NASHVILLE, TN — While the bright lights of Broadway are often seen as the main act for Nashville’s tourism industry, officials with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp (NCVC) say the city’s diverse culture is the key to the “Music City brand” that draws tourists from all over the world. That’s why supporting multicultural programs and partnerships has been a critical focus for the organization for the past decade.
“People often incorrectly think that tourism in Nashville is only about downtown and country music,” said Marie Sueing, vice president of Multi-Cultural Community Relations with the NCVC. “While country music is unquestionably the ‘front door,’ our research tells us that visitors want much more when choosing to visit our great city. They will explore at least three neighborhoods on average and are eager to experience Nashville’s rich culture. So it’s extremely important that we, as an industry, do everything we can to support and draw attention to all the wonderful things happening in the diverse communities throughout the city.”
The important role of the city’s diverse musical heritage is a vital component of what makes Nashville “Music City.” The NCVC has been the catalyst to ensure the story of Music City started with the Fisk Jubilee Singers®, the historic local musical ensemble that was performing locally and on foreign soil long before the existence of the country music industry.
“As an organization whose mission is to tell the story of Nashville globally, the NCVC has worked hard to get it right, tell it consistently and encourage others locally to understand it,” added Sueing.
“It’s encouraging to know that Nashville’s tourism leaders appreciate and support the city’s rich and diverse musical heritage by attracting visitors to ‘Music City’ from around the world,” said Dr. Paul T. Kwami, musical director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers®. “The Fisk Jubilee Singers® are an iconic part of Nashville’s history and culture, and we’re proud to play a role in our community’s current success. This is possible because of our collaboration with NCVC.”
Music City’s multicultural heritage is the focus of one of the NCVC’s most recent promotional videos, featuring a song written and performed by Nashville’s own SHANNON SANDERS, a Grammy, Emmy and Dove Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, and member of the Metro Tourism and Convention Commission.
“We (Nashville) are so much more diverse than most are aware of,” said SANDERS. “I’m proud to be part of such a ground breaking presentation of our community. With this video, the NCVC has created a portal for the world to see what we see everyday: That WE ARE MUSIC CITY … and so much more!”
The NCVC is also actively involved in the development of the National Museum of African
American Music (NMAAM) slated to open next year. Sueing, as well as NCVC’s CEO Butch Spyridon serve on NMAAM’s board of directors, and support fundraising efforts for the museum.
Sueing emphasized the ways the NCVC also often serves as a conduit to help minority businesses take advantage of Nashville’s tourism boom. For example, leading up to the recent NFL Draft the NCVC helped multicultural business entities learn about the bidding process for NFL vendor contracts. More than a dozen organizations were involved in a “Business Connect” workshop, including the Urban League of Middle Tennessee, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce to name a few.
More often than not, the NCVC works behind the scenes to help organize and promote multicultural initiatives throughout the city. For example, the organization helps to support the JUMP Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival, the International Black Film Festival, the Native American Indian Association of Tennessee’s annual Pow Wow, the LGBT community’s Pride Festival and Taste events, and the annual John Merritt Classic football matchup. The organization is also supporting the NAACP’s Renaissance 100 event on August 24 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization’s Nashville branch.
There are various other local organizations that understand the value of diversity and inclusion and have reached out to the NCVC for their involvement. These include the Nashville Children’s Theater, which has promoted diverse programming in recent years, and the Nashville Jazz Workshop, which tapped Sueing to be a part of its Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is in conversations about bringing other jazz events to Music City.
The NCVC’s investment in multiculturalism has paid off in many ways, including attracting large minority conventions to the city. Nashville welcomed Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (AKA), the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International (FGBCF) and The Links, Incorporated for conventions earlier this summer, thanks in large part to the strong relationships and involvement of Nashville’s minority leaders and support from the NCVC.
“Exciting things are happening across our community, and we’re so grateful for all of the multicultural partnerships we have throughout Nashville,” said Sueing. “Our city’s popularity as a global destination is only growing stronger, and we have our vibrant neighborhoods and rich culture to thank.”