By Kevin Brown, courtesy Symphony in the Flint Hills
Published March 06, 2017
For many people, music is a visceral experience, taking them back to childhood or defining moments in their lives. So when groups trace the roots of their favorite artists and music styles, they often feel a personal connection with that history. Next time you plan a trip to one of the states in America’s Crossroads, consider taking your group to these remarkable music destinations.
Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
Before he became the “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash hailed from the rural community of Dyess, Arkansas, where he lived from the age of 3 until he graduated from high school. Thanks to restoration efforts over the past few years, music fans can now visit the home that shaped so much of his personality and style.
“The house has been restored to exactly how it looked when the Cash family lived there in the 1930s and ’40s,” said Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas Heritage Sites at Arkansas State University.
The tour begins in the Dyess Colony Museum in the administrative building, which features exhibits on Cash’s childhood and his life in Dyess Colony. Guests can watch several orientation videos at the restored Dyess Theatre next door, where Cash’s brother worked and carved his initials.
Next, a shuttle takes visitors to the home itself, where Cash first learned guitar from his mother and began writing music at the age of 12. Many items in the house were donated by Cash’s family, including his mother’s piano, his high school yearbook and the pillow he shared with his brother, Jack.
“When people step into the house, there’s a real sense of his presence,” said Hawkins. “Often, when people leave, they say, ‘Now I can see where his music came from.’”
This fall, Dyess will host the first Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in the field adjacent to the home. The three-day event will include a guest appearance from Michael Streissguth, who wrote Cash’s biography, as well as a concert performance from Cash’s daughter, Roseanne Cash.
American Jazz Museum
Kansas City, Missouri
Located in the 18th and Vine Jazz District of Kansas City, Missouri, the American Jazz Museum commemorates the vibrant history of jazz and its dramatic influence on the world.
“It’s where modern jazz was really established,” said Jessica Thompson, director of development and communication at the museum. “In the ’30s and ’40s, performers like Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane — they would all come to 18th and Vine to play.”
Guests can enjoy interactive listening stations and touch screens throughout the permanent exhibition, and the museum frequently introduces new components, such as the upcoming “Jazz and the Presidency” exhibit, which explores the influence of jazz on U.S. presidents. Bill Clinton’s saxophone will be featured as part of the display.
“A lot of people are turned off by jazz because they think it’s too intellectual for them, so the museum is a great way to expose people to jazz and show them how it shaped history as a true American art form,” said Thompson.
For a real taste of jazz culture, groups can stop by the museum’s Blue Room Club in the evening to hear a live jazz set, offered four nights each week. The Gem Theatre also hosts numerous concert series with jazz masters and other Grammy winners throughout the year.
One of the museum’s most popular events is the Riffing on the Repertoire series, in which various authors from around the country discuss their work and sign their books. Past guests have included celebrated jazz critic Ted Gioia and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael D’Antonio.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the neighborhood floods with music and food in celebration of the annual Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival.
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