As the only museum whose entire exhibition was researched and developed by the Smithsonian Institution and given to the community in which it exists, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is naturally a strong educational institution for the city and students of Memphis and the Mid-South. Prior to the covid pandemic, the organization welcomed over 70,000 annually, many of those being students from the city of Memphis and the region. Rock ‘n’ Soul and all of its programming to serve guests, local musicians (both legendary and emerging), students and underserved populations has, for 20 years, been made possible through 88% earned income. With the outbreak of the pandemic and the forced closure of non-essential businesses, Rock ‘n’ Soul closed for 63 days, and re-opened on May 21 to decimated attendance projections for the next year. We can use your help. Learn more below, and thank you for considering a tax deductible donation. No denomination is too small!
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is located at FedExForum, the city’s premier sports & entertainment complex, on B.B. King Boulevard just south of legendary Beale Street. This award-winning museum emerged in 2000 as the culmination of a research project by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History to trace the origins of America’s indigenous musical genres. The resulting exhibition which opened as a unique, Smithsonian-developed museum in downtown Memphis has been cited by Performing Songwriter Magazine as “perhaps the best exhibition of American music history in the country.” The mission of Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul, Inc., established as a 501(c)3 non-profit, governed by a 22-member Board of Directors and, currently, 4 salaried employees and 10 part-time employees (7 of whom are still currently furloughed), is to preserve and tell the story of Memphis music and perpetuate its legacy. Despite operating and administering two museums in downtown Memphis (with the Memphis Music Hall of Fame opening in 2015 at 126 Beale Street at Second, the organization frequently points out that its mission doesn’t even mention museums, and emphasizes that the two museums are catalysts toward fulfilling the organization’s mission in the lives of guests, legendary and practicing contemporary musicians, and especially students. The exhibit tells the story of musicians of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds who, for the love of music, came together and overcame barriers to create a musical explosion which not only placed Memphis, Tennessee on the world map, but which changed the cultural complexion of the world forever. The organization believes it is a critical and powerful message for all young people, helping to build city pride in a city which often fails them, and challenging them through music and/or the arts to explore and discover their own voice and their own creativity. Since opening, the museum has welcomed over 1.5 million guests and over 100,000 students to the Smithsonian-developed exhibit. In 2012, to further expand its mission, the Rock ‘n’ Soul organization launched the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, an tribute to the hundreds of legendary Memphis musicians who taught the world to sing, including legends like Otis Redding, B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, and hundreds more. The annual Induction Ceremony (cancelled, of course, for 2020) pairs the city’s musical legends and special musical guests with today’s emerging musicians and music students for a star-studded musical tribute to the city’s musical inductees. Together, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is pleased to tell the complete “history of Memphis music,” while the Hall of Fame celebrates the “heroes of Memphis music.”
The organization developed a 48-page curriculum guide for students, researched in collaboration with two University of Memphis music professors, which is made available for free to teachers and students. It addresses various educational standards for various grade levels, and features lesson plans which complement the museum’s exhibition. The Rock ‘n’ Soul organization comps a minimum of 2,000 students from underserved communities into the museums annually… however for the virtual 2020-2021 school year, in the absence of educational field trips, and in collaboration with the office of Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, the museum will offer a free admission to any Shelby County School student. The museum also developed the city’s only Memphis Music app, which offers information about today’s Memphis musicians, schedules for live music performances, and more. Rock ‘n’ Soul also presents the award-winning “Memphis Musicology” podcast, researched and produced by museum Program Manager, Ezra Wheeler, which explores the intricacies of the city’s current and past musicians, musical events and venues. Serving its community in another way, the organization recently teamed with the Mike Curb Foundation in Nashville to launch “Music Feeds the Soul,” an initiative which solicits tourists’ financial support for the hungry and homeless in Memphis, coordinated through a partnership with the MIFA Food Bank and the Memphis Union Mission for the homeless.
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul, like practically every business and non-profit throughout the U.S., felt the huge and unexpected impact of the coronavirus pandemic which hit suddenly in early Spring, and was forced to close both museums from March 18 to May 21, 2020. Obviously the financial impact on the non-profit which has operated successfully for 20 years was devastating. Any donation is hugely appreciated and can assist the organization through the pandemic and slow winter months. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact John Doyle, the organization’s Executive Director, at (901) 485-6995. To make a donation to the organization, in any amount, either click here, click the link below, or you can also text MUSIC to 56512.
Your consideration and generosity, especially during these critical times, will never be forgotten. Thank you!
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