LOU'S VIEWS: A new attraction wants to drum up business

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Lou Harry

An outstanding memory from my childhood was exploring St. Augustine, Fla., with my slightly older brother. On a long-promised, budget-minded trip to Disney World with our mother, we spent a night in the East Coast town, blissfully unaware of the meaning of the term “tourist trap.”

St. Augustine didn’t have one major attraction. There were no equivalents to our Children’s Museum or Conner Prairie. Instead, there were (or, at least, seemed to be) tons of small attractions—a sub-Tussaud’s Potter’s Wax Museum, an old jail, an alligator farm and the alleged Fountain of Youth. I don’t remember how many of these my brother and I actually visited, but I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed by St. Augustine’s densely packed offerings.

The lesson: It’s easy to forget that it’s not just the big attractions that help define a city for visitors. The smaller ones—the places that lend themselves to hour or two-hour visits—can also make a big difference.

For a video tour of the Rhythm! Discovery Center, click here.

What’s the downtown Indy equivalent? The National Art Museum of Sport is just out of easy reach. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument certainly qualifies. I’ll confess to having yet to visit the NCAA Hall of Champions (but it’s on my list). And I’ll also confess to still having a soft spot in my heart for the briefly here and now gone American Super Heroes Museum.

But while we’ll have to wait until March to see how the technologically upgraded Indiana History Center does as a ticketed attraction, we do now have another modest-but-appealing spot to add to the brochure racks.

I’m talking about the Percussive Arts Society’s Rhythm! Discovery Center now housed on the lower level of Claypool Court.

The Percussive Arts Society’s collection is on display at the Rhythm! Discovery Center, but that part of the exhibit is behind glass. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

Conveniently connected to Circle Centre mall, its 15,000 square feet of exhibition space includes a fair-share of don’t-touch displays and behind-glass historical objects. But it wisely also features something bangable around just about every turn, including a massive drum head that, when struck, seems to cause your internal organs to shake. There’s a display explaining how the multi-level music for the musical “Wicked” was created and a movie-music area that examines the John Williams music for an Indiana Jones film (a loose local connection, but give them points for the effort). An open central area—in a drum-head circular shape, of course—is suitable for lectures, demonstrations and parties.

Many of the instruments you’ll find at the new Rhythm! Discovery Center are hands-on. (Ear plugs not provided) (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

One wing of the space is entirely devoted to percussion instruments from around the world that visitors can play. Plus, there are two glass-enclosed studio spaces where would-be Keith Moons can play, record and replay. Better yet, the acoustics can be set for different performance environments, including arena and cathedral. Surely a generation trained on Rock Band will be lining up … once they are aware of the place and chaperoned there by an earplug-wearing adult.


How all of this will sound when there are busloads of children present has yet to be seen (or heard). But it does seem an ideal destination for school groups or parents to pair with a trip to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra or the Indiana Repertory Theatre. And it’s no surprise that its soft opening coincided with the Bands of America Grand National Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium (Nov. 11-14).


Speaking of Bands of America, I did catch some of the championship performances and, as a first-timer, was fascinated and a bit awed. Without a first and second half of football to bookend the performance—and without a home school to root for—I let myself get caught up in the epic scale, the odd fluidity, and the specialized musicianship that took these squads this far.

Having seen only half of the finalist performances, I won’t attempt to label anything “best of show.” But I am curious if Oklahoma’s Broken Arrow High School had trouble getting administration approval for its very creepy, compelling, “Night of the Raptors” routine—with its “Alien”-like dancers capturing and infecting the musicians.

Carmel High School had a terrific but distracting gimmick in its giant teeter-totter with a pianist playing in the middle as bandmates climbed on and off. Yes, he truly rocked. The Texans from L.D. Bell High School brought a breath of brightness with their white and yellow color scheme and flute-driven pastoral music while Center Grove High School effectively worked a violin and ballet into its music-box-themed mix.

Alas, I missed Avon High School’s top-prize performance. But I’m already looking forward to seeing next year’s iteration defend the title. I’m hooked.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com





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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.