by Carrie Kirk
I have always had a passion for guitars. Maybe it's because I can't play any string instrument of any kind. Maybe it's just that I enjoy listening to most music. And now that I am a parent, I think it's because I would really, really (really) like for my kids to have a love for music and maybe even play an instrument themselves.
The Eiteljorg Museum recently opened its Guitars! exhibit and experience--a perfect opportunity to introduce my kids to the instrument. The most exciting aspect of this show is that it exposes its audience to an amazing array of music. After you purchase your ticket to the museum, you simply leave proof of identification and pick up your Ipod that plays close to seventy selections of music, ranging from obscure musicians to those who are icons in the music industry.
Since its opening on March 4, I have visited the exhibit twice. Once I drove to the museum sans kids, with latte in my car's cup-holder, listening to The Punch Brothers. That in itself was a great start to my visit. When I entered the gallery, I walked - no, sauntered - through the exhibit, lapping up the music that coincided with the guitars on display and the artists' descriptions and photos. It was late on a Friday afternoon so the museum had fewer visitors to contend with, enabling me to take any route I wanted. If I wanted to move directly from Alvino Rey to George Harrison, I could...and I did. Many of the guitars on display were works of art and hailed from some of the greats - Buddy Holly, Chris Funk of The Decemberists, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, and even Jimi Hendrix(Cherokee heritage, BTW). I left the museum charged and anxious to retrieve much of the music I heard on my Spotify account.
My second visit was an altogether different experience. This car trip included three boys - my youngest and his - well, let's just say - "enthusiastic and eager" friend and one of our mature and kind teenage neighbors who confessed that he really wasn't much of a music fan. (Folks, he brought a book to read to-and-from.) No latte in the cup-holder this time, and I had to turn off the music because I couldn't hear over the din of the "enthusiastic and eager" young boys in the backseat. This time my visit was centered around the kids' experience and encountering the exhibit with them.
Our teenage friend took off with the iPod and quietly traveled through the exhibit. When I peaked in to check on him, I was impressed by so many groups of people (family and friends) experiencing the exhibit together while having an individual experience with the music. Meanwhile the young boys had a heyday with the interactive Guitar Hero in the main hallway. After going through the tutorial, they jammed on the guitars for a good fifteen minutes. Who knows who the winner was since they both believed they each were and argued about it for the next fifteen minutes. Next to Guitar Hero were two large pieces of paper, asking visitors to pen who their actual guitar hero was. Our little friend wrote "Justen Beiber" (sic) and after George determined that Michael Jackson had not played guitar, he scribbled "Will.i.am." (We have to listen to the Beatles more.)
In the gallery, they took turns playing on two guitars, one acoustic and the other electric (It was hooked up to headphones. Good thinking, Eiteljorg.) There were also rock star duds they could try on for the full-effect. They got excited about some of the guitars on display too, especially the unusual ones with various shapes. With our teenage friend anxious to get back to his book, we dragged the boys out, promising to return before the exhibit closes. (Plenty of time since the exhibit runs through August 4.) I am a firm believer in leaving anything while the kids are still happy and wanting more. When they become completely over it, it truly is all over for everyone.
Will my kids be the next George Benson? Probably not. But hopefully with experiences like the one we had at the Eiteljorg, they will come to appreciate the likes of George Benson and when asked ten years from now who their guitar hero is, they may answer Stephen Stills, Carrie Brownstein or Keith Richards - and spell it correctly too.