Blue-cheese-stuffed olives, crackers and red wine were surrounded by 23 glass panels Thursday evening at the opening of the State Historical Society of Missouri’s new exhibit, “Music in Missouri.”

The exhibit discusses Missouri’s footprint in music genres such as ragtime, St. Louis blues, Kansas City jazz, Ozark bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll, according to the society’s website.

“They say that Missourians naturally clap off beat,” Kevin Walsh, SHSMO senior security guard, said.

Danielle Griego, SHSMO educational program director, explained why it chose music as a theme.

“It is the merging of different ideas. And because of the influence it had throughout America,” Griego said.

Ragtime music holds special place in Missouri history. The panels at the exhibit showed that Missouri is most known for innovating “classic rag,” which is a form of ragtime piano composition pioneered by Scott Joplin, who famously said, “It is never right to play ragtime fast.”

“Geologically, Missouri is a convergence of many things. The glacier stops at the Missouri River so that the north part of the state is a rocky bottom and the south part is a muddy bottom. This is similar to the music of Missouri — it is a convergence place of different types of music,” Walsh said. “You could play a pop song in ragtime, and it would sound completely different.”

The exhibit showcases music from Missouri that was critical in shaping American sound and explores the ways in which music played a role the fight against discrimination of all types, the SHSMO website states.

Ragtime paved the way for the music that followed. Missouri’s early folk musicians, marching bands and choral societies that were the foundations of Ragtime, later on intersected with the blues in St. Louis and new jazz in Kansas City, according to the SHSMO Facebook page.

The new exhibit celebrates the intersection and growth of Missouri’s musical history. An event spectator, Doris Littrell, was thrilled to see artists that she has seen in person displayed on the panels at the exhibit.

“I don’t have a profession in music; I just enjoy it,” Littrell said, “I saw Chuck Berry play in St. Louis a long time ago, so it is exciting.”

The “Music in Missouri” exhibit is located at the historical societies building at 605 Elm St. in the Wenneker Family Corridor Gallery. The exhibit will run until July 22, according to the SHSMO website.

  • Public Life Reporter, Spring 2020 Studying Spanish and Photojournalism Reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700

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