A Visit to the Museum

Date and Venue 29 March 2014 | The Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ

Reviewer Patricia Cassidy

New York has MoMA and the MET and now we have the MIM in Arizona – the Musical Instrument Museum. Located in Phoenix, this unique Museum contains a rich diversity of international instruments, a hands-on gallery where you can touch and play instruments (very popular with kids) an Artists’ Gallery of world renowned musicians, an excellent theatre hosting all kinds of concerts and much more.

The Museum is beautiful on the outside and gorgeous on the inside: spacious, airy and very well planned. It is the only Global Musical Instrument Museum in the world, but it is not just for music lovers as it offers a peek into the mechanics of mysterious instruments from the far corners of our globe. No surprise it was recently voted “the Number Four Best Museum in the USA for Families” (by USA Today Travel) and it has been called by many…“The Best Museum you have ever heard.”

Roy Orbison exhibit The Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo courtesy of the Museum

One thing that makes this Museum so unique and interesting is the headsets, which are included in the general admission fee and there is no touching the controls. As you move about the entire Museum with the headsets, and approach an exhibit- the music from the instruments featured there start to play. The audio syncs up perfectly with the visual video components that are playing. So when in front of say the Roy Orbison exhibit – Roy comes up on TV playing his music, and there is a host of great information surrounding him regarding his music, his guitar and his life.

Music and instruments from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, Oceania and the USA and Canada are all housed upstairs. It is hard to pick out a favorite, as there were so many memorable instruments, but I was quite taken with the Recycled Orchestra from Paraguay where kids were taught music, and learned to make their own instruments from recycled trash in a landfill – a drum made out of x-rays and bits of wood. Fabulous.

I visited the “Women Who Rock: vision passion, power” exhibit which highlights the firsts, the best, the celebrated and sometimes lesser-known women who moved popular music and American culture forward. From Bessie Smith to Rihanna it contained 70 plus artists and their instruments, original handwritten lyrics, stage outfits, concert posters and videos from artists including Billie Holiday, Maybelle Carter, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Madonna, and more! The exhibition narrative describes how women have been engines of creation and change in popular music, from the early years of the 20th century to the present. I loved seeing Joni Mitchell’s notes and Cindy Lauper’s Van Gogh’s Starry night shoes…great stuff….

Lastly, I was fortunate to catch a piano performance by the very talented Evan Shinners on Seattle-based artist Dale Chihuly’s 2002 (made for the Winter Olympics Steinway Piano - The Olympia) a piano that embodies an abstract expression of wintry mountain forests presented in bright colors idealized by the fire of the Olympic spirit. a clear glass music desk, and an original Dale Chihuly painting across the lid covered by a translucent glass top—the first of its kind to be created for a Steinway.

My only mistake was not getting the two day pass as there is so much to see and enjoy. You can make a day of it and eat lunch in their attractive café. Next time. And take the kids…they will love it.

© 2014 Patricia Cassidy