Musical Instrument Museum

During the last week of April 2011, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix celebrated its one-year anniversary. The museum has welcomed over 200,000 visitors so far and has recently become an official affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The affiliation will allow MIM to share invaluable resources with one of America’s greatest museums and some 160 other Smithsonian affiliate museums across the United States and Latin America.

During its first year of operation, MIM has garnered rave reviews in such national media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CBS Sunday Morning, and Le Monde in Paris, as well as to local media like the Arizona Republic, Phoenix New Times, KJZZ, KBAQ, and KAET. MIM’s guest services team reports that visitors from near and far have praised the museum’s expansive and light-filled architecture, vast collection, and innovative audio/video exhibits. Every country in the world is represented, with musical instruments, costumes, and artifacts as well as high-tech audio/video displays showing the instruments being played in the locales where they are typically used. China, India, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Poland, England, Bali, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Niger, Belarus, and many others are represented, and you can take a world trip of sight and sound with such instruments as sitars, gamelans, saranghis, dobros, koras, naj flutes, vinas, violins, and banduras.

The museum is constantly updating and evolving the collection. Exhibitions include MIM’s Artist Gallery, where guests can view the piano that John Lennon used to compose “Imagine” and the guitar that Eric Clapton used to record “Layla,” as well as the very first Steinway piano, called the “Kitchen Piano.” Inside the museum’s Experience Gallery, guests can play instruments such as a giant gong, a Burmese harp, an Indonesian gamelan, and guitars, drums, and xylophones from different countries.

The museum’s comfortable and acoustically pristine music theater also supports MIM’s globally minded mission, offering a fascinating lineup of musical artists from around the world. Recent concerts at the MIM Theater have included Phoenix’s own Jordin Sparks, the innovative Kronos Quartet, African drum masters Mamady Keita and Famoudou Konate, and Japan’s Fumiki Yamamoto.

“We’re continuing to focus on presenting diverse music styles—including sounds from Ghana, Japan, Ireland, Mexico, Eastern Europe—not to mention jazz and country—while also keeping things very accessible to our wide audience,” says Sunni Fass, MIM Music Theater artistic and managing director. “A good analogy is the ‘symphony pops’ model—light and fun concerts that are a great escape after a triple-digit day.”

MIM’s education programs have been hugely successful, and the Summer Series for Kids (and teens) is expected to do well, too. Kids can sign up for classes and workshops within two age-specific groups: children 6 to 11 and teens 12 to 16. For each group, there are fun and educational opportunities to learn about similarities and differences among the world’s cultures and the music specific to each one as well as the science and artistry behind creating musical instruments. The workshops are held this June and July, with special guests and performances. Shelly White, education coordinator at MIM, is enthusiastic about Summer Series for Kids.

“We offer kids and teens a rare opportunity to learn more about the differences and similarities of world cultures,” White says. “Artists come to MIM with a wide and varied background on culture and music, and they are one of the best resources in the Valley for teaching kids about different cultures and music.”

Some examples of what’s on offer in the Summer Series for Kids are classes on taiko drumming, flamenco dancing, Apache gourd rattles and storytelling, Japanese origami and music, and the making of the African instrument called the kalimba. Along the way, attendees get to immerse themselves in mind-expanding world cultures. Adults are admitted free and can bring up to three children; for teen sessions, adult attendance is not required. Museum admission may be purchased separately.

No matter your age or musical background, the MIM affords a pretty cool way to spend the summer!

For more information, visit theMIM.org, or call (480) 478-6000.

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