the area’s heritage, and music is a major part of that. In keeping with the Mississippi Arts Commission and Mississippi Development Authority’s Creative Mississippi initiative, Hammons pitched the idea of the museum to focus not only on Mississippi musicians, but also on the music industry as a whole in the state.
After a series of meetings with John Hornyak, senior executive director of the Memphis Recording Academy, and Bob Santellis, executive director of the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, it became clear that having the nation’s only other GRAMMY museum in Mississippi would be a good idea.
Tricia Walker, director of the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University, and herself a GRAMMY winner, is thrilled about having a GRAMMY museum in Cleveland. “This is an important event for Cleveland, for the Delta and for Mississippi in general,” she says. Delta State now offers a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies.
“Music and the GRAMMYs are big business,” says Walker. “American music is one of the country’s top exports. The GRAMMY Museum’s partnership with the DMI will give our students the opportunity to develop additional developmental and business skills.”
Board members for the Cleveland Music Foundation include Thigpen, Hornyak, Walker, Reuben Anderson (Phelps Dunbar, LLP, Jackson), Calvin Dye (Cleveland State Bank), Blake Wilson (MS Economic Council), Emily Havens (Chickasaw Council, BSA), Carol Puckett (Viking Hospitality Group), Jim Tims (Quality Steel Corporation), Wilma Wilbanks, Willie Simmons (MS State Senate), Lucy Janoush, Nan Sanders, Gary Gainspoletti (Alderman, City of Cleveland), John Hilpert (President, Delta State University), Will Hooker (Administrator, Bolivar County), Billy Nowell (Mayor, City of Cleveland), Paul Janoush (Alderman, City of Cleveland). DBJ