American Jazz Museum
Kansas City, Missouri
Acclaimed as an interactive paradise, the American Jazz Museum brings the country’s most distinctive musical genre to life. Listening stations, touch screens and custom mixing boards allows visitors to create elements of jazz: rhythm, harmony and melody. Aficionados can listen to selections from more than 100 recordings in Jazz Central, the museum’s musical library.
“Groups start with a movie that introduces them to 18th and Vine, and life as it was several generations ago,” said Chris Burnett, marketing and communications manager. “Residents and the leading citizens of the community recount stories about life within the district.”
The museum features four jazz greats: Louis Armstrong was the first instrumental jazz virtuoso. Big band legend Duke Ellington is heralded as one of the most significant composers of any genre. Jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald is honored. Saxophone great Charlie Parker has a Grafton saxophone on display at the museum.
Keeping jazz alive five nights a week, the Blue Room nightclub entertains museum visitors. Named after the famed 1930s Street Hotel club nearby, the club’s walls contain photos and memorabilia from Kansas City’s finest musicians.
“Groups can attend the Blue Room’s unreserved calendared events, or rent the entire facility and select appropriate entertainment,” said Burnett. “We draw from a large pool of Kansas City’s best musical talent in jazz, blues, R&B, soul and more.”
American Banjo Museum
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The American Banjo Museum’s 400 instruments tell the story of the banjo from its American introduction in the mid-1600s to modern times. The museum touts the world’s largest banjo collection on public display, and its instruments span many periods.
Upon arrival, groups learn about the history of the banjo starting with the African slave culture and continuing with the broader public interest that grew in the mid-1800s and the banjo’s popularity today. Five large exhibits with multiple instruments represent each era.
“Here at the museum, the banjo’s visual art remains equally as valuable as its value as a musical tool,” said executive director Johnny Baier. “We’re now expanding the first-floor exhibits to better represent each important era of the banjo’s American evolution.”
The museum’s core collection showcases Jazz Age banjo treasures. “The Banjos and Their Masters” exhibit ties individual banjos to their original owners. Often, those players received great notoriety.
“Each instrument has an incredible story of its own,” said Baier.