The Story of the GIG

Belmont’s new Gallery of Iconic Guitars or the GIG at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. April 10, 2017.

The origins of The GIG at Belmont trace back to the generous gift of a stringed instrument enthusiast to an institution that treasures music and music history.

An avid collector of iconic stringed instruments, the late Steven Kern Shaw invested much of his inheritance in acquiring historically significant guitars and mandolins. Shaw’s passion for music emerged as practically a birthright. As the grandson of the late Jerome Kern, Steven grew up under the influence of one of America’s foremost composers of musical theater and popular tunes. Kern’s hits included such classic songs as “Ol’ Man River,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” among countless others.

Following Steven Kern Shaw’s death, his will specified his desire that his prized instruments be donated to an institution capable of properly exhibiting and caring for the collection, preferably in the Nashville area that had become his home. He also felt strongly that “these instruments are to be played and heard,” not just collect dust in a display. Thanks to the input of family friend, co-executor of his estate and vintage guitar expert George Gruhn, the Shaw Collection of nearly 500 unique and irreplaceable instruments came to Belmont University and established the foundation of The Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Belmont.Now, beyond just conveying the important history and design of these instruments this museum will bring new life and music to these unique, irreplaceable guitars and mandolins rather than merely displaying them behind glass.

Gruhn said, “These instruments are to be played and heard in concerts and recordings as well as to be available for students, musical instrument builders and scholars to study, play and learn from association with them. Belmont University was the natural choice for a permanent home for this collection. Belmont draws students and scholars from around the world and is noted for the excellence of its College of Entertainment and Music Business and the College of Visual and Performing Arts which can incorporate aspects of this collection into their curriculum.”

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher added, “What better place to celebrate the history and design of such vintage instruments than Belmont University, the educational home of so many talented artists and musicians. I am grateful to the Shaw estate for allowing us to display pieces in the way they deserve while also keeping their music alive through the hands of the students, faculty and artists who visit the museum or are loaned these iconic pieces of music history.”

Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., said, “I can’t think of a more fitting addition to our city’s world famous brand. Belmont has long preserved, advocated and educated in the world of music, and now they can add ‘museum quality exhibit’ to their music offerings. We could not be more proud of our partner, member and neighbor.”

Gruhn and New York-based attorney Andy Boose are co-executors of the estate, and they will serve as part of a seven-member advisory board that also includes recording artist Vince Gill and Belmont administrators. The board will oversee the management of the collection. Future plans for the museum may include audio/video recordings to supplement displays, the establishment of an annual concert series and the development of archived recordings featuring the instruments.

The Founder’s Circle


As with any visionary idea, making the Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Belmont a reality happened with the help of many. The Founder’s Circle was created to recognize those who shared this great vision, providing financial support to bring it fully to life. Heartfelt thanks go to the following supporters.


Founder’s Circle member and Presenting Sponsor:

James B. & Lois R. Archer Charitable Foundation Logo


Founder’s Circle member:

About Belmont


Ranked No. 6 in the Regional Universities South category and named as a “Most Innovative” university by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont University consists of more than 7,700 students who come from every state and more than 25 countries. Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service, and the institution has long been known for its prowess in the music and entertainment industry fields.

The university’s music business program was first developed in 1971, and in 2003, because of significant growth in both size and reputation, the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business was created. Curb College, the only freestanding college of its kind, is now home to more than 2,500 undergraduates with majors in five areas including music business, audio engineering technology (AET), entertainment industry studies, songwriting and motion pictures.

The University’s School of Music, housed in the College of Visual & Performing Arts, offers undergraduate degrees in church music, commercial music, composition, music education, musical theatre, music therapy, performance, piano pedagogy and theory as well as more than 40 instrumental and vocal ensembles for student performances.

Learn more at belmont.edu