10 Questions with Museum of Making Music executive director


Carolyn Grant spent her early childhood on both the east and west coasts of the United States, as well as overseas. Following the untimely death of her father, a highly decorated U.S. Marine colonel, she moved to Central America where she witnessed her mother build a career as a renowned archaeologist and eminent professor.

Grant was a key player in envisioning and ensuring the future of her family’s historic Spanish colonial home; she participated in establishing the philanthropic donation of the home to a Guatemalan university, whereby the home will be preserved as a museum and educational center for many years to come.

From a very early age Grant was deeply involved in dance and music and excelled in academic studies. Soon after moving to San Diego she found her ideal employment at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, supporting the founding director. Since becoming executive director in 2000, she has overseen the curation of numerous one-of-a-kind exhibitions, developed highly-regarded museum programming for youth and adults, presented innovative concert series and participated in meaningful partnerships.

In 2011 she led the museum through a major renovation that incorporated state-of-the-art interactive experiences into the museum galleries. Over the past decade, Grant has carved out a unique niche and focus for the Museum of Making Music, the only museum of the music products industry, and the only museum worldwide that focuses on the cycle of music making — the making, selling and using of musical instruments and products.

Grant, an Encinitas resident, has played piano since childhood and began her study of the cello as an adult. She is committed to encouraging others to learn the instrument of their dreams — at any age — as she is a devout believer in the power of active music making to maintain or improve mental, physical and emotional well-being, as well as satisfy the innate human desire to communicate and create.

What brought you to Encinitas?

We moved to Encinitas to be closer to work and to live in a beautiful area.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Encinitas?

I would snap my fingers to create an additional 24 hours so I could have more time to enjoy the beauty and lifestyle that Encinitas offers.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by people who pursue work that they love for the betterment of themselves as well as the people and the world around them.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn, Curtis Mayfield, Michel de Montaigne, Pema Chodron, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon and my husband. With this group, the conversation could center on music, philosophy, life and have a humorous edge.

What are your favorite movies?

  1. 1958: “Auntie Mame” with Rosalind Russell

  2. 1984: “This Is Spinal Tap”

  3. 1959: “Hiroshima Mon Amour” by director Alain Resnais, with screenplay by Marguerite Duras

  4. 1946: Jean Cocteau Film “La Belle et la Bête”

What’s the most challenging aspect of what you do, and what’s the most rewarding?

The most challenging aspect of what I do is trying to figure out the best way to maximize the limited time one has in a day, a week, a month, a life. The most rewarding aspect of what I do at the Museum of Making Music is to witness a person of any age connecting to themselves and to others through music.

What do you do for fun?

I play music with friends and take music lessons.

What is it that you most dislike?

Intentional cruelty against any living being.

What do you hope to accomplish next?

One of our next projects at the Museum is to publish a book sharing visitor comments about the power of music and music making in their lives. These testimonials are so powerful that I’d like them to be available for more people to see.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

I don’t really have a motto for life, and my philosophy is hard to put into words. I do like, however, the phrase written by Voltaire in the 18th century, “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.” While its literal meaning is something along the lines of “One must tend to our own garden,” it has many interpretations.