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Music to Mississippi’s Ears: Grammy Museum Takes Shape

When it opens next year, the Cleveland-based, $18 million attraction will feature a state-of-the-art sound stage for live performances.

Tue September 30, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

After years of planning, work has begun on the highly anticipated Grammy Museum Mississippi. When it opens next year, the Cleveland-based, $18 million attraction will feature a state-of-the-art sound stage for live performances and education workshops, an exhibit that tells the story of the state’s artists and impact on music worldwide, along with interactive song writing, music mixing and engineering and red carpet fashions. It will be the most advanced technological interactive music museum in existence.

“This will not be a static museum with a bunch of musty old artifacts,” said Allan Hammons, president of Hammons & Associates, who serves as a consultant on the project. “Grammy Museum® Mississippi is all about today. It will be constantly evolving.”

Located on the campus of Delta State University, the museum will be a one-story, 27,000 sq. ft. (2,508 sq m) facility consisting of approximately 10,000 sq. ft. (929 sq m) of exhibit space. The building also consists of a 130-seat performance theater, a gift shop, catering kitchen, classroom, conference room and administrative offices.

“It will be very contemporary, but the design is steeped in the history of the region,” said Hammons. “It’s a remarkable project that’s taken a lot of imagination and hard work. To see that first spade of dirt overturned is exhilarating.”

Construction began in May, 2014. The site work beyond the building perimeter, with the exception of the mechanical enclosure, will be bid under a separate upcoming bid package.

“Site demolition has been completed, and we are currently performing the building pad undercut and earthwork operations in preparation for foundation construction,” said Lee Kittrell, project manager/senior estimator of general contractor Flagstar Construction Company Inc. in Brandon, Miss. “The primary upcoming tasks include foundation and concrete shear-wall construction, structural steel erection, roofing installations, interior and exterior metal stud wall construction, mechanical/electrical/fire protection/AV system installations and finishes.”

As with most construction projects, the main challenges involve the difficulty in maintaining momentum if faced with delays relating to unforeseen conditions or inclement weather, and maintaining careful coordination when other components of the project are included within the scope of separate prime contracts.

“The property that will be occupied by this building was formerly part of the adjacent golf course,” said Kittrell. “The site demo was minimal; however, there’s a rather extensive undercut and fill required at the building pad and adjacent areas, which will ultimately involve the movement of approximately 42,000 cubic yards of dirt.”

Some of the equipment currently being used on this project to complete the required earthwork operations include John Deere 650J dozers, Sakai Sheep Foot Packer model SV400, John Deere track hoes and multiple Freightliner trucks. Materials required include approximately 2,000 cu. yds. (1,529 cu m) of concrete, approximately 80 tons (72.5 t) of resteel, approximately 220 tons (199.5 t) of structural steel and multiple other items.

“The most tedious and time consuming portions of this project will include the foundation construction, including the associated concrete shear walls and sound stage area and the structural steel erection,” said Kittrell. “All exposed structural steel at the entry area will be Architectural Exposed Structural Steel (AESS), which has certain processes required for installation and finishing. One of the most challenging components of this structure will be the construction of the approximately thirty-foot tall, twelve-inch thick concrete shear-walls and the tiered sound stage area.”

So far, weather has not been a factor.

“It always has the potential to impact construction progress. This is always an unknown variable in this industry,” Kittrell said. “We have not experienced any setbacks, and everything has been running smoothly, thus far. We are sincerely appreciative for the opportunity to participate in such a uniquely important project that will become such an exclusive regional landmark for generations to come.”

Groundbreaking at the Cleveland, Miss., site, the only official Grammy Museum beyond Los Angeles, took place in June at Delta State University. The structure is expected to open in summer 2015 and will be the most technologically advanced music-themed museum in the world, according to the design team. The project is partnership between the state of Mississippi, the city of Cleveland and Bolivar County.

Grammy Museum Mississippi will be housed on 4.5 acres at the south end of the Delta State University golf course along Highway 8. The Cleveland Music Foundation, the nonprofit organization leading the project, secured the property through a 99-year lease with the Board of Trustees for Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. Students studying at the Delta Music Institute will receive credit hours for work at Grammy Museum Mississippi and will participate in an exchange program with college and university students from the area. The new structure is expected to attract visitors from around the globe.

The new museum will share exhibits with the original Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, but at least 20 percent of its programming will be specific to Mississippi. It will share information, artifacts, films and storylines with the Los Angeles museum, but plans call for a museum focusing on not just Grammy winners, but musicians who influenced the music industry, as well.

The building was designed as part of a joint venture by Dale Partners Architects P.A. of Jackson, Miss., and Eley|Barkley, PA. of Cleveland.

“Grammy Museum Mississippi consists of a one-story structure, but conveys a great deal of verticality, such as the lobby being over 30 feet in height,” said Ross Barkley, architect of Eley|Barkley. “The design exemplifies a contemporary building through the application of metal panels, curtain wall, massing and other various materials. The layout allows for functional versatility with respect to what types of events the facility can accommodate in addition to the celebration of music through exhibits.”

For Barkley, having the opportunity to be a part of such a major project was rewarding and inspiring.

“This project is extremely significant for the Mississippi Delta, the state of Mississippi and for the Grammy brand. The opportunity to be involved at any level with this project is a blessing. There’s great satisfaction in serving a small part in telling the story of the foundation of American music.”

“The vision was to introduce visitors to the amazing impact of Mississippi’s songwriters, producers and musicians on modern world music. The museum will use a dynamic combination of exhibits, public events and educational programming to explore, celebrate and experience the enduring legacies of all forms of recorded music, the creative process of music-making, the art and technology of the recording process and the history of the awards,” said Jason Agostinelli, architect of Dale Partners.

“This is a landmark project for not only the Mississippi Delta, but also for the whole state. Being selected as the first state to receive a satellite museum is a huge honor. This is a perfect example of how Mississippians can capitalize on our great heritage and musical relevance and use it to boost tourism throughout the state.

“There are many great musical attractions in Mississippi, but they aren’t centrally located. A museum of this caliber has the potential to create a trickle down effect for all of the other attractions, the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, the Highway 61 Museum in Leland and the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. All of these great attractions are less than a 45 minute drive from Cleveland.”

A large focus was placed on creating a space that would be versatile enough to accommodate all types of events, not just museum related. The front porch and the lobby were designed to support large groups of people for special events, including fundraisers and wedding receptions.

Agostinelli said one challenge on the project was balancing the contemporary style of the architecture with the region’s culture.

“We wanted the building to be as contemporary as the internationally recognized brand it represents. We also wanted to make sure the architecture resonated with the Delta through great aspects of southern vernacular such as front porches, weathered cypress wood and corrugated metal siding. The blending of these two things helped reinforce the idea that, yes, Mississippi has great heritage, but we are still very relevant in music today.”

Any museum dedicated to music must be filled with sound, which also was a major consideration during the design process.

“While visitors are in the exhibit they will experience some sound spill from adjacent exhibits which is desirable for guiding people to the next exhibit,” said Agostinelli. “Areas that require more isolation have been placed inside sound booths, similar to that of a recording studio. The 130-seat sound stage is meant to be intimate in nature and excellent in acoustics.

“The relatively small theater boasts a 30-foot ceiling height and formed plaster wall panels and acoustic banners to allow performers to tune the space to be as live or dead, acoustically speaking, as they like. The walls are 12-inch cast-in-place concrete with a concrete roof deck to isolate the performance space from the lobby, exhibits and the rest of the museum.”

“According to all music historians, Mississippi is the birthplace of all American music,” said Lucy Janoush, president of the Cleveland Music Foundation. “Credit is given to our state for founding the blues, gospel, rock and roll, country, soul, etc. The state has more Grammy award winners per capita than any other state, particularly in the Lifetime Achievement award. Grammy wanted to expand its experience and the logical next location, in their words, would be in Mississippi.

“The museum will be a tremendous economic development catalyst, as well as an educational asset for the community and the entire state. The museum will bring thousands of visitors annually to our community that will likely visit other attractions such as the Mississippi Blues Trail, the Country Music Trail, the BB King Museum, Elvis’s birthplace, etc. Cleveland has already seen significant investment in new business development as a result of this project, including several new restaurants, a new hotel and other tourism-related businesses.

“The educational opportunities at the museum will be available to kids at every level. Renowned artists will provide workshops for students. The museum will have a curriculum that can be incorporated in every grade level and will provide the instructional materials for these lessons.”

Janoush said the community had to sell the project to state, county and municipal elected officials to gain their financial support.

“Because of the importance of this type of tourism development in our state, this sell was not difficult. In addition to obtaining public funds, we have been working the private sector for donations. The project will cost $18 million, and we are currently over $14. Seeing the construction starting has generated a considerable amount of excitement in the community and shows everyone that this is not such a proposal anymore. It is making the private sector fundraising a little easier. This is the most exciting project that I’ve ever been involved with, and I have been working in community and economic development for over 30 years.”

“Being a native of the Mississippi Delta, it means a lot to me to have been involved with such a monumental project for the state,” said Agostinelli. “I have friends and family who will see this building on a daily basis for years to come, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it. ”

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