It has been said that music speaks the international language. It transcends any barriers, brings people together, and you don’t even have to know how to read music to do all these things. Opened April 24, 2010 by founder Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation and his friend Marc Felix, it has become a premier destination point to see and hear in Arizona. It was after a trip to the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium that their vision for the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) was born. Utilizing instruments throughout history, the artists that made that music, and the most modern technology available today, this extraordinary place has become the world’s first global musical instrument museum.
MIM offers a one of a kind experience in it’s 200,000 square foot, two story space. The collection of instruments from around the world is extensive as they are gathered from two hundred countries and territories in the world. Instruments are displayed that possess both artistic and historic merit, and those used in tribal ceremonies are of specific importance.
MIM’s exterior is complementary to it’s desert surroundings. The outside is made of grained Indian sandstone, and the 20 acre site features desert landscaping using plants indigenous to the area. Inside, the main walkway that connects the whole building is fluid like a river earning it the name El Rio. There are patterns etched into the Venetian plaster walls, and the floor tile is Italian porcelain so the international theme continues. The museum is also concerned with the environment. Taking advantage of Scottsdale’s 300 plus days of sunlight a year, windows and skylights are utilized to their fullest potential. The museum also has a 260kW PowerPly™ photovoltaic (PV) solar system on the rooftop, making it the first U.S. commercial installation of the lightweight, roof‐integrated PowerPly photovoltaic module.
Each of the two floors at MIM offer different treats. The second floor is broken up into five regions representing different areas of the globe. Here, you can see instruments from Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. The first floor features different galleries each with it’s own personality. The Experience Gallery is a particular favorite of children, but all ages can touch, play, and experience instruments from around the world like a gong or Burmese harp. The Mechanical Music Gallery features instruments that were designed to play themselves like player pianos and music boxes. There’s the Target Gallery which changes with traveling shows, special engagements, and exhibitions. It is made possible by grants from the Target Corporation. Perhaps one of the most interesting galleries is the Artist Gallery. Without musical artists, we might not have anything to inspire us to new heights. The most recent exhibit opening is one honoring Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift knows how to play several instruments as well as sing and has gone multiplatinum. Along side her, several musical icons like Elvis Presley have their own exhibits. There is even a piano on display that was used by John Lennon of the Beatles when he was composing the song “Imagine.”
Most museums are so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Not so at MIM. Besides the Experience Gallery where you can play your own, each guest of the museum is given a set of headphones. With the wifi in the museum, different areas have looping screens of music playing so that you are able to hear what some of these beautifully exotic instruments sound like. Some you may have never heard of like the Chinese paigu (hourglass drum.) Others even have videos of someone playing the instrument as well. Inside the museum is an auditorium. This auditorium holds live musical performances. It was kept to an intimate 300 seating area in order to provide the best acoustics in the room.
If you find yourself wanting to spend the entire day surrounded by music, there is a cafe as well. The MIM Cafe offers global cuisine and the menu changes daily according to what the seasonal availability is. More than just a quick lunch, MIM Cafe is a fantastic place to eat all on it’s own. If you just want a quick pick-me-up, Cafe Allegro might be a good choice for a nice cup of coffee, wine or beer.
From the food, to the fun, to the features, MIM is truly one of a kind. Visit their website www.mim.org to schedule a group tour, or to find out about the many events and concerts that MIM has each month. They are open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas so there’s ample time to go during the 363 other days of the year! Indulge your senses at MIM.