Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson of the National Museum of African American Music

The Story of the African American Experience Told through Music

Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson is the new Vice President of Brand and Partnerships for the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM). The National Museum of African American Music will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 18, 2021, Martin Luther King Day, with the space officially opening to the public on the 30th of January. It is the only museum dedicated to educating, preserving, and celebrating more than 50 music genres and styles that were created, influenced, and/or inspired by African Americans.  Tuwisha says that the “N” in our name stands for national, but at home in Nashville.

What should we know about Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson?

First, Tuwisha’s friends call her “Wish” and we are glad to now be in her circle of friends.  Tuwisha recently moved from New York to Nashville after 20 years of experience in media, branding and strategy and her own firm Wish Factor. Wish said the move to Nashville was an easy decision because it allowed her to lean into her passion of serving something bigger than herself. In her work with NMAAM, she looks forward to building a cultural institution that will have generational impact.

How did the initial vision some 18 years ago culminate in the new museum?

Conversations that civic leader Francis Guess had with Hank Aaron led to a desire to bring something significant to Nashville that would highlight the African American culture. Subsequent meetings with Dr. T. B. Boyd, III and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce began to shape the concept based on the idea that Music City is the birthplace of music culture. Current CEO Henry Hicks leaned into the storytelling of music. And ultimately, a new home was found for the cultural institution in the heart of Music City in the new urban development Fifth + Broadway.

How does the museum include the various genres of African American music?

Through storytelling, the museum weaves the importance of music with milestones in African American history up to the present. So visitors can see how for instance gospel music was born during slavery and lives today in modern artists like Kirk Franklin.

Who are some of the powerhouses in music who have contributed to the creation of the museum?

National chairs India Arie, Keb’ Mo, Darius Rucker and CeCe Winans have given their time and talent to the museum along with music executives like Phil Thornton from Sony Music and Dyana Williams, a music powerhouse often referred to as the mother of “Black Music Month.”

The staff of the museum are leaders in their field of music and ethnomusicology.

What are some of the exhibits in the museum?

The main exhibit, Rhythm as a River, ties together the galleries Wade in the Water (Music as part of the African American religious experience), Crossroads (Blues from 1900 to present), A Love Supreme (highlighting the Harlem Renaissance and Jazz), One Nation Under a Groove (devoted to R&B), and The Message (exploring Hip Hop and Rap).

Who is the target audience for the museum?

Women make the majority of the travel decisions so it’s no surprise that the primary audience is African American women and moms. These are women who want to see themselves as part of the culture, learn about their heritage and provide cultural experiences for their children.  The second audience is Gen X and Gen Y who can learn about their past and present in a generational way. And the third audience is international tourists who love music and are eager to visit Nashville.

What are some of the major wins that Wish counts in her short time with the museum?

Creating partnerships and thinking out of the box are two main initiatives for the museum. Wish has been successful in bringing Amazon and Sony Music into NMAAM to create huge new programs.

Resources and Links

National Museum of African American Music  nmaam.org

Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson on LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/tuwisharogers/

NMAAM Grand Opening:  https://www.newschannel5.com/news/on-the-rise/national-museum-of-african-american-music-sets-grand-opening-for-january-18

Travel + Leisure: https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/first-african-american-music-museum-nashville