Geographically, hundreds of miles separate Cleveland from Los Angeles, but culturally, the Mississippi town connects more closely to its California counterpart than might be expected. The cities host the world’s two designated GRAMMY Museums®, which celebrate the awards presented annually by the Recording Academy™ to recognize excellence in all genres of recorded music.
While L.A. is perhaps an obvious location for such a museum, why Cleveland? Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum® Emily Havens says that question is asked often and she has several answers.
“Mississippi has more GRAMMY winners per capita than any other state, and 8 percent of all Lifetime Achievement Award winners are from Mississippi,” she says.
Its location near the Delta State University campus and Delta Music Institute also helps create mutually beneficial educational opportunities, from college internships to field trips, to workshops and summer camps for younger students.
“GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi is a wonderful destination for music lovers. Our mission is to honor and preserve the musical heritage that has impacted our state and nation – but it’s also our mission to inspire future musicians. So our focus every day is on education,” Havens says.
The 28,000-square-foot museum opened in March 2016 and features two dozen exhibits that explore the past, present and future of music. While many are permanent, a few each season – taking up approximately 2,000 square feet – are temporary. About half of all of them include interactive features for memorable audio and visual experiences.
“Those interactive features also make it easy for us to keep our displays up to date,” Havens says.
Other exhibits feature beautiful clothes worn at GRAMMY Awards ceremonies, iconic musical instruments and other artifacts.
A dance exhibit explores the cultural influences of movement and lets visitors try their hands – or feet, rather – at moves taught by GRAMMY winner Ne-Yo.
The Roland Room features a lighted soundstage, complete with sound mixer, DJ booth and all kinds of instruments.
“The players wear headphones so that only they can hear the sounds they are creating. People love it, especially kids. They can just play their hearts out in there,” Havens says.
Her personal favorite, though, is the Mississippi Gallery, dedicated specifically to the accomplishments of the state’s musicians and songwriters and the impact they’ve made on the world.
“I enjoy interacting with our guests, and inevitably someone tells me they didn’t realize this musician or that songwriter was from Mississippi. As a native of Cleveland myself, I love sharing our artists and their accomplishments with others,” she says.
From blues legends like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and B.B. King to “the father of country music,” Jimmie Rodgers, and “the king of rock ’n’ roll,” Elvis Presley, the careers and those of many other Mississippians are highlighted in the exhibit.
Museum guests have included people from all 50 states and more than 40 other countries.
Havens says she believes that popularity is proof of the museum’s effort to include all music genres and all aspects of work done in the music industry.
Perhaps the museum’s greatest beneficiaries, however, are the people and students of the local community, who have opportunities to attend various special events.
“GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi is about music education and so much more. Studying music is also studying science, history, math and art,” Havens says.
Two weeklong summer camps bring middle and high school students to the museum to put that education into action.
From specialty workshop topics ranging from songwriting, movie scores, music production and music of the civil rights movement, such events offer something for every participating student.
Workshop presenters often provide evening performances with tickets available to the community, too.
“I often tell guests there are two of these museums in the entire world, and we’re standing in one of them,” Havens says. “It’s an opportunity many of us wouldn’t have otherwise.”
GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
800 W. Sunflower Road, Cleveland
Open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Closed Mondays and major holidays, including Easter.
General admission tickets are $14, $8 for youth, and free for children ages 4 and under. Military, student, group and senior discounts are offered. To plan your visit, please contact the museum.