From mariachi to honky tonks

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The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix celebrates 100 years of Arizona music with an exhibit titled “I Am AZ Music” — which opens on Sat, Feb. 18 with a full slate of events and runs through Jan. 6, 2013. Admission to the exhibit, located inside the museum’s United States/Canada Gallery, is free with museum admission.

Several performing arts groups are featured in the exhibit — including the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, which gave its inaugural performance in 1929. Also Phoenix Symphony (founded in 1947), Arizona Opera (founded in 1972 as Tucson Opera Company), Ballet Arizona (founded in 1986) and Phoenix Opera (founded in 2005).

Turns out Arizona’s diverse musical roots include cowboy poets and cowgirl singers. Youth mariachi groups and the father of Chicano music. Funky Broadway and choral tunes. Even skate punk and alternative rock. We’ve even got two state anthems, adopted by the Arizona legislature in 1919 and 1982, so we might be due for a third come mid-century.

Plenty of famous musicians were born in Arizona — or based here when they started out or made it big. Seems Buck Owens was playing honky tonks around Mesa in 1945 and the Earwigs gave their debut performance at Phoenix’s Cortez High School talent show in 1964. The latter, of course, became the Spiders, the Nazz and Alice Cooper.

Waylon Jennings was based in Phoenix when he signed with RCA records, as was Wayne Newton when he launched his singing career at Fremont Casino in Las Vegas. The Tempe-based Gin Blossoms released their first full length album, “Dusted,” in 1989 — two years after Tucson-born Linda Rondstadt released the album “Canciones de mi Padre.”

The world can thank us as well for alternative rock bands sporting names like “Meat Puppets” (they started in Phoenix in 1980) and “Jimmy Eat World” (they lived in Mesa when their debut album was released in 1994). Phoenix-born Stevie Nicks as inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and Glendale-born Jordin Sparks won “American Idol” in 2007.

The “I Am AZ Music” exhibit includes displays dedicated to Native American music and music rooted in Latino culture. Folks exploring this and other MIM exhibits can wear a device that plays corresponding music prompted by one’s proximity to each exhibit, making for a multi-sensory experience without all the fuss of turning something on and off.

Those who attend the public opening and celebration (Sat, Feb 18 from 10am-5pm) can enjoy the “I Am AZ Music” exhibit, explore the MIM’s many galleries and enjoy several special activities — including musical performances, lecture/demonstrations, a curator-guided tour of “I Am AZ Music” (1:30pm) and more. Details and times are available online at www.themim.org.

– Lynn

Coming up: A double dose of Dorothy

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