Since its opening in 1896 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Centennial Park has been a locus for Nashville music. From music festivals to impromptu jams and from album covers to motion pictures, the park and its most prominent structure have served as the crossroads between Music City USA and the Athens of the South.
Now the Parthenon, in partnership with Centennial Park Conservancy, is throwing a spotlight on this rich musical history with a new exhibition, Music in the Park: Songs and Stories from Centennial Park 1896-2020. Through artifacts and images, the exhibit traces the history of music in the park through artists as diverse as the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Bruce Springsteen, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Carrie Underwood, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Brenda Lee, and many others who have performed on its grounds or utilized one of Nashville’s most unique landmarks as a backdrop.
“Centennial Park has been an outdoor music venue for over 100 years and has hosted everything from military brass bands and symphonies to country singers and rock bands. Patsy Cline, Margo Price, and Bruce Springsteen performed some of their earliest shows in the park,” Parthenon Curator Mark Medley says. “It’s a story that begins long before Nashville’s designation as ‘Music City’ and it is not over.” Medley has his own long-time connections to Nashville’s music scene as a founding member of Nashville seminal ’80s alt-rockers Raging Fire.
Music in the Park: Songs and Stories from Centennial Park 1896-2020 runs through December 6, 2020, in the Parthenon’s East Gallery. For more information visit nashvilleparthenon.com.