The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (GIG) celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday (April 25) at Belmont University in Nashville, with performances from Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, along with current Belmont graduate student Ben Valine, a commercial guitar performance major from Forest Lake, Minnesota. A vintage instrument museum, the GIG features a collection of rare stringed instruments and educates visitors on their history and design, providing an intimate, up-close vantage point that will serve to inspire collectors and music enthusiasts alike.
The GIG is the result of a gift to Belmont University of nearly 500 historically significant instruments and supporting endowment—amounting to a total value of approximately $10.5 million—from the estate of the late Steven Kern Shaw. Shaw was a collector, philanthropist and the grandson of Jerome Kern who was a prominent American composer of musical theater and popular music (responsible for such classic songs as “Ol’ Man River,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”).
Instruments currently on display at the new museum include a 1939 Martin D-45 acoustic guitar valued at $350,000, a 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin signed by Lloyd Loar, and a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst electric guitar worth $225,000.
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “I’ve played guitar since I was a teenager so to have these prized instruments on this campus is a true joy for me personally. But the real value of these historical treasures comes with the educational opportunities they present to our students and faculty as well as visitors to the museum. I am grateful to the Shaw Estate for entrusting Belmont with these iconic pieces of music history, allowing us to host what will certainly be inspiration for generations of musicians and instrument makers to come.”
The James B. and Lois R. Archer Charitable Foundation serves as the presenting sponsor for The GIG, providing support to undergird the museum’s operation, special projects and educational programming. Mr. Archer said, “We are so excited to work with Belmont University on this project. Music is such a fundamental part of our lives. It inspires creativity, and we hope that the gift will inspire future generations of students who have endeavored to devote their careers to the performing arts.”
Shaw family friend George Gruhn, founder of Gruhn Guitars and vintage instrument expert, serves as co-executor of the estate. Gruhn noted, “An instrument is not a servant to a musician, but rather a partner. The really great instruments are alive, and they make suggestions. Sometimes you lead them and sometimes they lead you… Belmont University was the natural choice for a permanent home for this collection since it draws students and scholars from around the world and is noted for the excellence of its music programs. I look forward to seeing how these instruments will be given new life and will help lead young musicians as they are incorporated into Belmont’s curriculum.”
The GIG is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $5, and free for children under 12 as well as Belmont students, faculty and staff. Visit thegigatbelmont.com for more information and to purchase tickets.
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