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Come see (and HEAR!) Noteworthy: Musical Instruments Through Time

On display June 22 – October 28!

More than 20 instruments are on display to tie in with our newest film, America’s Musical Journey! Not only will you have the chance to see instruments that helped to shape the history of music, but you can hear them too.

The informative panels detailing each instrument include a QR code to allow visitors to hear what the instrument sounds like when played. Using a smart phone to scan this QR Code, your phone will play a sample of music played by each instrument.

One item you’ll see featured is a Fiddlette. Designed by Carl Wheeler Mott around 1927, the fiddlette was a stripped-down version of a violin. It was invented as an inexpensive way for students to find out if they had any talent. If they did, they could purchase a standard violin later.

The fiddlette came in a kit, precut, and had to be assembled. The sounding chamber was a hollow box of California redwood. The instrument sold for less than a dollar. At the height of its popularity, from 1928-1929, approximately 8,000 fiddlettes were sold. These included violaettes, celloettes, and bassettes.

In Dixon, Illinois, during the 1929-30 school year, 178 students were enrolled in the fiddlette program. When the depression struck in 1929, the market for them was greatly reduced. Another incident cited in the decline of the fiddlette was a 1930 blizzard in Chicago. A demonstration by a group of 21fiddlette students was scheduled to appear before a national convention of music supervisors. Due to the blizzard, and the resulting size of the audience, the intended widespread promotion of the instrument did not occur.

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