For a must-see look at the creative and business sides of making music, plan a visit to Los Angeles’ outstanding and often overlooked GRAMMY Museum, part of downtown’s L.A. Live complex. Ultra-hands-on exhibits make this a great place for families, especially if you’ve got older kids who are into music. The museum lets them make their air-guitar fantasies come true on real instruments, or they can mix their own tunes in sound booths, just like a music producer or sound engineer. Historic recordings and videos let you relive your youth, too (Woodstock, anyone?), learn the roots of dozens of musical genres, or just tune in to some classic Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holliday. Another enlightening exhibit lets you listen to the same recording produced using different mediums through the years, including gramophones, vinyl records, eight-track tapes (remember those?), MP3 players, and streaming devices, the norm for today’s music. Also enjoy the huge collection of memorabilia and clothing ranging from Elvis’s personal fan notes to Michael Jackson’s bedazzled gloves and the jacket from his Thriller video.
Nwaka Onwusa, the former director of curatorial affairs at the GRAMMY Museum and the current vice president and chief curator at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, says that she’s most proud of “the diversity of content that is displayed in the [GRAMMY] museum…a reflection of revolutionary music and musicians.” Another hidden gem in the museum is the 200-seat, state-of-the-art Clive Davis Theater, which hosts live concerts by some of popular music’s biggest artists, and talks with famous producers and others in the music business. It’s a great way to get insights and see major performers like Taylor Swift and Annie Lennox in an intimate performance space. The museum also offers a generous selection of digital exhibits viewable from anywhere.