Musical Instrument Museum - Day Trip

Anyone play a didgeridoo?

There is a world-class treasure at 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard in north Phoenix, and it isn’t Mayo’s Hospital, renowned though that facility may be.  It’s the Musical Instrument Museum (M.I.M.) — “The most extraordinary museum you’ll ever hear,” as the MIM Guest Guide describes it.  And “hear” we did, on the second ASURA trip to MIM on February 23, 2011, a follow-up to the over-subscribed first trip last fall.  If you missed these ASURA-planned trips, do yourself a favor and plan your own day at this museum.  You will find yourself wanting to return again — and maybe again.  You just can’t see—or hear—it all in one day.  We met a former ASU colleague there who was on her 4th return—and she planned to come again.  As one of our group said, “You can sum up a review in one word—WOW”; but let’s add: “Simply first-class, world class!”

After a brief bus ride from Tempe Library, our first “wow” experience was the magnificent museum building, beautifully designed with Indian sandstone surfaces, and appointed to display and present more than 10,000 musical instruments from all over the world and to do so in both a dramatic and  organized fashion.  We entered into a beautiful lobby and 2-story atrium that curved the length of the building, where we received our “guidePORT” receivers and headphones—another world-class addition to MIM.  As one tours through the exhibits, arranged by geographic areas, and sometimes ethnic groupings, these headphones automatically trigger video and audio presentations of native (or other appropriate) musicians or groups playing the instruments being viewed. We visited galleries for Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Oceania, and four geographically different Asian rooms, as well as Europe, the United States, and Canada. In addition, there is the Target Gallery for special presentations, named for the Corporation and honoring Robert Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus, who is credited with the vision to create MIM and with gifting $10 million to start the fundraising.  On the ASURA tour we were privileged to see (and hear, of course) MIM’s first traveling exhibition, “American SABOR—Latinos in U.S. Popular Music.”

A highlight of our tour was the ASU-MIM Wednesday Morning Interlude, a free hour-long concert by three ASU jazz groups in MIM’s Music Theater, a 399-seat marvel of comfortable seating and simply great acoustics.  Following that concert, our ASURA tour included lunch, so we sampled the menu in the Museum Café and then had the rest of the afternoon to tour galleries and visit the Museum Store.  All in all it was a memorable tour of this new and growing Musical Instrument Museum, sure to become a major attraction in the Valley of the Sun.

Story by Bill Stasi, photo by Joyce Hartman Diaz