Belmont University has solidified plans to open a new interactive vintage instrument museum thanks to the donation from the estate Steven Kern Shaw of more than $10 million in stringed instruments.
"They sound great, they feel great, they're inspirational to play," George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitars and co-executor of Shaw's estate, said of the instruments.
The museum, which Belmont hopes to open in April, will host the more than 400 guitars donated through the estate for the purposes of education and to allow both students and the general public to play under certain circumstances, such as classes or for special performances.
"They're not ever going to be just silent and never heard again," Gruhn said of the guitars.
"Instruments are meant to be played, not to be looked at," Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University, added.
Shaw is the grandson of Boadway composer Jerome Kern who was one of America's foremost composers of musical theater and popular music, writing classic songs such as "Ol' Man River," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Smoke Gets in your Eyes."
Prior to his passing, Shaw spoke with Gruhn at depth about wanting to keep his instrument collection around Nashville, and he wanted the instruments accessible to people who could learn and benefit from them.
"This is to fulfill not only his wishes, but to do something great for Belmont and for Nashville's community," Gruhn said.
Fisher said that Belmont University is the perfect place to host the collection in a unique museum that students will be able to benefit from. "The old Nashville Cats song says, 'there are 1,652 guitar players in Nashville.' I'm pretty sure we have that many at Belmont."
The idea is to have the instruments not only on display with descriptions of their history, but to have them available for people to play, whether it be for special performances, through classes, or just for day-to-day practice.
"There will be a lot of history and a lot of learning that goes with it," Fisher added.
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.