Anyone with a fondness for large Nippers or General MacArthur’s organ will find endless pleasures at the Virginia Musical Museum. What started with a single music box purchased by Jesse and Peggy Parker in 1963 has grown into a world-class treasury of instruments, artifacts, toys, and ephemera celebrating music from around the world with a focus on Virginia luminaries.
After entering the unassuming Parker Piano Outlet building, visitors are escorted into a modest room showcasing a nickelodeon, a Wurlitzer Caliola band organ, and a papier mache mannequin called Laughing Sal, an outlandish amusement park curiosity.
One could spend a worrying amount of time in this room alone, tinkering with all the devices and listening to the audio. The room gives no hint of the phenomenal musical labyrinth lurking just up a short flight of stairs.
Instruments of the world nod to visitors venturing up the staircase into a cavernous room opening to embrace the curious. Here, the aforementioned RCA Nipper statue stands sentinel over the large pipe organ that played at General MacArthur’s funeral. However, these are only two of the hundreds of items on display that include everything from early Victrolas to a 1902 Yamaha organ and rare memorabilia.
At the far end, a door beckons with the promise of the Virginia Music Hall of Fame—three rooms brimming with heirlooms including Patsy Cline’s handkerchief, Roy Clark’s boots, The Statler Brothers’ bellbottoms, a Carter Family zither, and a shawl given to Ella Fitzgerald by Pearl Bailey.
In the grand chamber resides the piano gallery. Here, the evolution of keyboard instruments is on full display including a 1780 pianoforte, a rare standing piano, and one of only two 1770 Joshua Shudi harpsichords known to exist.
One of the museum’s most prized artifacts is a 1978 Clenet Roadster once owned by Wayne Newton.