In the spring of 2003, St. Louis native Michael McDonald was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Michael and my mother grew up together, and I grew up going to hotels, events, and concerts, when we heard, "MICHAEL is in town!" My sister Molly's favorite story, of course, is the Doobie Brothers babysitting us while my mother went to the Quick Shop!
This particular spring day our family had joined the McDonald clan for the induction ceremony in the Loop. The air was breezy and warm, and the shadows of new leaves swirled across the sun-lit pavement of U City. I remember seeing Bob Costas, "Easy Ed" Macauley, the "Wizard" (Ozzie Smith), and Chuck Berry in his sailor's cap, all wearing sunglasses as a jazz quartet got the crowd ready for Joe Edwards' annual ceremony. Bob Costas was the keynote speaker; he had stories about everyone, even an anecdote about Chuck Berry and Louis Armstrong in a hotel in London. Costas told the story so well, I won't try to capture it here. The day was perfect and for me, very inspirational.
After the ceremony, walking to a reception at Blueberry Hill with Kathy Walker musician and sister of Michael McDonald I sprung my recent inspiration. "You know, Kathy? I can't believe there is not a music museum in St. Louis with all these great artists; I think we should start one." Kathy responded, "A museum, that's a great idea! Kevin, we can't let this idea fade away! Let's try to talk about this again soon; I can't wait to tell Michael!"
I have never played an instrument, but I have always loved music, history and St. Louis. In high school I wrote my college application essay on the revitalization of St. Louis. During my undergrad years, I majored in history, and took a music class on the blues. I grew to love the stories and anecdotes about bluesmen, blueswomen and juke joints. When Costas told a story about Chuck Berry and Louis Armstrong I think everything I care about came together in one thought.
I was not the first to have this idea, however. Originally, a while back, Joe Edwards thought about a museum but thought it implausible. About the same time as my inspiration about a music museum with Kathy Walker, others were thinking about a pure blues museum. Dawne Massey, one of St. Louis' biggest caretakers of blues culture, and John May, from B.B.'s Blues, Jazz, and Soups, started a St. Louis Blues Museum Foundation.
I did let the idea "fade away" for a while, however, until I entered Washington University's MBA program in the fall of 2004. Washington U. is one of eight schools in the country that has a grant for entrepreneurial studies from the Kaufman Foundation. A lot of exciting things are happening with start-up ventures through the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at school. Every year there is a business plan competition called the Olin Cup, with the top prize being $50,000. This spring, the first Social Venture competition is being held. I brought this idea up in one of my classes last spring. I formed a team and began writing a business plan for the St. Louis Blues and Rock Project, which we will be entering into the competition. Our team has expertise in finance, real estate, architecture, public relations and history. These folks are from diverse places like New York, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Of course, this team is small compared to others in the St. Louis community who are working on the project. Luckily, Michael McDonald and his sister Kathy are still on board and very excited about the project.
Over the past several weeks, our team at school has gained a little notoriety from the local press. A few articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch led us to work with the St. Louis Blues Museum Foundation. We all have the same goal, and need each other to make sure this dream does not "fade away" any longer.
Our vision is to create a museum that is the story of how blues and rock roots came from the field calls of slavery in the Mississippi River Delta, the story of how blues and rock developed along the Mississippi River as workers migrated North during the Depression and World War II. Ultimately, the museum will be the story of how St. Louis and music transformed each other. We want to celebrate all musical genres in St. Louis' history. Blues, jazz, soul, rock and hip hop are all part of our history and part of music. Music can't be boxed and chopped; music is a living and evolving art form. Our museum will provide education and entertainment, and will be the epicenter of musical creativity in St. Louis for the future.
If anyone is interested in this idea and would like to help with our cause, please e-mail me. Thank you for your time and I hope to share more with you soon.
Kevin O'Sullivan will complete his MBA next year at Washington University.