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Summer Snapshot: Julia Austenfeld '15 on Researching the Cultural History of Baseball From a Musical Perspective

Julia Austenfeld '15

About Summer Research

To learn more about the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) and to read more entries in our "Summer Snapshot" series, visit our SURP website.

This is one in a series looking in on the work and projects Pomona students are carrying out this summer.

Project summary:
I’m looking at music that’s played during baseball games, researching organists and bands that played in stadiums. Getting the opportunity to look at the cultural history of baseball from a musical perspective is something that we suspect not a lot of people have done. What I’m trying to do is put together a big annotated bibliography of what has already been written on this subject. We’re starting a new project, so at this point I’m just running a lot of searches and trying to figure out what is already out there. This is going to turn into something bigger further down the road, probably after I’ve graduated.

What is your mentor like?
I met Professor Donna Di Grazia through Choir, like most people do. She’s my advisor and she’s been a mentor to me. It’s especially rewarding to do research work with her because she’s so precise and meticulous and cares so much about whatever she invests herself in. These are really good qualities when you’re doing history work, and I think that’s one of the reasons this became her passion.

What is the biggest problem you’re running into right now?
I found all these great sources on WorldCat, but I went to look for them on Interlibrary Loan and most of them are in a library that is not at all connected to us through LINK+. Since there isn’t a lot of existing work on the music that’s played at baseball games, some of the sources are really hard to find. Tracking down those sources is exactly the type of thing I’m doing this summer, but it’s also more difficult than it is for your run-of-the-mill research paper.

What is the potential impact of the research you are doing?
It’s not what people expect from academic music. What I like about any sort of exciting, unconventional way to do music research is that it gets people interested. I’m always going to be interested in music—that’s why I’m here. But I really want other people to also get excited about my field and see that there are so many different kinds of music scholarship that can be done, that there are so many different directions you can take things in.

Why are you doing summer research?
I’m doing summer research partly because I had such a great experience doing it last summer. I think the program can be kind of self-perpetuating in that way, because once I got a taste of it last summer I really liked it. I like having only one project to work on at a time, being able to focus in and have a one-on-one mentor relationship. There’s a lot more freedom to do that during the summer. You get to dig in more deeply without all of the distractions of the school year. It’s a really different kind of opportunity and I’m glad that I’m getting to do it for another summer.