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Student Employee's Life Experience Benefits Music Library Users

The Music Library is more than DVDs and CDs and scores. Sure, these materials are important. But equally important are the people who work there. Just ask anyone who has been assisted by Carmella Cao, a student worker in the library who is a doctoral candidate in music.

Carmella Cao portraitAfter earning her undergraduate degree in music education from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2008, instead of heading into the classroom to teach, Cao started on the path to her master’s degree in flute performance at UNLV, where she graduated in 2010.

“I decided I could always come back to teaching, but I could not always come back to playing at the level I was,” Cao said. “I still think education is incredibly important. As part of my master’s degree, I had the opportunity to teach non-major flutists. It inspired me to want to teach higher education.”

To teach at most universities, professors must have their doctoral degrees, so Cao set her sights in the same direction. Before traveling that road, she visited Paris, where she studied at a music conservatory for nearly a year.

“It was really great being in Europe because it is where many of our music traditions started. I could go to Notre Dame and hear organ recitals for free. This is where music began, so it was very surreal,” she said. “It wasn’t traditional school work. It was just music classes. I could concentrate on practicing and seeing student and instructor performances, but I could just go to a museum when I wanted to, too.”

In Paris, her musical horizons were broadened to incorporate classical and orchestral music as she never heard it before.

“It made me appreciate music in a different light,” she said. “In America, we have a focus on band music. In France, I had more exposure to chamber music, orchestras and operas – the more classical side of things. It taught me to play with more heart in my music and portray that to the audience.”

With her experiences neatly packed, she headed back to the US in summer 2011, and is currently at the half-way point in her doctoral program. The experiences she brought back help inform the way she assists the students and patrons who come into the Music Library.

“It’s the drive and motivation she has as a grad student. She’s able to give students extra special attention because of her knowledge,” said Cheryl Taranto, music librarian. “She brings that extra something to everything she does, really.”

Carmella Cao assists a student at the service deskAs part of her graduate student experience, Cao teaches a music appreciation class, where she can hear the music through the ears of students with little or no music background. She encourages them to become familiar with and use the music library, as it is a “great resource many colleges don’t have,” she said.

While students can check out music scores as well as music recordings on DVD and CD, the entire UNLV community has access to the library as well.

“The fact we even have a music library is great,” Cao said. “I really appreciate it exists.”

For more information:

About UNLV Music Library services,