Institution-wide Initiative To Feature 365 Days of Music

Washington, D.C.- The Smithsonian announced at its Board of Regents’ annual public forum that 2019 will be the Smithsonian Year of Music. The announcement featured musical performances, and an interview between David Rubenstein, the chair of the Board of Regents, and singer Dionne Warwick. The Institution-wide initiative will celebrate the Smithsonian’s vast musical collections, with music-related events every day of the year, including performances, exhibitions, lectures, educational programs and workshops.

When combined, the Smithsonian’s musical holdings, activities and events make it the largest music museum in the world. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of musical artifacts in its collections, the Smithsonian has the Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society and runs a record label, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The Year of Music will spotlight and share with the public those vast musical resources, including:

  • 16,000 musical instruments, spanning many cultures from ancient to modern times
  • 1,000 portraits of American musicians at the National Portrait Gallery
  • 100,000 pages of unpublished music by Duke Ellington at the National Museum of American History
  • 60,000 tracks of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

“Music lives and breathes at the Smithsonian,” said David Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian. “By highlighting our Institution-wide musical resources and people and by holding a daily musical event throughout the year, we will showcase music’s power to inspire, move and unite people across the world.”

Public Programs

Every day in 2019, at least one musical event will be held at the Smithsonian, including performances, lectures and workshops. Events will take place at Smithsonian museums on the National Mall and in New York City, as well as at affiliate museums, partner organizations and research centers across the country. A full schedule of upcoming events will be available at Highlights include:

  • “Everything you’ve always wanted to learn about music but were afraid to ask”: 52 lectures throughout 2019 on topics ranging from hip-hop and Indian ragas to the sounds of humpback whales and ecoacoustics across the Smithsonian.
  • The Smithsonian will screen music-related films throughout the year at its various venues, including the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.
  • The theme of the 2019 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be “The Social Power of Music.” The annual 10-day summer festival on the National Mall will feature over 100 musical performances, workshops, lectures and panel discussions.

“Every facet of the world’s musical heritage is represented at the Smithsonian through research, collections, exhibitions and programing,” said Dwandalyn Reece, co-chair of the Smithsonian Year of Music. “The breadth of the Smithsonian’s music resources not only reflects the diversity of music-making across the world, but provides a multi-disciplinary lens that draws upon art, history and science to explore the essential role music plays in our daily lives.”   


Music-related objects in the Smithsonian’s collections will be on display through permanent and temporary exhibitions at its museums. “Musical Crossroads,” a permanent exhibition in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, explores how music serves as the crossroads between musical traditions and stories of cultural and social development. The gallery is organized through stories of musical genres and themes, covering classical, sacred, rock ’n’ roll, hip-hop and more.

At the National Portrait Gallery, “One Life: Marian Anderson” will highlight some of the underexplored moments in the artist’s career. Through paintings, photographs, personal effects and archival materials, the exhibition will provide a nuanced understanding of how Anderson’s many roles as singer, diplomat and muse helped shatter segregationist policies on and off the stage. The exhibition opens June 28, 2019.

“The exciting thing about the Smithsonian Year of Music is that we invite and empower visitors of all ages and backgrounds to explore music in ways they may never have engaged with it before—from 42,000-year-old instruments to cutting-edge perspectives on the future of music, from the lives of great performers and composers to the social power and impact of music throughout American history” said Huib Schippers, co-chair of the Year of Music.

The Year of Music Online

Visitors can explore the Year of Music online at Each day, the website will highlight events at the Smithsonian, its partners and affiliate museums across the country. In addition, the website will highlight a new digital object (photo, film, recording, etc.) and the story behind it each day. Visitors can also explore educational materials and fun facts about music at the Smithsonian.

The Long Conversation

Visitors can preview the Smithsonian Year of Music Dec. 7 at The Long Conversation, a radically different museum experience that brings together artists, scientists and performers for a creative session centered on the big ideas that make them hopeful for the future. The Long Conversation features a series of short, lively two-person conversations between people from wildly diverse backgrounds, from Grammy-winning DJs to space explorers. Performances from special guests will showcase ways music can help shape a better future.