Music may be one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments.
Whether your taste runs along the lines of classical or country, songs accompany us along nearly every moment of our lives. Groups will enjoy exploring music’s storied history at music halls of fame and museums around the country, chronicling the contributions of the greats.
At music halls of fame, groups can learn about the history of creators and innovators across genres with artifacts from stage costumes and instruments to photos, personal items and even cars. At the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, groups can form their own bands with instruments meant to be plucked by the public, and at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, groups can attend a sock hop and learn the dance moves of the era, something not available to the general public but reserved for groups.
Some halls of fame have add-on excursions, like the Country Music Hall of Fame’s tour of Historic RCA Studio B, where Elvis first recorded hits. Faith-based groups of any age will find something to appreciate and learn at halls of fame across the country, whose interactive and hands-on activities make a visit educational, fun and memorable.
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Originating in the American South in the 1940s, the twangy sound of bluegrass blends folk, jazz and gospel, using stringed instruments and harmonizing vocals. The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s 21,000-square-foot space opened in 2018 as a permanent home to the past, present and future of bluegrass via interactive exhibits that include artifacts such as instruments — like Pete Seeger’s banjo — costumes and posters, video and live music.
Groups can take a self-guided tour beginning with the early influences of the genre, followed by an exhibit that showcases how early rock ’n’ roll was colored by bluegrass. Chronicling a resurgence in its popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, the “River of Sound” takes groups into the modern era of the genre.
“One of the most popular exhibits has been the ‘Pickin’ Parlor,’” said Carly Smith, the museum’s marketing director. “It features a wall of professional-level instruments which are meant to be played. If you’ve never plucked a banjo, here’s your chance. Making music with friends and family is the backbone of bluegrass music.”
Visitors may want to plan their visit around one of the museum’s live indoor or outdoor concerts, bluegrass jams — held on the first Thursday of every month — or the annual River of Music Party held each June on the banks of the Ohio River.
Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Alabama may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of music fame, but a surprising number of musicians and songwriters, managers and publishers hail from the Southern state. Groups can learn about them by exploring the interactive exhibits at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia.
The 12,500-square-foot space opened in 1990; it covers genres from classical to pop, honoring the ways in which Alabamians have made the music industry what it is today. Groups can stroll the walk of fame, studded with the bronze stars of inductees and tour exhibits with memorabilia: Think Hank Williams’ outfits from the Grand Old Opry and Happy Hal Burns’ tricked-out 1961 Pontiac Bonneville.
“The thing that makes us different from other museums is that we have several one-of-a-kind items,” said curator John Moseley. “Groups can schedule an old-fashioned sock hop, where we teach dances like the shimmy and the twist and then enjoy refreshments.”
The museum’s hall of fame room features painted portraits of all inductees, and visitors can record songs in the museum’s recording studio and then take home a CD of their song.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Groups won’t have trouble finding plenty to do and see at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s 350,000 square feet of galleries and other space dedicated to country’s traditions and stories. Using artifacts, photos, text panels, video, music and touch screens, the Hall of Fame’s main exhibit, “Sing Me Back Home,” is peppered with rotating temporary displays. It also has a permanent collection with items like Elvis Presley’s Cadillac, plated in gold and ornamented with a mix of crushed diamonds and fish scales.
Groups can enjoy the offerings of the Taylor Swift Education Center on the museum’s third floor, which features instrument workshops, songwriting seminars, art projects and dance classes, among many other programs related to the exhibits in the galleries. Songwriter sessions, where groups can sit in on an intimate live performance, are held on Saturday mornings. The Legends, Lunch and Lyrics program offers Southern cooking with live music by a local songwriter.
The rotunda, lined with records and plaques, is a must-see for fans. And the entire museum’s architecture is noteworthy: Viewed from the air, the building is shaped like a bass clef, and the front windows resemble piano keys.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The mission of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, is to engage, teach and inspire through the power of music. Groups can enjoy special programs that may include a guided tour with rock ’n’ roll trivia or the chance to perform onstage.
The museum’s various galleries are organized by areas of interest, from exploring past and present inductees to tracing the history of the genre through the decades. Groups may enjoy a docent-led tour to get behind-the-scenes tidbits about rock’s legends. The museum has thousands of artifacts and memorabilia.
“We love hosting groups,” said Sharrona Burns, senior director of sales at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “They may come as a group, but everyone leaves with their own individual experience, whether they’re taking a self-guided exploration through one of the interactive exhibits or listening to a live concert.”
Though rock fans will want to see their favorite performer’s guitar on display, one highlight is the room filled with working, rock-themed pinball machines for visitors to play. Groups may want to schedule a visit around the summer Rock Hall Series or the Lunch by the Lake live musical performances.
Blues Hall of Fame and Museum
Memphis is the birthplace of blues music, and groups can explore its rich history through the memorabilia in more than 10 galleries at the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame. Opened in 2015, the museum houses artifacts such as instruments from greats like B.B. King and costumes from Koko Taylor, plus other special items from the museum’s more than 400 inductees.
“The Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame began inducting performers, music and literature in 1980,” said Barbara Neuman, president and CEO of the Blues Foundation. “Throughout the museum’s galleries are interactive touch-screen monitors where visitors can read biographies, listen to music and watch videos about Blues Hall of Famers. The upstairs includes space for temporary exhibits that rotate two times per year.”
Groups can explore the history of the blues with hands-on exhibits and memorabilia from artists like Muddy Waters and Billie Holiday, and a blues library full of books on the subject. Groups will enjoy learning about the inductees by reading their individual electronic plaques, and a series of sound booths lets visitors choose artists, music and songs to listen to at their own pace. The Blues Hall of Fame and Museum is one of several other small museums within a radius of a few blocks, including the Civil Rights Museum and the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum.