O: Outings: Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona
One can imagine how difficult it might be to leave poolside while on winter getaway to Arizona from Minnesota in March. One day of our too-short stay, I rounded up my mom and daughter for a trip to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix (MIM), newly opened in April 2010. It took a bit of convincing, but seeing my fair-skinned daughter becoming increasingly red despite sunscreen, a little break was needed.
And while you really can’t do the museum justice in 1.5 hours, that’s what we allowed ourselves for our visit. It was an easy drive from our place. As you approach the museum, it’s serenely set into the landscape and seems of the desert in its sandy, earth tones with metallic lettering. On a Tuesday afternoon, there were no lines and plenty of helpful suggestions on how to make the most of our 1.5 hours. Love love that headsets aren’t an additional fee. They come with the price of admission and in the case of this museum’s design, absolutely necessary for the full experience.
We started with a quick spin through the Orientation Gallery (what we called Guitar Gallery) and the museum coolness factor went way up for my 7-year-old. Ava found the Debutante Star guitar to her liking. She marveled at the giant floating instruments hanging from the ceiling as we escalated up to the Geographic Galleries, a presentation of musical instruments by regions of the world including audio and video of the instruments being played in their cultural context. We spent the majority of our time in the U.S and Europe. Alaskan Tribal Chants, Hip hop, Rock n Roll and Jazz resonated with Ava. Each with our own headsets we moved about and the music for the closest exhibit would begin to play. Cool and effortless.
Listening to audio, viewing the videos and seeing the instruments on display – each section with an overview of its musical significance – touched on all the senses and made for a heightened museum experience. One that my daughter could appreciate as she seemingly got lost in her own world, dancing or humming as the music or video evoked. As I looked around, I noted the absence of children in the museum. I suppose it was a Tuesday afternoon, a school day for most kids.
We moved through Latin America, four Asian rooms and the Middle East prior to heading back down to the main level. With about a half-hour left, we headed to the Artist Gallery, featuring instruments, video concert footage and more linked to world-renowned musicians and music-innovators. John Lennon’s piano was there with “Imagine” looping. There were also more current artists featured including Keith Harris’ drum set from tour (Harris is the Black Eyed Peas’ drummer). The inclusion of these type of artists made the museum feel happening in a way – acknowledging that even something in recent history that is of the moment can have a place in a museum.
With our last 10 minutes, we plucked, twanged and gonged our way through Experience Gallery, where people were allowed to touch and play instruments. Most of these instruments, I suppose for non-germiness, were played by hand. The harp, the xylophone, bells and the massive resounding gong (only one strike per person, please) all got a sound check from Ava. I imagined the sound level with several kids in this room on any given Saturday – potentially deafening.
We breezed through the museum store and found a couple of small souvenirs. Ava discovered the White Falconer guitar (magnet version) and picked out a small Indian drum for her brother. And on that very high note, our MIM experience came to an end.