Dazed and Confused at the MIM

3 March 2018

We finally got some extra time to do something, so we went to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona……. 

Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona

……and I have to say, after many years of promoting this place, and encouraging John Denver fans to go – I found that I was ultimately disappointed and puzzled and challenged – all at the same time. 

I’m pretty sure that this was not the intention of the people that put the MIM together!  I don’t want to diminish the efforts made there, and let me say that the MIM is a beautiful building with modern architecture, clean and attractive.  There are hundreds of exhibits and thousands of instruments from all over the world.  It was well thought out and organized.  It would appear that the mission statement of the MIM founders was, “something for everyone” and so it was.  Each giant room had hundreds of exhibits from the different continents of the world – and each exhibit had music samples and a video display plus costumes and instruments unique to that country.  You are given your own headset and a transmitter that picks up the music as you approach each exhibit.  Thank goodness, because you are able to listen to each exhibit at your own volume level – and the overall noise level in the building is a quiet reverence, not unlike a church or library…….very nice.

I moved on to look at and listen to the massive amounts of instruments.  It’s mind-boggling, a total sensory overload of music, dance, rhythm, tradition and mechanics (how instruments work and how they are built).  Whew!  It’s impossible to take it all in! 

I headed over to the “Artist Room”.  I knew there was a display for John Denver there and I was looking forward to seeing his very first guitar and like a proud mother I moved in to view the display….very nice.  A respectful description of his career was printed in front of the display. His guitar was there, good.  The video was playing but my transponder wasn’t picking it up so I moved closer, closer, huh….. I had to practically stand on top of the player to hear the video, no problem, I worked my way through the crowd to get close enough to hear the video, and I wasn’t there very long because the video only played part of “This Old Guitar” and part of “Country Roads”…..then (blasphemy) the video started playing another artist!  I guess John Denver has to share his video with the artist next door (who by the way had another video screen in his exhibit playing more videos full time).  Huh? What did I miss?

John Denver Exhibit

Was there another John Denver exhibit somewhere else?  Maybe there was another area somewhere in the museum for RCA’s top-selling recording artists.  Maybe a separate area for artists who wrote their own hit songs, recorded multi-platinum albums, proficiently played several instruments, entertained millions, a good will ambassador to foreign countries, talk show host, television and movie star, champion for world peace, spokesman for world hunger, and activist for the environment………where is that section?  I walked past the exhibit for the Black Eyed Peas’ drummer (yes, his exhibit is bigger than John Denver’s) and the entire WALL for Elvis and another WALL for Taylor Swift (geeze, I’m not slammin’ Taylor, but really??) nothing, nada, zip.  That’s it – John Denver, over there by the bathroom… (not really, just how it felt).  One more observation…. There is NO display for James Burton or Jim Horne or any of the wrecking crew.  Why not?  I just don’t get it.

So now I’m on a fact-finding mission.  How are these decisions made? Is this rented space? Do I need to talk to the museum or to John Denver’s Estate?  Can we, the John Denver fans motivate, create or pay for a better display?

What would YOU like to see in the artist exhibit in John Denver’s display?  Let’s get some good ideas started right here!  I’ll be making some calls in March.



  1. Posted by: Donald O’Roark

    Is that it?

  2. Posted by: Anne

    That’s it Don!

  3. Posted by: Tom Fleetwood

    maybe Charlie Rich was involved in setting the whole thing up

  4. Posted by: Anne

    Bwahaha!! Tom, too funny – and sad at the same time. If youtube and facebook had been around when that happened to John Denver – that incident would have been all over the internet – like when Kanye took the microphone from Taylor Swift……

  5. Posted by: Molly Hahn

    Interesting. Keep us posted on your results. Sparse compared to the entire, long hallway in the Denver CO airport or display room at Red Rock devoted to JD. Thanks for keeping on top of this.

  6. Posted by: Anne

    Yes Molly, in comparison to the Denver Airport and Red Rocks – so disappointing!

  7. Posted by: Vicky Seymour

    Well, guess I would have been so disappointed if I was going there just to see John’s wall. Glad I got to see the videos that you are sending. Just wanted to know it was my first concert with you and Jim back in Fergus Falls, MN and I so thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope that you will come back again to MN, don’t care where. I live in Mound, around the Lake Minnetonka area, so, would go the distance to hear both your lovely voices.

  8. Posted by: Anne

    Thank you so much Vicky, we will be back in Minnesota for sure!!

  9. Posted by: Don Stover

    Wow! Is that all there is? John certainly deserves more recognition than this affords. Thank you Anne, for asking the questions and trying to get him the visibility he deserves.

  10. Posted by: Don Plugge

    I love reading about your travels and places you sing….I walked though a Walmart and they had their piped in music, then a John Denver song came on. What a voice he had compared to newer singers…Went though a good will and the lady pulled things out from the back,,,,on the roller were three new Denver LP;s and an Elvis one..,all never played for 99 cents each. My wife said they are closing many Guitar Centers because today’s youth have their phones and don’t play guitars like we did. I could listed to Denver and Glen Campel over and over…Aspen is awesome…..Only time I saw Arizona is when my dad drove through at night with his cool water bag on the front of the car……thank you don

  11. Posted by: Linda Openchowski

    Go get ’em Anne! I live in AZ not far from this museum and wanted to take a trip there just to see this one exhibit. Now I may skip it as I would feel the same as you: “WHHHAAATTT The…”
    I think the exhibit should include the many things John did for the rest of the world. His feed the children campaign, his tireless defense of nature and the environment we live in, his being invited to China to play, etc. So many many other worthy facts that should have been included other than a few bars of two songs. What a shame.

  12. Posted by: Sue Wigner

    Hi Anne! As an AZ music teacher who frequents the MIM on field trips throughout the year, I do know that the Denver “display” was originally directly across from the Taylor Swift wall, and bigger – the videos have been shortened for some reason, and are shared now with another artist…in part because they change exhibits every so often and are adding new artists regularly. I too was disappointed to see the smaller display, but found out that what they display is also based on what these foundations allow them to have and for how long – the Elvis display has changed, and John Lennon’s piano goes back soon…Taylor Swift has generously donated the dress, piano and mic – also, get the feeling they cater to kids a bit since SO many school groups attend during the week – that’s who they want to see is Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas…not that it’s any excuse so I still hope you call, but I think that’s where they’re coming from ! 😉

  13. Posted by: Anne

    Thank you so much for this insight Sue. I can certainly see that this museum is a GREAT place for kids to go and learn about music and dance world wide! I had a feeling that this might take cooperation between the museum and John Denver’s estate – it’s nice to hear that they change things up…gives me hope we can possibly do something about a better JD display!

  14. Posted by: Marsha Kjar

    That is rather sad. I would certainly make a call. Does not sound very fair to me. John Denver was amazing in so many ways & deservers WAY MORE than this. Keep in touch and good luck.

  15. Posted by: Anne

    I’ll be calling.

  16. Posted by: Grace Dewey

    I agree too, Anne. I’ve always loved John Denver, but “re-discovered” him when I saw you all in Rochester a couple of years ago. With the help of Youtube, I would play John’s songs all day at work and I was amazed all over again. What a wonderful voice and all those beautiful lyrics that just touch the heart. I learned so much more about what an environmentalist he was and all his work with Windstar for many years. And to think that the exhibit only played part of his songs – obviously the exhibitors didn’t do their homework. Let me know what I can do to help in your mission! Thanks for doing this, Anne.

  17. Posted by: Anne

    Thank you Grace!

  18. Posted by: Al Wright

    Just not a place for Denver fans, Thanks for the report Anne, that’s one place I never have to go to!

  19. Posted by: Anne

    I have to encourage you to go! It’s such a great place, but just disappointing as far as John Denver goes.

  20. Posted by: Vicky Seymour

    I see you have a concert set for St. Michael MN this November. I am so excited!!!!! Much closer than Fergus Falls as i live in the Lake Minnetonka area. See you two in Nov.

  21. Posted by: Anne

    Hi Vicky! Unfortunately our concert in Saint Michael has to be rescheduled due to venue conflicts. We are promised a rescheduled date and I will post the new concert once we have the new date figured out! We will be in Eau Claire, WI and Fond Du Lac, WI in November – if either of those would work.

  22. Posted by: Vicky Seymour

    PS my son and I are heading out west in 8 days. Our first stop is Colorado, plans are to visit the John Denver Memorial in Aspen. I hear it’s quite lovely.
    Have a great day!!

  23. Posted by: Anne

    Ah, it’s certainly worth the trip and it will be beautiful this time of year!! I think it has won awards for it’s wildflower display….hopefully they will still blooming!! Have fun!!

  24. Posted by: Lisa Gygax

    I felt the same way when I was there in April. Since it is all about instruments, I would think John Denver playing The Bells of Rhymney on his 12 string Guild would have been great additional song for the video. I actually sent in a letter also for the omission of the wrecking crew but the failure to feature the most recorded bass player Carol Kay or other prominent women instrumentalists such as the Mother of Rock Sister Rosetta Tharpe who Chuck Berry and Little Richard learned from. I never think that Country Roads actually represents John’s music best and the Exhibit was sparse. I had heard he was cremated with that guitar but in checking pictures and seeing the guitar close up- the MIM his first guitar. It was still a fabulous museum that takes 2 days to see.

  25. Posted by: Anne

    All true Lisa Gygax! I would like to see more about John at the MIM – your other suggestions are spot on. I hope they will take it all into account when they consider changes. Yes, the guitar at the MIM is the original guitar or so they say. Good to hear from you and I hope you are doing well!

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"It was a heavenly evening of beautiful music, a shining tribute to John Denver, one of which I believe Denver himself would salute."...

R.V. Hight
The Sanford Herald, Greensboro, NC

"It was one of the best programs we have had here and I hope you will come back up next year. The sound and look were perfect and my friends talked all night about how much enjoyment and sentiment your show gave us."

Bob Hartunian
Fawnskin, CA.


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