Michigan Science Center rocks on with new music-based exhibition

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 26, 2013

 Visitors to “The Science of Rock ‘n’ Roll” at the Michigan Science Center will have a chance to record and film themselves playing instruments and then upload the video to social media sites.

Visitors to “The Science of Rock ‘n’ Roll” at the Michigan Science Center will have a chance to record and film themselves playing instruments and then upload the video to social media sites.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Science Center


DETROIT — Do you watch reality entertainment shows and think, “I could (sing/play music) better than those people”? Do you crank up the stereo at home and play air guitar? Do you sing along to your favorite songs in the car?

Whether you’re willing to admit to any of the aforementioned questions or not, “The Science of Rock ‘n’ Roll” at the Michigan Science Center — formerly the Detroit Science Center — has plenty of interactive kiosks for people of all ages to indulge their inner rock star while learning about the science behind the sound. Seven galleries with hands-on features enable visitors to find out more about music theory, the evolution of recording, rock instrumentation, music industry careers and how rock instruments work, along with a series of pods that explore rock history by decade and a music video room with a light show and crowd effects where visitors can observe or dance in the open space.

Developed by Toronto-based Elevation Productions, “The Science of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is at the Michigan Science Center June 20 to Dec. 31, 2013. This is only the second venue to host the touring exhibit, which debuted at the Kansas City Union Station last November and closed in May. Bryan Reinblatt, managing director of Elevation Productions, said “tens of thousands” of visitors saw the exhibit in Kansas City, and organizers were “proud to bring” it to Detroit.

“It’s so cool to be in Detroit, which has an unbelievable (musical) history,” Reinblatt said.

Although the exhibit wasn’t changed to speak specifically to Detroit rock history, the science center will be bringing in local bands to perform and will be hosting Rock Band video game competitions, said Shelly Otenbaker, senior vice president of Eisenbrenner Public Relations.

She said there will be “all sorts of things to get more kids engaged.”

For an additional $1, visitors can purchase a “backstage pass” that enables them to record music and video of their performance at various stations and share it on social media sites, explained Kerri Budde, senior marketing manager at the Michigan Science Center. There are stations with drums, guitars, keyboards and vocal booths. No musical experience is necessary, although neophytes might want to think twice before posting embarrassing videos online of themselves playing tunelessly.

“For the museum industry, it’s the perfect next step because (the experience) is not just contained within the museum,” Budde said.

A few lucky local residents had a chance to see the exhibit before it opened to the public. Mike Larsen, of St. Clair Shores, brought his adult niece and nephew, along with their two young children; they were visiting from Arkansas, where Erick Larsen is a drummer with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s great,” Mike Larsen said of the multitude of displays and experiences. “It’s got a little bit for everyone. … It’s got some interaction for the little ones, so they can dance around and burn off some energy.”

Erick Larsen’s kids — Ella, 3, and Andrew, 1 — were enjoying a music video display with plenty of space to move to the music.

“It’s hands-on — that’s really important, I think. Especially with kids,” Erick Larsen said. “If they cannot touch and interact and have that kinesthetic experience, it’s not as effective. I’m a (music) teacher, too, so being able to get kids to interact with the exhibit makes a bigger impact.”

Todd Slisher, director of visitor experiences at the Michigan Science Center, agrees.

“One of the things we liked so much about this exhibit is that it appealed to so many different generations,” he said. “Parents get some nostalgia (with the music history). We’re really hoping to draw a lot of families. And with all of the interactives, we think everyone will (have fun with those).”

The museum — which Slisher said opened full-time under its new moniker Jan. 31 — is open seven days a week and offers IMAX films and a host of other exhibits. Regular visitors should consider a membership. A family membership, for example, is $75 for the year and covers general admission and admission for as many children under age 18 as are in the family, he said.

“We’re definitely coming out with a bang and coming out with a robust set of programs,” Slisher said. In a nod to the rock exhibition, he said they’re featuring music-based laser shows in the planetarium.

The exhibit is aimed at musicians and music aficionados alike.

“People get a better idea of what goes into music,” Reinblatt said.

Visitors will “learn a little about the science behind (the music), but also have a great time,” Slisher said.

Reinblatt said he hopes visitors “just appreciate music in a new way.”

The Michigan Science Center is located at 5020 John R in Detroit’s Cultural Center. Admission to “The Science of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is $16.95 for children and $19.95 for adults, which includes general museum admission. For more information, call (313) 577-8400 or visit www.michigansciencecenter.org or www.Mi-Sci.org.