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100 Years of Arizona Music

“I am AZ Music” curator Dr. Cullen Strawn reveals the unique attributes that give Arizona music its flair.

The multicultural, multimedia centennial legacy project, “I Am Arizona Music” at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) explores a century of uniquely Arizonan musical traditions. More than thirty exhibits remember musicians, musical instrument makers, recording studios, and performing arts organizations. Artifacts include a double-neck guitar played by Duane Eddy on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1960; a trombone played by Russell “Big Chief” Moore, Alice Cooper’s stage clothing, a biography of Billie Maxwell, and more, accompanied by AV footage of the performers. MIM has contributed footage and images of Arizona’s artists and unique musical roots in this multipage online exhibit.

Music Without Borders

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Southwestern music is alive and well in Arizona! Our blending of cultures enjoys a distinctive musical heritage that incorporates the sounds of brass, guitar, and even accordion. Discover mariachi, tejano, and the Tohono O’odham folk music known as waila as you explore music without borders.

Cowboy Music

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Arizona’s ranching history, rural string bands, and rodeo gave rise to national legacies in the arena of “cowboy music.” Explore Arizona’s contributions to this genre, including Billie Maxwell, the first woman to record “western music,”  and the Singing Cowboy, Rex Allen.

Arizona Musicians

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Arizona is full of musical talent! Music lovers 16 to 60 are likely fans of  popular musicians like Linda Ronstadt, Alice Cooper, and Stevie Nicks. Lalo Guerrero created the genre known as Chicano Music. Duane Eddy and Lee Hazelwood changed the sound of rock and roll forever. Calexico is gaining fame with its border-inspired sound. Meet Arizona musicians.

Canyon Records

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Each of Arizona's American Indian tribes creates a distinctive type of music. Phoenix-based Canyon Records has captured some of these traditions in its 60 year career as America’s oldest American Indian recording label.

Musical Education for All Ages

Discover classroom learning resources designed to complement MIM’s unique exhibitions. These specially developed curricula teach students about everything from musical culture to the science of sound waves.

MIM offers unique curriculum resources created through collaborative efforts of the MIM Education Team and K–12 educators in order to prepare students for their visit to MIM and to continue the learning after they return to school. All lesson plans align with Arizona State Academic Standards and lessons are multidisciplinary, drawing on music education, science, and social studies.

Musical Instrument Museum Logo


Play your own tune in the Experience Gallery.

About MIM

The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix is “the most extraordinary museum you’ll ever hear.” MIM celebrates the world’s diverse musical cultures and fosters global understanding by showcasing an expansive collection of instruments from every country, as well as instruments played by music legends and made by master crafters. These instruments come to life through A/V technology that enables visitors to see and hear these instruments played in their original cultural settings—an approach unlike any other museum in the world. Guests can enjoy a seamless interactive experience, a feast for eyes and ears, a welcoming and fun environment, and exceptional musical performances in the 300-seat MIM Theater.

Galleries and Sounds

MIM’s interactive experience is fun for the whole family.

Find musical instruments from around two hundred countries and territories, with subsections for different types of ethnic, folk, and tribal music. A variety of galleries offer different approaches to the experience of music and musical instruments. The Orientation Gallery on the first floor showcases the artistry, diversity, and movement of musical instruments from around the world. On the second floor, a series of galleries represent different regions of the world. Guests can discover ancient gongs, the sounds of a mariachi band, the secrets of the gamelan, and more. Play instruments from all corners of the world in the Experience Gallery, or feel the vibes of instruments and props used by beloved music icons in the Artist Gallery. MIM also displays traveling exhibitions.

“Hot spots” around MIM immerse guests in the sounds of musical instruments with loops of streamed music. Wireless headsets seamlessly tune into to audio and video clips that familiarize guests with the unique sounds of each musical culture. Videos playing on high-resolution flat screens give guests an opportunity to see instruments performed in their unique cultural context.

MIM History

MIM was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation. An avid collector of African art and a world museum enthusiast, Ulrich and his friend Marc Felix originated the idea for MIM after a visit to the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium. Their unique vision was to create a museum and collection that afford equal representation to the musical instruments and music of every country in the world, rather than the emphasis on western instruments found in many other museums. State‐of-the‐art audiovisual technology delivers the sound of these instruments through high-quality headphones, providing a one-of‐a‐kind experience to museum guests.

Phoenix was chosen as the location for this world-class museum due to its status as one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States and its culturally diverse population.

Hear how MIM brings instruments to life with state of the art technology.

Visit the Musical Instrument Museum website.


Arizona’s Music History