A love for music and public service have always been central to Joseph Z. Johnson’s life, and part of why he chose to pursue a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology with an emphasis on Public Practice and a minor in African American and African Diaspora Studies. A Xenia, Ohio, native, Johnson pursued his undergraduate degree in Music Performance at Bowling Green State University before being drawn to Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences to pursue his M.A. and then Ph.D.
Internship spotlight: Joseph Johnson
Johnson received a scholarship from the Walter Center Career Enhancement Initiative, from the Walter Center for Career Achievement, that gave him the ability to pursue an internship with the American Folklife Center within the Library of Congress.
“Without this scholarship,” Johnson said, “my internship at the Library of Congress would not have been financially possible. While interning with the American Folklife Center, I have been able to put my skills into action through assisting with public programs like Live! at the Library.”
Live! at the Library gave the public a chance to visit the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building after normal hours, eat and drink, and examine the exhibits while special conversations, music, performances, films, and displays were happening.
Johnson had the opportunity to work on a resource guide to materials on African American banjo players as part of his work for the American Folklife Center – also the topic of his dissertation.
“This experience connects with my career goals because I would like work in public programming to support the reclamation of the banjo as a Black instrument,” he said. “Further, I was able to demonstrate my expertise on the history of Black banjo players through the research guide and blog post that I wrote based on the library's materials.”
Interning at the Library of Congress also gave Johnson a chance to meet other peers in his field and expand his professional circle. “I had many opportunities to network with other arts workers from the Smithsonian and the National Endowment of the Arts,” he said.
After finishing his Ph.D., Johnson sees himself interweaving “academic scholarship with performance arts, ritual practices, and public programming,” he said. His internship allowed him to mix his scholarly interests in the banjo as a Black instrument with public arts work, grounding him as he looks to the next chapter.
While he remains interested teaching at a collegiate level, Johnson is also open and interested in creating public-facing art projects that magnify African American roots music.