Second-year doctorate student Brian McDonie joined the Jacobs School Music Community Engagement Initiative as project manager in the fall of 2019. Originally from Lancaster, PA, Brian previously served as a U.S. Marine Musician for four years, performing in mainland Japan, Okinawa, Malaysia, Thailand, Guam, and the eastern United States. While pursuing a doctorate of music in music literature and performance at Indiana University with minors in music history and jazz, Brian also performs with Air National Guard Band of the Midwest. Married to his wife Sara, they live with their Sheltie, Manford, in Bloomington, Indiana.
Tell us about the work you are doing to support rural Indiana communities with the Center for Rural Engagement.
I have been serving as the project manager for the Jacobs Community Engagement Initiative. I have helped administratively with the planning, creation, and implementation of over 20 performing arts related projects within our partner communities.
How does this experience fit into your academic or career goals? Have your goals changed any because of this experience?
While my work has not changed my goals, this experience has further expanded my abilities with arts management and community engagement.
What are some of the key things you’ve learned from your experience? Was it what you expected?
I have learned more about how to capture and document performing arts events. Typically once the music stops, the art is gone. Learning how to capture our work to share with other groups and projects was a learning curve for me. I’ve also learned how to involve more voices in the projects to help to foster a sense of community when planning and hosting events.
Are there aspects of working in a rural area that surprised you or that you find challenging?I
found it challenging on a few occasions of how to best connect our projects with local culture. We can’t simple create and idea and roll it into a new town and expect everything to simply click. That is also not at all the goal of our work. Our goal was to help communities, with support from the CRE and Jacobs School of music, use organizations and people in the communities to create lasting performing arts projects. A great example of this was our Piano Concert series called Music Time. By partnering with an art gallery in Nashville and offering concerts, we were then also able to offer free piano experiences and lessons to members of the community.
What were your favorite and least favorite parts about working with the community?
My favorite part is seeing communities brought together through performing arts events by involving many voices in the planning and implementation conversations. My least favorite part is paperwork – necessary but time consuming!
What have you gained from working with rural Indiana communities through the Center for Rural Engagement?
I have gained a more comprehensive perspective of what it means to bolster existing communities through the performing arts as well as how to build lasting arts programs.