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Classical 101

Instruments of the World

In a day and age when highly-paid executives seem to plunder corporations for their own gain -- not to mention spending a lot of time in front of Congressional committees -- at least one retired executive is hoping his wealth can help us better understand the world we live in and maybe leave it a better place. Bob Ulrich, who recently retired from his position as President and CEO of Target, was traveling in Europe with plans to by an impressionist painting and donate it to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. While in Belgium, Ulrich ran the idea of a Musical Instrument Museum past a friend during a casual conversation. His friend agreed it was a great idea, but suggested that for what he was going to spend on the painting Ulrich could just buy a museum. Ulrich's dream was realized in Phoenix in late April, as the ribbon was cut during grand opening ceremonies for what is know simply as MIM. While many museums are dedicated in whole or in part to musical instruments, what makes MIM unique is that it contains some 12,000 instruments from 195 countries. You'll find instruments made by recycling FedEx boxes, water drums, instruments used in the royal court music of Rwanda and Burundi, along with what they term the "Artist Gallery," instruments linked with famous musicians...Eric Clapton's well-known "Brownie" Fender Stratocaster, the Steinway piano John Lennon used when he wrote "Imagine," the very first Steinway, built in the kitchen of Henrich Engelhard Steinweg's home in Seesen, Germany in 1836, and a 1926 Antun Nahat oud owned and played by Palestinian master musician Simon Shaheen...the list goes on and on. MIM also goes beyond looking and reading, included in the 190,000 sq. ft. building is an intimate, 299 seat theatre, which will allow visitors to experience music from around the globe. Suffice it to say that, whatever your musical tastes, this museum literally has something for everyone.