The GRAMMY Museum's Top 10 Moments

As the Museum turns 5, Executive Director Bob Santelli recalls 10 of its greatest moments
  • Photo: Courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum
    The GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles
  • Photo: Mathew Imaging/
    Melinda Gates at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Smokey Robinson at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Noel Vasquez/Getty Images
    Tom Morello perfoms at the This Land Is Your Land — The Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration on April 12, 2012, in Los Angeles
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    Kenny Chesney
  • Photo: Mark Sullivan/
    John Mayer
  • Photo: Maury Phillips/
    Stevie Nicks
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    Brian Wilson
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    Yoko Ono
  • Photo: Mark Sullivan/
    John Fogerty
  • Photo: Mark Sullivan/
    GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli and Annie Lennox
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    The John Lennon, Songwriter exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    The Ringo: Peace & Love exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    Lady Gaga performs at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum
    A jacket worn by Michael Jackson on display at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/
    Flavor Flav at the GRAMMY Museum
December 06, 2013 -- 11:15 am PST
By Bob Santelli /

Since its grand opening on Dec. 6, 2008, the GRAMMY Museum has made a name for itself as a must-see destination. From the detailed history behind the prestigious GRAMMY Awards and its vast and storied recipients to the mysteries behind the creative process of making music, the Museum is a statement of music's indelible mark on the culture of yesterday, today and tomorrow. In celebration of its five-year anniversary, Executive Director Bob Santelli recalls 10 of the Museum's greatest moments to date.

Grand Opening, Dec. 6, 2008
It was a tough time to open a museum. The economy had just crashed and financial uncertainty was everywhere. I remember getting up at 4 a.m. the day of our grand opening and watching from my hotel room across the street as workers put the finishing touches on the GRAMMY Museum sign.

It was a tribute to our partners, The Recording Academy and AEG, that we opened our doors on time and on budget. But mostly it was because of the tireless efforts of our young museum team that the institution opened with such success. Four other new music museums debuted around the same time. We all wondered if we'd survive the year: all but one did. 

The GRAMMY Museum At The White House
Our first major GRAMMY Museum exhibit was Songs Of Conscience, Sounds Of Freedom. It spotlighted, among other things, the music of the civil rights era and attracted a lot of attention. Thanks to Dalton Delan and our friends at WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., in February 2012 I was asked to put together an education program with first lady Michelle Obama and co-produce a concert with GRAMMY Awards telecast producer Ken Ehrlich and WETA for President Barack Obama. Since then, the GRAMMY Museum has produced eight additional events at the White House. I get chills each time I think about the importance of what we've done there.

Bob Dylan And Mick Jagger Perform At The White House
This gets its own entry because of its magnitude. Bob Dylan played our civil rights concert, "In Performance At The White House: In Celebration Of Music From The Civil Rights Movement," which took place on February 2010. I vividly recall looking into the White House audience — filled with senators and congressmen — and hearing Dylan sing the lyrics to "The Times They Are A-Changin'"— "Come senators and congressmen, please heed the call/Don't stand in the doorway/Don't block up the hall." That was another goose-bump moment. And getting Jagger to sing the blues at the White House, with the president and his family in the first row — talk about a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Hosting Melinda Gates At The GRAMMY Museum
Melinda Gates and her husband, Bill Gates, are as passionate about education as are we at the GRAMMY Museum. A couple of years ago, we presented an education roundtable hosted by Melinda Gates in our Clive Davis Theater that was broadcast on PBS. Having her say that she heard "great things about the Museum's education programs" gave us a big boost at an important point in the Museum's development.

Producing The Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration
Everyone who knows me knows how much Woody Guthrie means to me, personally and professionally. The opportunity to produce the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration in 2012 with Guthrie's daughter, and my longtime friend, Nora Guthrie, was something I'll always cherish. We hosted an exhibit, This Land Is Your Land: Woody At 100, educational programs, university conferences, and concerts — including one at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The GRAMMY Museum staff, who had never done anything like this before, simply shined.

Hosting The Museum's An Evening With… Program
Imagine "Inside The Actors Studio" meets "MTV Unplugged." That's what happens more than 50 times a year in our intimate, 200-seat Clive Davis Theater. Produced by the GRAMMY Museum's Public Programs & Artist Relations Senior Manager Lynne Sheridan and Associate Manager Stacie Takaoka-Fidler, An Evening With… is our signature public program that features question-and-answer sessions and performances from top artists and industry figures. Participants have included everyone from Smokey Robinson, Kenny Chesney, John Mayer, Stevie Nicks, and Jack White, to Brian Wilson, Yoko Ono, John Fogerty, and Annie Lennox.

Hosting Special Exhibits On John Lennon, George Harrison And Ringo Starr
The fact that the GRAMMY Museum has hosted exhibits commemorating three of the four Beatles is undoubtedly our biggest curatorial highlight. And we did them with the help and cooperation of their respective families. Thank you to Ringo and Barbara Starkey, Olivia Harrison, and Yoko Ono for all that you've done for the GRAMMY Museum. It is very much appreciated.

Lady Gaga Performs At Our First Education Benefit 
GRAMMY winner Lady Gaga, with her full revue, performed for 200 lucky guests in our Clive Davis Theater in 2011. Thanks to her generosity, we raised a lot of money for our education programs. Thank you Ken Ehrlich and especially Lady Gaga. That year alone, we brought nearly 25,000 students to the GRAMMY Museum.

Michael Jackson's Endorsement
We weren't open but a few weeks when I got a call from someone in Michael Jackson's camp. Late one night he passed the GRAMMY Museum and wondered if he was in it. As it turned out, he wasn't. A few days later I was walking through one of his warehouses picking out pieces for a new exhibit: Michael Jackson: King Of Pop. He had hoped to come down to see the exhibit with his family, but sadly, that never came to be.

A Bite With Public Enemy
During my An Evening With… Public Enemy interview, Flavor Flav decided he was hungry and ordered a steak from a nearby restaurant. It was delivered to him onstage where he ate it, answering questions and playfully sparring with Chuck D between bites. Not satisfied, Flav then proceeded to order dessert. The stage was a mess, but everyone in the audience agreed it was a memorable night.


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