Newark Welcomes 'Grammy Museum Experience'

Feb 10, 2017

The 'Grammy Museum Experience' will use 8,000 square feet of Prudential Center space to bring its history to New Jersey.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

When the city of Newark announced the Mulberry Commons Project last month, transforming lot and warehouse space on Prudential Centers Mulberry St. side into a 22-acre park, was it possible for something to outshine the ambitious project.  I guess that depends on if you like music more than shops and recreational activity.  The Grammy Museum Experience will use 8,000 square feet of Prudential Center space to bring its history to New Jersey.  Daniel Cherry is the Chief Marketing Innovation Officer for the New Jersey Devils.  He says they’re a perfect match.

“We all know sports and entertainment come hand in hand.  Every basketball player wants to be a rapper, every rapper a basketball player.  We’re infusing two of the greatest things in American culture which is sports and great American music.  Every time we have a goal scored, we have music.  Every time something great happens in your life you have music.  Music is memories and the soundtrack to your happiness.”

Newark also happens to be a music rich city.  New Jersey has produced over 25 Grammy winners, many of them won on several occasions.  Cherry understands that.

“You see the artists here we have Sissy Houston, we have Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah, Faith Evans, Bruce Springsteen, all of the great artists from Jersey are going to have access to create, to program, students and citizens of Newark.  While we have events here all of the time multiple days of the year, almost 200 events, we’re going to make sure that this is open 365 [days a year] to all Newark residents.”

With locations already in California, Mississippi, and Tennessee, Newark will be the East Coast destination for people who love those Grammy moments, but as Cherry previously said, the museum is an educational tool, possibly more so than a tourist attraction.  That’s how museum executive director Bob Santelli wants it.

“It’s one thing to see the great gowns and the guitars from Grammy artists, but the biggest most important thing is the education.”

Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

Santelli believes New Jersey’s wide array of respected recording artists will jump at the opportunity to engage in programs with kids.  He says the types of programs they’ll be depends on what the community wants.

“So you’re going to see us right away starting next month we’ll be interacting with Newark school teachers to get their take on what they want in the museum to be an educational resource.  Right after that starting with the next school year, we’ll be interacting with music teachers, social studies teachers, and parents specifically to make sure that the opportunity that this museum will bring to this community is magnified.”

The goal is to connect kids with music professionals.  Fortunately for Santelli, that’s also the goal of some local Grammy winners.  Robert ‘Kool’ Bell, a founding member of Jersey City’s Kool & the Gang says music education is the reason he started the ‘Kool Kids Foundation’ with his wife.

“One of the things that she’s pushing is bringing music back to the schools.  Something like this with the Grammy Museum coming here to Newark should be a wonderful thing.  I’m very for it and supportive.”

Soul singer Cissy Houston, mother of the late Whitney Houston, hopes to create a program for the Grammy Museum.

“They really have to learn.  What they’ve got to do is practice, and practice.  They really need to try to do something constructive.  I hope it happens.”

Before unveiling the museums sleek black and white logo 17-year-old Kefi Mutume of Newark had the opportunity to sing for the audience of music icons and executives.

“I’m still shocked that this is even a reality right now.  It’s not really hitting me yet.  This is such an amazing opportunity to be able to be in the midst of all of these amazing individuals.  I saw Whitney Houston’s mother and that was just incredible." 

She says the museum will influence young musicians.

“Even just to use this museum as a sense of inspiration for ourselves, a way to influence our music .  To see all of these people who are GRAMMY winners and GRAMMY nominated and to see how far they’ve come as inspiration for ourselves.”

Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli hopes it change the perspective people have of the awards, regardless of whether they tune in year after year or never have at all

“We think of the Grammy’s and we think of one day a year, next Sunday, Grammy Awards.  But the other 364 days of the year is when a place like this shines.  It’s when it makes its biggest contribution to students and to the community.”

The Grammy museum experience will open its doors to the public by the end of this year.