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This guy was playing this giant violin or a comparable instrument.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Musical Instrument Museum

4725 E Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85050
Generally open 9-5 all week
480-478-6000 Half day
March 2015 All year
$10-29 Phoenix Arizona
Website Educational Music Museums
First review
The Musical Instrument Museum is reported to be the largest such museum in the world. It boasts a collection of approximately 15,000 instruments representing 200 countries and territories. Around 6,000 musical instruments are generally on display and are grouped by country and region. The museum provides a headset to visitors, and most displays include a short video so one can hear and see the instrument being played. In addition to the various instruments, the museum also has a 300 seat theatre, lunch service café, and a museum shop. Free orientation tours are generally offered on Monday-Friday. A special VIP behind the scenes type tour is available for an extra $25. A variety of concerts are held here as well, and a calendar of events is listed on the museum’s website.

The museum was established by Robert Ulrich, an avid art and music collector. The present building was completed in 2010. There are two primary floors and 200,000 square feet of space. It cost a sizable $250 million to build. In keeping with a rich price tag, the museum has an impressive, sleek and somewhat classical look. With an open, bright and inviting design, traffic flows smoothly from one gallery to the next. The galleries are also spacious enough so that one does not feel crowded even when the museum is busy.

This is the kind of place you could probably spend a few days to immerse yourself in all the music and cultures. In particular, if you are into art and expression, you will feel right at home here. Since it’s a music museum, one would expect sound to be prioritized relative to signage, and that is how it was. There was enough information to provide some background, but this is mainly a place where you experience the exhibits rather than read about them. With such a diversity of instruments and displays, it’s somewhat overwhelming if you try and take it all in methodically, so it’s better to just wander around and listen to instruments or cultures of interest without trying to visit every last display.

The most interesting exhibits were a ground floor artist gallery with photos, instruments and footage of famous contemporary performers. Also, a large gallery on American music upstairs was great. It had a range of music themes, from country, blues, rock, jazz, modern that will be relevant and relatable to most people. There was also an experience gallery downstairs in which one can play various instruments on display; this should have some appeal to kids. Also, a mechanical music gallery was worth a visit to check out mechanical pianos, nickelodeons and equivalent machinery. There was a special exhibit at the time on drums, but with plenty of interesting instruments to check out, paying an extra fee to see the drums did not really seem necessary. While the international exhibits were rich and varied as to instruments and cultures, most of this music was too exotic to really strike a chord - so to speak. A section on classical instruments in the European display was enjoyable though. The museum had a short introduction film that was worthwhile. Also, the café looked appealing and had a number of appetizing and tempting dishes. A lunch here could be a good option if you visit for a day and want to take a break from the music scene. There is both indoor and outdoor cafe seating.

While the $20 entrance fee was steep, this museum should be a winner with all types and tastes. The range of content, costumes and themes will appeal to the intellectually curious, while the melodies, performer profiles and hands-on displays should keep the multitudes from becoming bored. Accordingly, this is a museum you will want to add to your travel agenda when Phoenix is in your plans.
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