PHOENIX — Arizonans don’t have to go far to get look at country music history: The Musical Instrument Museum opened an exhibit this week celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association Awards.
The exhibit features instruments on loan from several CMA Musician of the Year nominees and winners.
“They’re the musicians that create the music behind all of those songs that you’ve heard,” Lowell Pickett, artistic director of the MIM, said.
The first installment of the exhibit features a Fender Jazzmaster electric guitar owned by Roy Clark, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and seven time CMA-award winner.
Mac McAnally is another artist who contributed to the exhibit. He has received 10 nominations for Musician of the Year and won a record eight consecutive times between 2008 and 2015. His acoustic guitar and his 2013 CMA trophy are displayed.
“His side job: he’s also part of Jimmy Buffet’s band,” Pickett said of McAnally, who performed at the MIM on Sunday.
Musician Mark O’Connor donated his fiddle and bow, used in hundreds of albums in the 1990s when he was the most in-demand session musician in Nashville.
Perhaps one of the most admired pieces in the exhibit is a dobro, a resonating guitar. The instrument is played horizontally to the ground and is owned by world-renowned dobro player Jerry Douglas. He has been nominated for 15 CMAs and has won three Musician of the Year awards.
The dobro is the instrument of choice for singer and songwriter Hunter Hayes. He took part of the official unveiling of the exhibit.
“I love the sound of that instrument. It’s such a timeless sound for me,” Hayes said while admiring the instrument and explaining why its sound is on almost every one of his songs on his new album.
For the singer, an exhibit like this is an opportunity to highlight the artists behind the popular music you hear daily, but also to encourage music education.
“I know because I was one of those kids who was excited about music,” he added.
In the spirit of music education, brother and sister team Rosario and Salvatore Papandrea performed before the exhibit was unveiled at the museum.
They’re both with Rosie’s House, one of two organizations in the Valley that receive grants from the CMA Foundation.
“To be able to put instruments in the hands of kids and give them the means of self-expression is just amazing,” explained CMA CEO Sarah Trahern.
Phoenix Conservatory of Music is the other recipient of the grants.
As for the milestone celebration next month, Trahern promised a complete lineup of artists of then, now and forever, including legends such as Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson.
Ahead of the awards, the Country Music Association released the music video “Forever Country.”
The 50th annual CMA Awards will air Nov. 2 on ABC.
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