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Songbook Foundation reaches agreement for museum site

12/5/2023 12AM

Like the current Songbook Exhibit Gallery at the Palladium, the larger Songbook Foundation museum would highlight the influence of classic popular music on the sounds of today and tomorrow.

CARMEL, Ind. – The Great American Songbook Foundation is entering into a preliminary agreement with the City of Carmel to locate a long-discussed music museum at the northeast corner of City Center Drive and 3rd Avenue SW.


The Carmel Redevelopment Commission has acquired the 3.7-acre site, directly north of the Center for the Performing Arts, with the intent of guiding future growth along the Monon Greenway between City Center and Midtown Plaza. The property is currently occupied by Salon 01 and an adjacent building that houses Laser Flash and Magnetic Concepts, all of which plan to move to other locations in the coming years.


The museum is envisioned as an interactive visitor experience and research center that would serve as a national and international attraction, akin to other institutions dedicated to rock, country, blues and other specific genres. The nonprofit Songbook Foundation will fund construction through grants and private donations and does not expect ongoing financial support from the city.


Headshot of a man with glasses and a black suit

“Selecting a site is a key early step in the process of realizing our long-term vision, which is to create a freestanding facility dedicated to the history and the future of American popular music,” said Christopher Lewis, executive director of the Songbook Foundation, which is affiliated with the Center for the Performing Arts and headquartered at the Palladium concert hall. “With a specific location in mind, we now can proceed with preliminary designs, feasibility studies and other elements needed to establish a case for a national capital campaign. We have several years of work ahead of us before breaking ground.”


The initial “pre-lease agreement” between the Songbook Foundation and the Carmel Midtown Community Development Corporation, an arm of the CRC, sets the stage for an eventual 50-year lease at a modest annual sum. Under the terms, the final lease agreement will commence no later than May 1, 2027, though the deal is contingent on several factors, including:

  • the vacation of the site by the current occupants and the removal of existing structures
  • the completion of a feasibility study demonstrating that the site is suitable for a museum and related event space
  • the completion of a feasibility study indicating that the Songbook Foundation can execute a capital campaign raising sufficient funds to construct and support such a museum.


The city’s interests are protected in numerous ways. Once the 50-year lease term begins, among other conditions, the Songbook Foundation must:

  • Launch a capital campaign within 18 months
  • Obtain final design approval from the CRC
  • Begin construction within five years
  • Complete construction within three years from the start of construction
  • Maintain liability insurance on the land and all improvements.


At the heart of the museum initiative, as well as the Songbook Foundation’s overall mission, is the Songbook Library & Archives, a vast assembly of more than 500,000 items tracing the development of popular music since the early 20th century. The holdings include audio and video recordings, images, sheet music, orchestral arrangements, memorabilia, handwritten lyrics of classic songs, and personal papers and artifacts donated from the personal collections of songwriters, performers, arrangers and other people who made the music happen.


Currently housed at a facility near the Center for the Performing Arts campus, the historical collections have attracted researchers and artists from around the world, while selected items are displayed in rotating exhibits at the small Songbook Exhibit Gallery in the Palladium. The establishment of a museum would support the foundation’s education initiatives by making the materials more accessible to the public in a state-of-the-art interactive environment. The intent is not only to preserve and celebrate the Great American Songbook – the foundational era that includes jazz standards and Broadway and Hollywood tunes – but also to explore the ongoing evolution of popular music and its role in the broader culture.


The Songbook Foundation is a designated Cultural Affiliate of the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum® and has been consulting with its experts on preliminary concepts for the museum. Staff members also have been participating in the American Alliance of Museums’ five-part Museum Assessment Program, which helps organizations strengthen their operations and plan for the future through a process of professionally guided self-study and on-site consultation.


About the Great American Songbook Foundation

The mission of the Great American Songbook Foundation, founded in 2007 by five-time Grammy® Award nominee Michael Feinstein, is to inspire and educate by celebrating the timeless standards of pop, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood. Headquartered at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, the Foundation advances this rich legacy by curating physical artifacts of its creators, performers and publishers in the Songbook Library & Archives; operating a multimedia exhibit gallery; overseeing the Songbook Hall of Fame; offering programs for the public and research opportunities for scholars and artists; and providing educational opportunities for student musicians, including the annual Songbook Academy® summer intensive. The Foundation is a Cultural Affiliate of the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum®. More information is available at