By Karen Carmody-McIntosh
Jessica Abbazio keeps her French horn in her office. That’s the instrument she knows best from her years of playing in band. But she can, in fact, play all the instruments that are typically taught in a music program in the United States.
“I had to learn how to play everything so I’d be able to teach everything.”
Abbazio’s love of music has always guided her career path. As a college student, she majored in music education and planned to become a band teacher. When she discovered her passion for music history, she changed course and applied to graduate school to study Musicology. That’s where she found her way to the library.
“I started working as a graduate assistant at The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the University of Maryland and I fell in love with it. I realized that librarianship and working in libraries brought together everything that I loved about teaching and everything I loved about research.”
After earning her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Musicology, Abbazio knew that a library science degree – with a specialization in music librarianship – was the logical next step for her career.
In her role as Music Librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Abbazio benefits from all of her training in music history, teaching, and librarianship. She brings a deep understanding of the discipline and its various materials.
“Music has so many unusual formats like scores, recordings, facsimiles, and publications like collected works editions that are idiosyncratic to music. It requires somebody with expert knowledge of the field to help others learn to find and navigate them,” said Abbazio.
Working together with the School of Music
A big part of the music librarian’s job involves stepping into the classroom. In partnership with the School of Music, Abbazio provides instruction sessions for students at all levels of musical expertise – from graduate students finishing their dissertations to first-year undergraduates who are visiting an academic music library for the first time ever.
Faculty, instructors, and students have been enthusiastic and welcoming towards their new librarian.
“The thing I love about the School of Music — they really value the Music Library and the Libraries as a whole,” Abbazio said. “I’m getting more and more emails, calls, and walk in requests for help, which I love. My goal is to make sure people know I’m here as a resource. If you’re confused or you need help on anything — even if you think it’s something silly — don’t be embarrassed or too shy to ask. I’m here to help.”
Workshops, collections, and new programming
One of Abbazio’s strengths is making connections that foster innovation. She’s working together with colleagues throughout the Libraries and across campus to start new programs and highlight existing resources in new ways.
This fall, Abbazio teamed up with Northrop to shine a spotlight on the Music Library’s historical collections. A display at the library featured World War I era sheet music. It coincided with a collaboration among the Oratorio Society of Minnesota, the U of M School of Music, and Northrop for a musical performance called “Lest We Forget.” The program honored the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day with the premiere of a new composition along with selections of wartime tunes.
Abbazio is planning future exhibits that correspond with performances on campus and important anniversaries in music history. She’s working with librarian Rafael Tarragó to build the Music Library’s collection of Latin American composers. She also has ideas for more programs and workshops centered around the needs of music students — including career panels and specialized data management workshops that focus on music research.
“I’m really excited to see what the future will bring. I think there are rich opportunities for collaboration and I’m grateful to be here to facilitate those connections.”