Director calls project most advanced music museum in world
By Jack Weatherly
CLEVELAND — Why would the Grammy organization pick this town in the Delta to establish its first museum outside of Los Angeles?
Emily Havens has some food for thought for you.
The executive director of the Mississippi Grammy Museum, which will open in November, says it’s understandable, once you know certain things.
» Nearly 8 percent of all Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners are natives of Mississippi.
» More Grammy winners are from Mississippi than the next five states combined.
Havens was Mississippi field director for the Memphis-based Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America for 18 years.
She has transferred her passion for scouting to overseeing the development and launch of the 28,000-square-foot museum that will cost $19 million to build.
She was a member of the steering committee that set out to land the prize that was being sought by Memphis and New Orleans.
Then it got down to Jackson and Cleveland.
Mississippi Grammy will be the most technologically advanced music museum in the world, Havens said.
The museum designer is Washington, D.C.-based Gallagher and Associates, whose portfolio includes the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, and the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky. Its architects are Dale Partners Architects of Jackson and Eley/Barkley of Cleveland. An earlier version of this article mistakenly listed Gallagher and Associates as the architect.
In addition to an in-door studio, there will be an outdoor amphitheater that will be able to accommodate 1,800 to 2,000, Havens said.
The first step in constructing the facility was to reconfigure three holes in the nine-hole course on the Delta State University campus starting in June 2013, followed by the start of work on the building a year later.
Havens says she is a “natural fundraiser,” a skill she honed as Mississippi field director for 15 counties as part of the Chickasaw Council.
She put her fundraising acumen to work. From the state came $7 million, $3 million came from the city of Cleveland and $1 million was donated by Bolivar County, and $6 million came from private donors, making a total of $17.9 million and balance of $1.1 million.
“It had to be something special for me to leave scouting,” she said.
Those networks she established in scouting will serve the museum well, she said.
She said that when she was serving on the board to recruit the museum, “I started realizing that this wasn’t just about tourism.
Seventy-five to 80 percent of what we will be doing is education, changing kids’ lives with music, with arts, with creativity.”
Delta State already streams arts material to 75 public schools. “With the decline of arts in public schools in Mississippi, I really think this is going to … fill in the gap.”
“I hope to be able to bring 15,000 to 20,000 schoolkids into our museum in the first year.”
A 30-teacher advisory committee is helping the museum build a curriculum that will include such things as the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, the blues and dancing, she said.
But there’s a bigger picture for the museum, Havens said. The Americana Music Triangle was launched last month and will bisect several states.
Music writer Lynn Margolis reported that the triangle will cross into Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas, and be defined by Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans and include the “birthplaces of blues, jazz, country, rock ’n’ roll, rhythm and blues and soul, gospel, Cajun and zydeco and bluegrass.”
The seeds of the museum were planted seven years ago when the “Mississippi Grammy Awards” were held in Biloxi, Havens said.
Mississippians, especially those from Cleveland, wanted to make a bigger statement, a permanent one.
The museum would not have landed in Cleveland if not for the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University, whose executive director is Tricia Walker, a singer-songwriter, Havens said.
Ultimately, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences agreed that Cleveland was the place.