Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

After living in Scottsdale for six years we had driven past the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) hundreds of times and every time we wondered why we had not visited yet. We heard nothing but good things about the museum so what was stopping us? Maybe the fact that it’s a museum about just instruments…doesn’t sound too fascinating. But keep reading.

As music lovers we both have an appreciation for music. Zach grew up playing the drums and piano. Steph grew up playing the flute and piano. We both find music to be the perfect complement to life: country music for driving, gangsta rap for working out, and classical music for studying, etc. With our experience, we thought we knew more than most people about musical instruments. Listen up- we had no idea!

“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ― Leonard Bernstein

The MIM was incredible and no we’re not being paid to say that. We spent four hours there and could have doubled that. From exhibits to videos to interactive rooms, there’s more than enough to see of the 6,800 instruments originating from 200 countries and territories. Well, to be accurate they actually have over 13,600 instruments but they only display half of them at a time. So the good news is, you can visit back every so often to see new instruments!

So where did all the instruments come from? Mr. Robert Ulrich, former CEO of the Target Corporation, went to an instrument museum in Belgium and loved it. He was sitting in an outdoor cafe with a friend, drinking a beer and smoking a cigar, after his third visit to the city’s instrument museum. According to the NY Times he told his friend “it was such a neat experience,” and his friend said, why don’t you build one? So in 2010 he built the MIM in Phoenix, Arizona. He has always been a collector of African art which included instruments so he donated money as well as his personal collection.

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” ― Bono

The MIM’s exhibits are split up into five sections by Geographic Galleries: Africa & Middle East, Asia & Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and USA & Canada. Each exhibit has versions of instruments that are common to the region, including videos of natives playing those instruments. While visiting the museum, you wear a wireless headset that is sensored. So as soon as you step up to an exhibit, it starts playing the music for that one. How. Freaking. Cool.

Like we said before, there was so much more to instruments than we thought. Instruments from the USA are just the tip of the iceberg. It was the instruments from other countries that astonished us. The creativity, the unique sounds, and the true joy music brings to people all around the world never gets old. Music brings us to life!

The thing we found most interesting about the Africa and Middle East exhibit was the creativity in the instruments. What we would consider trash here in the USA like old oil cans, old forks, and bottles were turned into instruments. Yes, actual, good-sounding, musical instruments.

A few of our other favorite things were in the Asia gallery where there was an interesting video on how gongs are made. Wow- hard work! Then in the USA gallery there was a Steinway Piano exhibit with step-by-step demos and videos on how pianos are made. It ain’t easy looking: bending wood to be the shape of a piano!

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ― Billy Joel

Don’t leave without going to the interactive Experience Gallery that is filled with lots of instruments you finally get to play! Bang your heart out!

In addition, on the first floor is a small room filled with some of the most beautiful guitars we’ve ever seen! All different sizes, shapes, colors, and origins! Lastly, there’s an Artist’s Exhibit filled with clothing worn by famous musicians like Taylor Swift, John Lennon, and Elvis Presley.

All in all, the MIM reminded us that music is the language of the soul. No matter where in the world or what instruments are being played, music moves us from the inside out.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

How to Visit the MIM

Open daily 9am-5pm

Adults $20

Address: 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050

On top of visiting the MIM to see the museum, you can also go there for concerts! Checkout their upcoming concerts here.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ― Bob Marley