Belmont University is opening a new vintage instrument museum in Spring 2017 in the school’s Bunch Library. The museum will feature more than 400 historically significant instruments thanks to the estate of the late Steven Kern Shaw, a collector/philanthropist and the grandson of Broadway composer Jerome Kern, one of America’s most famous composers (“Ol Man River, “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”).
The Kern family is gifting the museum with a supporting endowment of $10.5 million, which will enable it to include a performance space where many of the instruments will be played by both visiting musicians and students. Students, faculty and musicians will also be able to borrow some pieces in the collection for recordings and concerts.
George Gruhn, founder of Gruhn Guitars and vintage instrument expert, serves as co-executor of the estate and noted that Mr. Shaw’s will specified his desire that these instruments be donated to an institution capable of properly exhibiting and caring for them, preferably in the Nashville area. Along with conveying the history and design of these instruments, the new museum will be interactive, bringing new life and music to these unique, irreplaceable guitars and mandolins rather than merely displaying them behind glass.
Gruhn and New York-based attorney Andy Boose are co-executors of the estate, and they will serve as part of a seven-member advisory board that also includes recording artist Vince Gill and Belmont administrators. The board will oversee the management of the collection.
Future plans for the museum may include audio/video recordings for the displays, an annual concert series, and the development of archived recordings featuring the instruments.
The Shaw collection consists primarily of iconic 20th century American-made guitars and mandolins, including:
- Six Gibson F-5 mandolins signed by Gibson’s acoustic engineer Lloyd Loar made in 1922-24. Loar-signed F-5s are considered by many to be the finest mandolins ever made.
- Two 1960 sunburst finish Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars made between mid-1958-60. Considered by many collectors to be the finest solid body electric guitars ever made.
- Seven extremely rare F-5 mandolins with fern pattern peghead inlay made from 1925 through the mid-1930s.
- Numerous vintage Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars including a very fine 1955 Stratocaster and 1952 Telecaster.
- Eight pre-WWII Martin 000-45 guitars, the finest and most ornate Martin guitars made in the 15 inch wide 000 size.
- Four pre-WWII Martin D-45 guitars made mid 1930s through 1942. Considered by many collectors to be the finest steel string flat top acoustic guitars ever made.
- 43 mid-1930s through mid-1940s Martin style D-28 guitars with herringbone top trim. Considered by many collectors and musicians to be the finest bluegrass guitars ever made.
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