Museum Studies Blog

Posted on April 20th, 2020 in Blog by Jace Riley Dostal
jace-dostal-opertaing-musical-instrument

Anyone who has met me for more than five minutes knows that I love music. I’m the guy who always wears black band shirts to class, decorates his room with band posters, and whose “fun fact” during icebreakers is that he can play the saxophone and guitar. Starting in 5th grade, my life became defined by the musical groups I was in. For the next 12 years I dedicated my life to my musical pursuits.

And then reality set in.

During high school I always knew that I was not going to pursue a degree in music performance or education. For me, playing my instruments was a way to escape from life, I feared that if I attempted to make a career out of it it would begin to feel more like a chore, and I would grow to resent it. I chose instead to study journalism with the hopes of becoming a music journalist. That dream lasted all of about one year before I realized that I did not have the drive, nor the ambition, to become a successful journalist.

By the time my senior year of my undergrad came around I had, for the most part, accepted that music would not be a part of my career. I was graduating with a degree in history and would be starting my museum studies program the next fall. I had explored other career possibilities in the music industry, but none of them seemed to suit me. I was resigned to the understanding that my passion for music would be relegated to little more than a hobby at the end of the year.

Almost two years later, I can still feel the pain I felt when I put my saxophone away after my final concert, not knowing when I would ever get to perform again.

The following summer, I moved to Indianapolis to begin the museum studies program at IUPUI.

Yes, it took me over 300 words to begin talking about museums in a blog dedicated to the museum world. Trust me, it will make sense in the end.

For the first semester and a half I really struggled in figuring out where I belonged in the museum world. I knew I was interested in collections work but did not know what type of museum I best connected with. The one thing I did know is that I would never work in an art museum. I like paintings, I like sculptures, but I have no interest in learning about them or working with them. In my mind, the only type of art museums that existed were the ones that hung paintings on walls. Oh, how naïve I was.

During our second semester in the program, all first-year students select which museum they will be interning at during their second year in the program. I had my choice of history museums, sports museums and author museums. So, where did I choose to intern?

An art museum.

It is not your traditional art museum mind you. I am interning at the Rhythm! Discovery Center, a museum dedicated to the art of percussion and percussion instruments. Obviously, I was aware that there are many different forms of art, but when I picture a traditional art museum, I see paintings on a wall, not instruments on a stage. I was not even aware that there were museums dedicated to the musical arts until I began my internship. Now my eyes have been opened to the world of possibilities that exist in the museum field.

This internship has taught me a lot about myself and what I care about. The year leading up to it I had really lost touch with my musicality. During the little free-time I had between work and my studies, I found it very hard to convince myself to pick up my guitar or saxophone. For the first time in at least eight years, I would go weeks without playing an instrument. That all changed once I started interning at R!DC.

I still remember the first time that a grade-school band came for a tour of the museum. I was walking around the museum and could see the passion in the kids’ eyes as they played the different instruments. They had a look that I knew all too well, it was a look that said they were doing something that they truly loved.

It was at this point that I began to truly appreciate where I was and what I was doing. I went into the museum studies program expecting to never have a career related to music, but now I work with musical instruments on a weekly basis. I was living my dream life, and I didn’t even know it.

Everybody has something that they are passionate about. Unfortunately, most people never find a career that lets them use those passions. We are all privileged to have been drawn to a career that lets us explore our passions. Museums offer us the unique opportunity to explore and use our passions to engage with and educate the public. It is a great feeling to walk around at work and realize that you are helping people fall in love with something that you are passionate about.

For me, that love is music. I want to give back to the industry that, in many ways, has defined my life. I want to help inspire the next generation of musicians, and I want to do that through museums. I have rediscovered what I am passionate about, and I am going to use that passion to shape my career.



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