Undoubtedly, as a music retailer, you have seen many amazing instruments over the years. It might have been at a manufacturer’s headquarters, a trade show or, most likely, as part of your own inventory. But have you ever seen the world’s instruments brought together in one place? At the world’s only global musical instrument museum, you can. It’s a mecca for music lovers, with instruments from literally every country on earth.
In the five years since its opening, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) has garnered national praise and it’s already listed among TripAdvisor’s top 25 museums in the country, along with being the site’s top-ranked destination in Phoenix AZ. Still, many music aficionados haven’t yet discovered the magic of MIM.
What makes this world-class institution so special? Every guest who walks through MIM’s doors has his or her own answer, but there are a few things that really stand out. So, let me take you on a mini tour of our 200,000-square-foot museum and you can discover for yourself.
To start, I’ll give you a headset with a state-of-the-art guidePORT receiver, which is included with museum admission. As you approach each exhibit, this compact device will automatically sync with the rich audiovisual content being displayed on a high-definition monitor. You’ll not only view the actual instruments on display, but also see and hear them being played in their original cultural context. I can assure you that it’s a one-of-a-kind, multisensory, completely immersive experience.
On the second floor are MIM’s five Geographical Galleries. While moving seamlessly from one area of the world to another, you can discover fascinating displays like the royal court music of Rwanda and Burundi in the Africa Gallery. Get an up-close look at a rare Javanese gamelan orchestra in Asia. Visit Latin America to view one of the only complete ensembles of Andean panpipes on display anywhere in the world, and peek inside a violin-making workshop of Cremona in the Europe Gallery.
The United States/Canada Gallery exhibits are organized by musical genre, instrument or manufacturer. It’s here that we showcase some of the world’s most celebrated instrument makers, with displays dedicated to Fender, C.F. Martin & Co., Steinway and D’Addario. And, of course, we are always looking to add more!
Downstairs in the Target Gallery, you will find special, changing exhibitions. Currently, we’re presenting “Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World,” which is an international survey of drums and drumming culture, with 100 drums from 45 different countries. It runs through June 21. In the past, we have also hosted traveling exhibitions, including EMP Museum’s “American Sabor” and “Women Who Rock” from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
We have a special place dedicated to the world’s most important and recognizable icons in music. In the Artist Gallery, you’ll encounter musical instruments and personal artifacts from Elvis Presley, Pablo Casals, John Lennon, Carlos Santana, Joshua Bell, “King” Sunny Adé, Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash and many others. Recent additions include displays that showcase Pavarotti and the Metropolitan Opera, as well as Chinese pipa artist (and Grammy nominee) Wu Man.
No matter which gallery you visit or when, we want you to have fun! Even though MIM is a world-class conservator, in addition to being a Smithsonian affiliate, we try not to take ourselves too seriously. In fact, we consistently hear that our exhibit featuring an air guitar (made of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and dreams) is a guest favorite. And, unlike many museums, whose displays are completely hands-off, MIM has an entire gallery dedicated to global instruments that can be strummed, shaken, plucked and struck. Some of my own favorites to play in the Experience Gallery are a cajon, theremin and 10-foot gong.
A museum dedicated to celebrating musical instruments from around the world would be incomplete without a space to hear live music. MIM brings music to life with a stunning and acoustically superb music theater. With just 300 seats, the MIM Music Theater provides an intimate space in which to feature dynamic performances of the finest traditional, contemporary, instrumental and vocal music from every corner of the globe. And with only 75 feet separating the front of the stage from the back of house, every seat is incredible. MIM hosts more than 200 concerts each year, featuring both emerging and established artists. On any given night, we present performers who range from Mongolian throat singers and Indian tabla players to Celtic fiddlers and Hawaiian ukulele stars. But we don’t stop there. Our roster of talent extends to Judy Collins, Jimmy Webb, Branford Marsalis, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett and many other American legends, all of whom have made their own musical imprint on the MIM Music Theater.
To those in the music world and beyond, MIM is simply magical. Music is something all humans share: it’s a source of beauty and comfort, a means to give voice to joy in times of celebration, and a powerful force that brings people together. MIM fully embraces and encompasses those edicts. So, it’s no surprise that many of the biggest names in the music world are drawn to MIM. Tony Bennett said, “MIM is my favorite museum in the world. Everyone needs to see it.” Carlos Santana remarked that he is “supremely inspired and overwhelmed by MIM.” And Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart said, “What an amazing place this is. So many stories. So many legends. So much power from all these cultures that are represented here. I really am awed by the collection.”
The Musical Instrument Museum is a place—and an experience—that you’ll never forget. I invite you to come and visit us in Phoenix. E-mail me at email@example.com and I will see that you receive a personalized tour.
Because if you like music, then you’ll love MIM.
April Salomon is the Executive Director of the Musical Instrument Museum.