By Jon Jeffrey Grier
I’d like to draw Greenville’s attention to one of its genuine treasures — the Carolina Music Museum. Located on Heritage Green in the old Coca-Cola building, the CMM houses an astounding world-class collection of actual, playable, historically important keyboard instruments from Europe and the United States in a comfortable and inviting facility.
None — excepting one Steinway grand kept on hand for performances requiring a modern piano — were built more recently than 1857, with some harpsichords dating to the mid-18th century. The admission price is a pittance for what the museum has to offer, as you can easily spend a couple of hours reading posted information, taking in free tours by knowledgeable docents, and listening to recorded examples of several of the instruments.
An entire second floor — accessible by stairs or elevator — features early square pianos of America. You may be surprised to see the many stages that the piano went through in evolving from these small, living-room instruments to the powerful instrument we hear today. And they are fascinating not just for their sounds, but also for their elaborate and masterful carpentry. If you’ve never seen a rectangular piano, this is your chance.
The Carolina Music Museum also hosts periodic in-house concerts in an intimate, 80-seat setting. Many of the concerts feature pianos and harpsichords from the collection, but the CMM is devoted to all things music in the Carolinas. Recent concerts have included performances by S.C. Bach, the Callisto String Quartet, and the Keith Davis Jazz Trio. Future performances will include blues, roots music, and the prestigious Swannanoa Chamber Music Summer Series. I was so taken with a recent concert by the Musica Curiosa Duo — performing on early piano and Ben Franklin’s invention, the glass harmonica — that I was inspired to compose a new work for this unusual combination. The duo will perform it on their return concert in October.
I have for years taken my students to private viewings of this wonderful collection. They are invariably fascinated, and now — since the museum opened in March — the collection is easily accessible to everyone. I am sure that after a single visit you will share my enthusiasm for this remarkable experience, one that is very rare in the world, but available right here in Greenville.
For complete information, including hours, tickets, and special events at the Carolina Music Museum, go to https://carolinamusicmuseum.
Jon Jeffrey Grier is an instructor and composer-in-residence at the Greenville Fine Arts Center.