Yesterday Nashville celebrated the grand opening ceremony of the new and improved Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It was a grand ceremony of even grander proportions, with a guest list that would impress the most critical of country music event attendees.
As the crowd gathered in the main lobby of the 6th Floor Event Hall, made up of seemingly equal amounts of media crews, recognizable faces of the music industry past and present, and enthusiastic country music fans, you could feel the excitement of another Nashville Music City accomplishment in the air.
The room was filled to standing-room-only and beyond capacity with some of the crowd even standing just outside the doors in the lobby adjoining the ball room, as a most impressive speaker line-up began, with not only Mayor Karl Dean welcoming in the new Hall of Fame and Museum, but also Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Also speaking were Museum Director Kyle Young and board Chairman Steven Turner.
As one speaker after another proudly spoke to the fact that Nashville has recently gained national attention on not only the Country Music scene, but also as an all-around entertainment mecca, worthy of any comparable city, not to mention the ever-growing attention Nashville is receiving on the food front. And of course, Mayor Dean spoke to the fact that Nashville has become (at least in his opinion) one of the “... most compelling convention center experiences in the country.”
Another theme of the event, repeated by more than one guest speakers was the impact, integrity, personality and influence Vince Gill (Board President and Member of the Country Music Hall of Fame) has had on not only the establishment and entertainment industry, but on Nashville as a city. In fact, after Mayor Dean had given us a vision of Gill with hidden angel wings, the Governor reinforced the image by saying someone asked him “...'Is Vince Gill as good a guy as he seems?', and I answered (said Haslam), 'no, he's better!” Maybe Mr. Gill is as angelic as his voice continues to be.
After the Presentation of Colors by Members of the Tennessee National Guard, a gorgeous rendition of the National Anthem by The Valentines and a soul searing Amazing Grace by The McCrary Sisters, the first country music entertainer up to bat was Ricky Skaggs, who has, over the years, had a huge impact on the Bluegrass and Country Music scene, and in his own eloquently country way said, “There's only one city that calls itself – and CAN call itself Music City.” Of course, he meant Nashville and certainly most would second that emotion.
Following Skaggs, who performed a very appropriate song called “Working on a Building” (check out the website), Vince Gill took the stage and sang the gorgeous hit, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”. Not sure than any more big names would be called, I was surprised to hear announced that Texas hometowner Lee Ann Womack, to perform her gorgeous rendition of “You Don't Know Me”, accompanied by Buddy Miller, directing the Grand Opening All-Star Band. It was a morning of country music by legendary artists, a mini-concert worthy of only Music City.
Attending the event along with hundreds of current music industry, government and community leaders were original, longtime museum visionaries such as Country Music Hall of Fame member and board Chairman Emeritus Bud Wendell, not to mention tons of enthusiastic fans of Country Music and Music City in general.
This was a huge celebration which marked the final phase of the Museum's huge 210,000 square foot expansion, including over 10,000 square feet of new gallery space, joining recently opened additions which include the 800-seat CMA Theatre, the Taylor Swift Education Center, a brand new Hatch Show Print location for the letterpress operation and the Event Hall. Also part of the expansion were much-needed archival and library storage, which allows for an even bigger cultivation of the museum's incredible collection.
“The new interactive exhibits that opened today, along with our previously opened Taylor Swift Education Center, emphasize our commitment to educate our audience in new ways,” stated Museum Director Kyle Young.
It is, indeed, a gorgeous and intelligently designed building and organization, preserving what first put Nashville on the map, Country Music. Whether you like to listen to country music, love the oldies or rock 'n roll - or are a death metal fan, you absolutely have to respect that Nashville would not be where we are on the map, as a nationally recognized mecca of not only country music, but entertainment in general, without our country and bluegrass roots.
Make sure to visit the museum on your next trip downtown. It's quite worthy of a tour just for the architectural engineering that's visible simply by walking through the lovely center. And the views from the ballroom and out on that deck may be the very best views of downtown Nashville in the entire city.
Oh, and by the way, for my food-loving readers, the celebration cake looked like an exact replica of the Music City Hall of Fame and Museum building. I'm not sure who made the cake, but it was an incredible job. And pretty darn tasty.Find a photo of the cake and more at Twitter hastag #newCMHoF or follow me on Twitter @travelfoodarts.