If you have ever dreamed of stepping onto the famed Ryman Auditorium stage and being photographed singing into the historic WSM microphone, Sunday may be your best chance.
The Ryman, which is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” is hosting a Community Day on Sunday, May 30, with free self-guided tours for Tennessee residents. Plus there will be free live music and other activities on the plaza next to the Ryman throughout the day.
The usual cost for the self-guided tour is $25.95, so get out your Tennessee ID and enjoy a free look at this Nashville treasure.
The free tours start with the 11-minute “Soul of Nashville” film that provides an overview and dramatic introduction to the Ryman — the building, which was built in 1892 and was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. It then sat empty for two decades before being saved from demolition in the mid-1990s and coming back to life.
The film also showcases performance footage and historical photos from over the years and includes a recent collaboration featuring Darius Rucker, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill.
After the film, visitors can explore the auditorium on their own and enjoy exhibits and videos featuring hosts Charles Esten, Marty Stuart, Nicole Kidman, Ricky Skaggs, Robin Roberts and Trisha Yearwood.
While most people think of the Ryman as being country music focused (and it is), the newest exhibit, “Turn It Up! Ryman’s Rock Legacy,” brings to life the history of rock ‘n’ roll music at the Ryman and includes artifacts from Elvis Presley, Peter Frampton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, John Mellencamp, Wilco, Neil Young, Steve Miller Band, Grace Potter, Drive-by Truckers, Bruce Springsteen and others.
A tour highlight is the chance for fans to have their photo taken on the iconic Ryman stage. “They can get their photo taken right in the circle,” said Ryman spokesperson Joseph Conner, who noted that the picture is usually included in the admission fee. “It will be complimentary on the community day,” he said.
The community day is sponsored by PNC Bank. And thanks to the bank, along with 650 WSM, the National Museum of African American Music and Jefferson Street Sound Museum, there will be free live music on the PNC Plaza at the Ryman, the new outdoor stage on the Fourth Avenue side of the Ryman. Performers include 50 Shades of Hay, Bizz & Everyday People, the Magi, Miss Tess and Saaneah.
“We are thrilled to safely welcome back full-capacity daytime tours at the Ryman, and there is no better way to do that than with Ryman Community Day,” said Gary Levy, Ryman Auditorium general manager.
“Events like these signal the resurgence of downtown Nashville,” he said.