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3 local foundations donate $1M to Birthplace of Country Music


BRISTOL, Va. — The Birthplace of Country Music expects to use a new $1 million donation for programming, exhibits, improvements and as a cash reserve, its executive director said Tuesday.


Three local foundations — the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Foundation, the McGlothlin Foundation and the United Company Charitable Foundation — agreed to jointly provide the $1 million gift over the next three years to support and solidify operations of the nonprofit organization. The gift was announced during a news conference at the BCM Museum, which now bears the names of those foundations on its atrium, performance and orientation theaters.


The foundations represent the “heart” of the BCM mission — education, the arts and economic impact, BCM Executive Director Leah Ross said.


“For these foundations to give $1 million to our organization, it really speaks volumes about our museum and what it can do for our community and the organization as a whole,” Ross said. “We do so many things in the community and this will just help us further that mission.”


The BCM, a music tourism promotional organization, plans to use half the unrestricted money for programming, education, exhibits and new equipment, and place the balance in reserve, Ross said.


“Half of the money we’re receiving from them will go into a special fund so if we need to replace a roof or update computer equipment, it will only be used in instances where we have to, to make us financially viable for years to come. Our board really got their heads together to see what we needed to do, because you don’t want to get that gift and — a year from now — see that it’s gone.”


Funds could — but likely won’t — be used to supplement an ongoing effort to raise $105,000 to provide matching funds to start a new radio station, Ross said.


“We can use it for that [WBCM] if we need to, but we think we’re going to be OK without it,” Ross said.

The online campaign has raised more than $63,000 but is scheduled to conclude Friday.


“We’re just happy our three foundations could come together and give a $1 million gift,” said Tom McGlothlin, president of the McGlothlin Foundation. “Early on, I saw what was coming into the museum and the plans for it and was very impressed. I think this museum is going to be the keystone of what makes Bristol return to vitality. We couldn’t be more pleased than to help.”


During his remarks, McGlothlin said the current bustling downtown reminds him of times past.

“One of the most exciting times in my young life was when my mother would bring us shopping to Bristol back in the 1950s. Bristol was really booming and now Bristol is really making a comeback. Where we’re standing [museum] is one of the places that is one of the most important things to make it come back,” McGlothlin said.

Open since August, the museum has hosted visitors from 49 states and 20 foreign countries.


“The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is beginning to play a major role in tourism — not only for Bristol but Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia,” Ross said. “We expect that number to grow as we promote travel to Bristol and build those relationships with tour bus operators. Our education and outreach is a major focus that will be evidenced by the students we bring and the relationships we build with regional school systems.”

Programming for children is a centerpiece of the museum’s mission, Director Jessica Turner said.


“Education and outreach is a big part of what we do. This summer we have a lot ongoing,” Turner said. “We have family fun days — those are free days for families to come in and take part in a lot of activities here at the museum. We also have four summer camps planned.


“Gifts like this allow us to do things that are not just exhibit-related but also reach out in programming ways for this community. We’re grateful for that support but also the confidence and trust in what we do as an organization,” Turner said.


Article and photos courtesy of

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

By David McGee | Bristol Herald Courier

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