By Lonnie Burstein HewittFounded in 1998 by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), Carlsbad’s Museum of Making Music opened in March 2000, giving visitors a chance to interact with some of the instruments that helped shape American popular music. It welcomes 30,000 visitors a year, while offering a variety of workshops and concerts.
Recently closed for two months of renovation, the museum’s grand re-opening on Aug. 20 revealed a brighter, more spacious setting with more interactivity than ever, and found visitors of all ages exploring the exhibits and making music of their own.
“Our philosophy is allowing people to play real instruments, not dumbed-down versions,” said MoMM Education Manager Jillian Jepsen.
At the opening, volunteer Terry Chaffee was demo-ing a Loar mandolin, and giving quickie lessons to anyone in sight. “I love doing this,” he said. “I show folks a couple of chords and they’re on top of the world.”
The real highlight is the new Innovation Studio, where everyone can play ... and they do. Even if you manage to resist trying out the instruments, you’ll be hooked by the “Global Spotlight,” a giant touch-sensitive digital map featuring the music of 15 countries — tap on a region, and you can hear its traditional music; another tap brings you a clip of contemporary sounds. More countries will be added as time goes by.
According to Jepsen, who was also project manager for the renovation, the map is a new concept, developed with Academy Studios, a design firm in Novato.
“We wanted to give visitors a glimpse of world music in a contemporary way that was friendly to all ages,” she said. “We divided the music into two categories, Echo and Evolution, representing where music came from and where it has gone. I was really happy with how it turned out and visitors seem to really enjoy it.”
In conjunction with “Roots of Reeds,” a new temporary exhibit showcasing traditional reed instruments from the Middle and Far East and tracing their evolution into modern instruments, the museum will have a number of special events, featuring reed-playing virtuosos.
On Sept. 18, James Cotton, Grammy award-winning master of the blues harmonica, will perform with his long-time band member, guitar player/singer Tom Holland. Cotton, who has appeared with blues legends B.B. King and Muddy Waters, has been performing for more than 60 of his 76 years, and has been called “the greatest living blues harmonica player.” There will be a reception before the concert, and art curator Tatiana Sizonenko will be available to talk and answer questions about the reeds exhibit.
If you go
What:Museum of Making Music
Where:5790 Armada Drive, Carlsbad
When:10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
James Cotton concert:6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, plus Roots of Reeds reception. Tickets $35-$40 online.