Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) Celebrates Arizona’s Centennial with I Am AZ Music Exhibition

The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) celebrates Arizona’s Centennial with an exhibition “I Am AZ Music” on view from February 18, 2012, MIM will document how music making continues to be an integral part of Arizona’s cultural fabric.

“I Am AZ Music: MIM Celebrates 100 Years of Arizona Music” examines Arizona’s history through a musical lens. Beginning with the original statehood celebration in 1912, MIM’s exhibition tells the story of numerous musicians, musical instrument makers, recording studios, performing arts organizations, and musical traditions significant to Arizona’s past, present, and future. The exhibition consists of more than 30 exhibits, each one including artifacts, photographs, and audiovisual content designed to bring the subjects to life.

“The traditions and personalities represented in our centennial exhibition highlight Arizona’s importance in the history of American music,” said MIM curator Cullen Strawn. “Country fans will enjoy our tributes to Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings, while jazz enthusiasts are sure to love the exhibit centered on Russell ‘Big Chief’ Moore, a member of the Gila River Indian Community who played trombone with Louis Armstrong.”

Some noteworthy objects in the exhibition include a double-neck guitar played by Duane Eddy on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” in 1960; an exact replica of a stage suit Alice Cooper wore in the late 1970s, which he wore during the filming of “Dark Shadows,” a movie slated to be released in 2012; instruments played by the Gin Blossoms, including a guitar used by the group’s original songwriter, Doug Hopkins, on some of the band’s biggest hits; and the gold dress worn by singer Jordin Sparks during the “American Idol” finale.

Other highlights include an exhibit on Canyon Records, which was founded more than 60 years ago by Phoenix media pioneers Ray and Mary Boley and specializes in producing and distributing Native American music, and another exhibit dedicated to Floyd Ramsey, whose music studio hosted sessions in the 1950s by Duane Eddy, Waylon Jennings, Wayne Newton, and Alice Cooper. Contemporary musical instrument manufacturers that make Arizona their home are also featured, such as the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, Navajo-Ute flute maker Aaron White, Yaqui drum and rattle maker Alex Maldonado, White Mountain Banjo Works, Phoenix Guitar Company, classical guitar maker Brian Dunn, and Apache fiddle maker Anthony Belvado.

Some of the state’s performing arts organizations also have a presence with exhibits showcasing the Arizona Opera, the Phoenix Opera, and the Phoenix Symphony. Finally, the exhibition examines genres and cultures synonymous with “Arizona music,” for example, cowboy music, mariachi music, and the music of some of the Arizona-based Native American groups, such as the Tohono O’odham tradition of social dance music called “waila,” or “chicken scratch.”

The Musical Instrument Museum is located at 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard in Phoenix (corner of Tatum and Mayo Boulevards, just south of Loop 101). Please visit or call 480.478.6000 for more information.

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