It’s that time of Summer again when music industry professionals, retail buyers, fans of music instruments, and music lovers converge on Nashville for the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention at Music City Center. The show officially opens July 13 and continues through Saturday night and fills Music City with music, instruments, and fans.
I arrived a day prior to the official opening of NAMM to get settled in and prepare for the days ahead. First on my list immediately upon arriving in Nashville was Belmont University’s The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (GIG). And when they say iconic guitars, there were plenty on display.
Over 500 guitars were endowed to Belmont University by the Estate of the late Steven Kern Shaw. Shaw is the grandson of the late American composer Jerome Kern whose credits include “Ol’ Man River,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” as well as many other songs. It was Kern’s wish that his collection of over 500 prized instruments be donated to an institution “capable of properly exhibiting and caring for the collection, preferably in the Nashville area that had become his home.”
Kern’s collection consists of primarily 20th Century American-made guitars and mandolins and is valued at over $10,500,000. Curated by Nashville-based guitar guru George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitars, the display showcases instruments like the 1939 Martin D-45, which is only one of the 91 made between 1933 and 1942; a 1923 Gibson F-5 Mandolin, signed by designer and visionary Lloyd Loar; a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard, 1887 Martin 0-28, still stamped with “C. F. Martin & Co. New York” on the back of the peghead, and the Loar Quartet Master Series, featuring the F-5 mandolin, H-5 mandola, K-5 mandocello and L-5 guitar—all signed and dated by Mr. Loar.
Viewing the instruments (at a distance, of course), they feature so many exquisite details and designs – exotic woods, ivory, and ornamental inlays.
Upon entering the exhibit, it is quiet and subdued; and I was fortunate enough to have a Belmont University student present experiencing the opportunity to play one of these iconic instruments. He took the time to talk about the exhibit and what an opportunity it was to touch and play these instrument, and how it impacted him.
If you’re in the Nashville area, I recommend taking the time to visit this exhibit. For more information, visit their site HERE.
The Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Belmont Founder’s Circle provide support to make this wonderful exhibit possible. Members are:
Founder’s Circle Member And Presenting Sponsor:
James B. & Lois R. Archer Charitable Foundation
Founder’s Circle Member:
Don Gibson American Music Foundation