The exhibition opens at the National Jazz Museum on February 11, coinciding with Black History Month.
Disney announced last year that the exhibit would be traveling to museums across the country, with stops already at the New Orleans Jazz Museum in New Orleans and the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City.
“What if we turn the entire museum into the Half Note Club, featured in the movie, and it took .5 seconds to say yes,” National Jazz Museum Executive Director Tracy Hyter-Suffern said. “Disney just opens us up to a new audience that we were trying to reach anyway in terms of young people.”
Officials said they were thrilled to bring the experience to Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City well known for its vibrant jazz scene that fueled the careers of many jazz icons.
“Coming to Harlem is really important to us,” Walt Disney Imagineering President Barbara Bouza said. “We had the exhibit at Epcot at Walt Disney World, and not every guest at this time can get to the park. So the idea is to be able to come right in the community.”
Harlem is an ideal location for an exhibit based on the Disney Pixar movie, “Soul,” as the setting for the film is New York City, where Joe Gardner is a middle school teacher whose ultimate dream is to play jazz professionally. Even before its release, Bouza and Senior Vice President of Creative Development Carmen Smith recognized there was a bigger story to be told.
“It was, how do we give that story another platform because he’s capturing his passion for jazz, and jazz is an American story, and there’s so much depth to it,” Smith said. “We said, you know what, let’s tell the story. Where did it begin? New Orleans with enslaved and free, with Spanish and French and Irish and people from every walk of life contributing to this unique sound.”
Duke Ellington’s piano is a highlight of the National Jazz Museum, but it also easily incorporated into the exhibit in teaching the history of jazz.
“We include the history of what jazz musicians had to go through in order to perform,” Smith said. “And the places that were welcoming and those where there were challenges.”
And to be as welcoming as possible to kids after the end of the school year, the exhibit will remain open through the end of August.
“We want every child here in Harlem, here in New York City, anywhere in any community we go, to be able to walk in and say, ‘Wow, I can see that,'” Bouza said.
Tickets are free, but reserved timed ticketing is required and no walk-ins are allowed. Tickets can be reserved up to one month in advance.
CLICK HERE for ticket information.
The National Jazz Museum requires proof of vaccination for all visitors 5 years of age and older.
While in Harlem, the exhibit will include a unique collection of artifacts curated by The National Jazz Museum, including items highlighting the career of pianist and jazz icon, Dr. Billy Taylor.
Additionally, there will be maquettes of “Soul” characters Joe Gardner and Dorothea Williams, and virtual experiences.
CLICK HERE for more information from the National Jazz Museum.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.