I’m in southern California for a few days and had a little free time, so I decided to do something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time and pay a visit to the NAMM Museum of Making Music (MOMM). I know most of you know of NAMM and read my annual show reports, but they do a lot more than sponsor a couple of trade shows. The organization is a strong supporter of music education and history (natch – the more you learn the more toys you want to buy) and has been collecting “stuff” for quite some time.The museum opened to the public in 2000, putting a collection of instruments and ephemera on display that traced the history and development of both the instruments themselves and the social importance of music in the world.
While MOMM has always included live demonstrations and concerts in their program, for its first ten years it was primarily a hands-off display, but in 2011, a healthy donation allowed them to expand the few instruments out in the open with a “pick me up and play me” placard, adding a large interactive area with a group of instruments that visitors can play – pianos, guitars, banjos, ukes, and a sort of band area with a couple of guitars, bass, electronic drums, keyboards, electronic percussion, and a place for a singer. Occasionally a group of visitors will form an impromptu band (or maybe they’re already a band) and play a few tunes.
In addition ot the four regular galleries, the MOMM has a gallery for rotating exhibits featuring a specific instrument. Harps were on display here during my visit and banjos will be coming in April of 2014. There’s also a concert program if you happen to be there when one is scheduled. I just missed a show with a mandolin orchestra from San Diego. You can schedule a tour with a knowledgeable guide or just come in and browse. I had a great time going around with Bill Kirkpatrick (official title: Visitor Services Manager), an active musician himself, and we had fun swapping stories and histories of things like Ukelins (which they had on display) and Marxophones (which they didn’t).
The museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday) and is located at the NAMM headquarters in Carlsbad, California. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students with ID, youngsters between 6 and 18, and old farts like me over 60. Children under 5 are free. They encourage families and make special arrangements for groups. Think about it if you work with a scout troop or church music group. They also have classes and organized groups providing an opportunity for folks who used to play to dust off their instruments and get back to making music. After all, that’s their last name.
Check out the MOMM web site, and consider making a visit if you’re in the area.