Aug. 16, 2021

Elevating the Human Experience Through Music with Carolyn Grant

Carolyn Grant, executive director of the Museum of Making Music, joined Bret Schanzenbach on the Carlsbad People, Purpose, and Impact Podcast. Together, they talk about the power music has to inspire and unite communities, and how the museum is creating innovative experiences so that people’s lives can be enhanced by making music.

Click here to listen to this episode.

The following material has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Listen to Your Heart: Carolyn’s Lifelong Passion for Music

Carolyn Grant has had a passion for music since she was young. Even as a baby, she “lit up every time there was any sort of music around.” Her father was killed in Vietnam, so her mother finished her Ph.D. in archeology, and eventually moved their family to her home country of Guatemala. However, the struggles of being a single mom did not stop her from ensuring Carolyn had opportunities to foster her innate love for music.

“She took her grocery budget and carved out enough money… to rent a piano and start me in piano lessons,” Carolyn recalls. “That is how it all began. It is thanks to my mother.”

Although she eventually took a break from music for a while and began studying languages at the University of Arizona, Carolyn’s passion for music was unquenchable. She began taking private lessons and applied to the University of Arizona’s Music School where she was accepted to the piano performance program. However, she later went back to studying languages. After graduating and working in various careers, she recognized, “I have to get back to music.”

In order to accomplish this, Carolyn decided to be bold as she wrote her new resume, stating a specific intention at the top: “I would like to work in a museum, preferably about music.” 

She took her resume to a staffing agency in Carlsbad, and three months later, they told her that there was an open position as the director’s assistant at the music museum that was being built. In 1998, she began working for the founder of the Museum of Making Music and was on the team to get the museum ready for its public opening in 2000. Then, in 2001, Carolyn Grant became the executive director of the museum.

Uncanny Timing: Remodeling the Museum, Rolling Out New Galleries, & Renewing Musical Experiences

They say timing is everything. Musicians are intimately familiar with this and Carolyn Grant understood this very well in 2020.

The staff had planned on temporarily closing the museum in August 2020 in order to remodel. However, when the pandemic hit, they had to close in March and decided to begin their remodel early. Although this did not occur when they had originally intended, they were able to utilize this extra time to perfect the new galleries and experiences.

As a highly focused museum and an affiliate of NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants), an organization that supports those who make instruments, the Museum of Making Music highlights the beauty in constructing and providing the tools that musicians need to express themselves through music. This is expertly reflected in how the museum is divided into three themes: 

  1. Making Instruments: This space details how instruments are constructed
  2. Providing Instruments: This area illuminates the historically entrepreneurial and creative nature of the industry
  3. Video Immersion: This room magnifies the power of music when the musician plays their instrument

“The end result of our work is the music,” Carolyn says. “We're looking at what tools do musicians need? Why do these tools change over time? What are the drivers of change behind instrument development and musical genre development?”

With the new remodel, the museum has utilized technology so that its guests can have an up-close view of the various instruments and learn about the incredible stories behind them. In addition to this, people can listen to oral histories of the instruments, as well as interviews with people like Chris Martin of Martin Guitars, Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, and Jamie Deering of Deering Banjos. They also display videos that show guitars, pianos, synthesizers, cymbals, and more being created in factories and workshops. To top it all off, there are music samples of each instrument, so that people can hear what each one sounds like.  

One of the most intriguing new exhibits in the museum is their Global Spotlight touchscreen. This exhibit includes clips from different countries around the world that magnify how music unites people across cultures. The first clip is called Echo, which showcases the traditional musical expression from a specific area of the world that can still be heard in society today. The second clip, called Evolution, reveals musical expression in cross-cultural communities by showing how these musical styles from different countries are combined.

Carolyn’s excitement about this exhibit is evident, as she states, “If you spend some time in front of that screen, you start to realize it is all one big musical expression. The more that we cross over and work with one another in creating these new expressions, the richer we become… never forgetting the echoes of our traditional sounds, [but] bringing seemingly disparate expressions together.”

The final stop in the museum is their special exhibition, A Moment to Reflect. This exhibition creates a meditative space in the museum for guests to synthesize all the information they have learned and consider human beings’ primal desire to use an object to amplify their voices.

This special exhibition is just one of many that the Museum of Making Music plans to display in the coming days, as they seek to encourage every person to enjoy and make music.

Interview Links

Want to visit the Museum of Making Music? Click here!

Connect with the Museum of Making Music on Facebook.

Learn more about A Moment to Reflect.

Contact Carolyn Grant here.


Did you like what you heard? This show is produced by Imagine Podcasting dba of Heard Not Seen Media, Inc. For more, visit Imagine Podcasting.