FNTS: Innovation of Musical Instruments

“The ‘Spoons’ program engaged every student and parent in the room. Everyone had a great time and everyone smiled while playing. This is such a great program!”

– Becky Verner, John Early Museum Magnet Middle School



The From Nothing to Something (FNTS) program is a series of one-hour programs consisting of one of five different musical presentations: Spoons, Harmonica, Cigar Box Guitars, Banjo and Washtub Bass. Programs on each instrument, led by artists, explore the musical history, techniques and other interesting stories/facts behind the instrument.

FNTS is designed to educate young people about how a group of people, from different cultures, created instruments from memories and limited resources. Replicas of these instruments were literally made out of nothing (household items or natural materials), and were used to create something wonderful – music!

Participants will learn how these hand made instruments influenced the development of different musical genres like Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop and more which created America’s music and culture.

FNTS has been delivered to more than 500 people over the last year. Schedule a presentation for your class or group by calling (615) 301-8724 or emailing Crystal Hardison at chardison@nmaam.org.

Africans in the Caribbean and Latin America were playing banjos in the 17th and 18th centuries before any were reported to exist in America. The first mention of the banjo in the American colonies occurred in 1754, and it was called a “banjer” in a Maryland newspaper.

Melissa Dupuy has years of experience as a professional musician. She plays acoustic, electric and classical guitar as well as piano, the mandolin and Appalachian Dulcimer.  Since 2004, she has been an artist-in-residence with the TN Arts Commission giving lectures and performances on a variety of musical styles. Professionally, she has performed with Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, and The Nashville Symphony, just to name a few. She has served as a museum educator, interim manager of RCA’s Studio B and a music engineer. Ms. Dupuy has a great interest in traditional music and the indigenous cultural aspects of that music.

Cigar Box Guitar
The earliest proof of a cigar box instrument is a picture (by artists Edwin Forbes) in 1876 of two Civil War Soldiers at a campsite with one playing a cigar box fiddle.

 “Little Johnny” Kantreed is also a native Nashvillian.  As a musician, he has worked in Florida, Arkansas,  Mississippi, Indianapolis, and many other places across the country.  Mr. Kantreed loves the Blues and Americana music.  He has played in many bands including The Colour Flag, Horse of a Different Color to name a few.  He’s also had the priviledge of working with many blues artist including Blue Mother Tupelo, Annie Mosher, Cheley Tackett, Jimbo Mathus, and many others. In 2013, he teamed up with renowned guitarist, fiddler and songwriter Kat Starr and formed Ditty Road. Their frequent appearances across the Southeast have brought rave reviews and accolades.

The harmonica was developed in Europe in the early part of the 1800′s (19th Century). Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann from Germany is often cited as the inventor of the Harmonica in 1821.

Carlos Deford Bailey, a native Nashvillian, was blessed with the talent of being the son of “Nashville Blues Legend,” Deford Bailey, Jr. and the grandson of world famous, Grand Ole Opry star, Deford Bailey, Sr., who was one of the founders of The Grand Ole Opry and, as legend has it, gave the Opry its name.

Mr. Bailey has been singing and playing music since 5 years old.  By the time he graduated from junior high school, he was a seasoned performer. Mr. Bailey is now seen regularly on television, radio, documentaries and other programs in “Music City.” The legend of Deford Bailey continues through Mr. Carlos Deford Bailey.

Spoken Word & Lyrics
The origin of Spoken Word began with African, pre-slavery, and included stories, songs and proverbs. People revealed their values, daily-life, traditions and history. This class is presented in partnership by Southern Word.
The historical origins of the spoons can be traced from Africa to Europe to the Middle East.  ”Playing the spoons” is one of the oldest forms of creating music.

Mr. Lucius “Spoon Man” Talley is a native Nashvillian and a retired U.S. Postal Service letter carrier. In addition to his talent with the spoons, Mr. Talley plays the drums and various woodwind instruments. He loves to skate and listen to all types of music.  Mr. Talley’s spoon-playing has led him to perform for “America’s Got Talent,” acting of the hit TV show, Nashville, and performing in various commercials.

Wash Tub Bass
Originally made by the Baka people of the Congo, this instrument can still be found among tribal societies in Africa and Southeast Asia. When Africans arrived in America, they used everyday items to replicate this instrument.