Instruments from past inspire double major Dana Channell’s future

by | Nov 29, 2016

A perfect summer internship opportunity sent the UMSL junior on an exploration that was equal parts music and archaeology.
Dana Channell

“I don’t want to be an armchair traveler. I would like to be able to go to the places I’m exploring and learning about, meet with people and make a difference,” says Dana Channell, who currently plays in the UMSL Wind Ensemble and Orchestra, as well as the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. (Photo by August Jennewein)

“If something doesn’t exist yet, why not make it exist?” asks University of Missouri–St. Louis junior Dana Channell.

She hopes to help create and curate a museum in St. Louis solely dedicated to housing antique and culturally relevant musical instruments. Such a position would perfectly marry the two disciplines in her unique double major: music and archaeology.

This past summer, Channell found an opportunity that proved such a blend is possible.

Channell just happened to be taking a class on Native American music history from Aurelia Hartenberger who, when asked by Channell about internship opportunities, said that she herself could use some help. The adjunct associate professor of music education owns the Hartenberger World Music Collection, which is a stunning array of more than 3,000 historical instruments, many of which are on exhibit in the Sheldon Concert Hall’s Gallery of Music. Hartenberger explained that her collection was growing – she’d just acquired more instruments that needed to be catalogued.

Channell jumped at the chance to assist.

She spent her summer carefully examining, and sometimes turning over in mystification, more than 150 instruments from different time periods and parts of the globe. Each one needed measurements, a description and a condition report.

“It was fascinating to try to discover what they were,” Channell says. “Some of them didn’t even look like instruments. At one point we opened up a package and said, ‘Oh. They’ve just sent us a pile of sticks.’ And then we found out it was actually a type of beautiful bamboo xylophone with a stand.”

Channell says some of the most interesting work occurred when she would “fall down the rabbit hole” of a Google search while looking for hints about each instrument’s history. One horn was traced back to a man who was in Washington D.C. the night Abraham Lincoln was shot.

Working with the instruments, some of which will be added to the existing Sheldon exhibit, was truly a serendipitous experience for the honors student, who is the recipient of three scholarships at UMSL – the Eugene J. Meehan Scholarship, the John and Bina Jo Walters Music Scholarship and the Nancy S. Abel Scholarship. She’s considering pursuing a graduate degree in museum studies – potentially here at UMSL – so that someday she can help bring to life the local instrument museum she envisions.

“The more I learn and explore, the more I feel like there really is a field out there for me.”

This story was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of UMSL Magazine. Have some praise and/or suggestions for UMSL Magazine? Please take the five-minute 2016 UMSL Magazine Survey.

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Jami Hirsch

Jami Hirsch