National Music Museum

Architect rendering of $9.2M, 16,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the National Music Museum, to open 2021

Architect rendering of $9.2M, 16,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the National Music Museum, to open 2021


University of South Dakota


Vermillion, SD

Applications preferred by October 31, 2018

Opportunity to open a new addition in 2021 and oversee a re-envisioning of exhibitions, programs and audience engagement for one of the world’s greatest collections of musical instruments.  

Position Profile:  The University of South Dakota and the Board of Trustees of the National Music Museum are seeking a dynamic professional to serve as the Director of the National Music Museum (NMM) at the University of South Dakota (USD), Vermillion, SD.   

The Opportunity:

This is an attractive opportunity for an outcome-oriented museum or nonprofit leader to launch an addition to a world-renowned museum.  It is an excellent moment to arrive.  USD has approved plans for a major museum addition, which is now moving forward, designed by Schwartz/Silver Architects, a prominent Boston firm with experience designing 15 museums nationally.  Construction funding of $9.2M has already been raised, and the museum board is committing to an additional campaign for installation of the exhibits and for programming and endowment.  The active board has members willing to fundraise and has several engaged major donors.   

The NMM is considered the premier museum of musical instruments in the world and enjoys an international reputation among musical-instrument specialists and scholars.  The staff includes both long-term, world-recognized experts and newer, next-generation visionaries, permitting the new Director to focus on raising the funds to complete the new facility project and to launch the expanded museum.  Under the Director, the staff and an outside exhibition-design firm will update and shape the exhibitions and interpretation in the new addition as well as in the original Carnegie Library building, which currently displays 1,100 instruments in 9 galleries.  This opportunity, along with opening an offsite collection-storage center in 2019, will transform the museum for the 21st century.   

Vermillion offers an attractive small-town environment with a strong sense of community and a lively downtown, and real estate is affordable.  USD, established in 1862 and with 10,000 students today, is a feeder to state and national leaders in politics, business and culture. 

Requires a professional with the stature and track record to fulfill all responsibilities of the Director’s job.  To:

  • Provide administrative and academic leadership for the Museum, working collaboratively with its Board, staff, and the College of Fine Arts to continue the growth and development of the Museum as an international leader in outreach, research, education, and preservation of the history of musical instruments.

  • Provide leadership and fundraising support for the current capital campaign to complete funding for the new facilities, and for future endowments.  Raise funds for annual operations, including increasing membership and grant funding.

  • Continue implementing the strategic plan and report progress to board and staff.

  • Maintain a strong commitment to the university campus and its education programs.

  • Oversee the continuation of successful Museum offerings, and develop new programs, exhibitions and collection-installations in the new and renovated facilities.

  • Work with and engage a Board of thirty members.

  • Manage a professional staff of fourteen and foster a professional and collegial environment.

  • Oversee high standards for the care, display, and interpretation of important collections and loans.

  • Develop and monitor the $1.5M annual budget.

  • Work with staff and the marketing committee to enhance marketing of the museum as a world-class institution and destination and on initiatives to enlarge membership and visitation, and for the grand opening in 2021.

  • Partner with USD and NMM staff assigned to the current expansion and renovation project to open the new museum; and oversee museum facilities, including the NMM’s Carnegie-library 1910 climate-controlled building with 9 galleries, a new 16,000-square-foot addition to the Carnegie building to open in 2021, and a new Preservation Center/storage facility opening in 2019.

  • Oversee the Master of Music degree program in the History of Musical Instruments (a prestigious program and the only one in the US, from which the musical-instrument curators at the Metropolitan Museum in NY and the MFA in Boston and other curators have graduated).


Carnegie Library Building

Carnegie Library Building

The Collection

With over 15,000 instruments, the National Music Museum is one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive collections of rare and historic American, European and non-Western musical instruments.  Opened to the public in 1973, the NMM holds some of the earliest, best-preserved musical instruments known to survive – including the mid-16th-century “King” cello by Andrea Amati and the 1693 “Harrison” Stradivari violin.  The museum has important collections of percussion, brass, wind, string and keyboard instruments from around the world, spanning more than five centuries.  Visitors can see gamelans and zithers, as well as drums and harmonicas, player pianos and an organ.  A 10-string folk instrument with an armadillo-shell resonator from Bolivia, several Gibson electric guitars, Bill Clinton’s saxophone, and the guitar workshop of John D’Angelico and James D’Aquisto are also on view.  With a conservation lab, a specialized library and important archives, the museum regularly hosts international scholars and conferences to further scholarship on the history and development of musical instruments around the world.  It is the premier institution of its kind, well-known internationally, with research scholars visiting from Paris, London, Dusseldorf, The Hague, Mexico City, and New York. said, “Bob Dylan's and Johnny Cash's guitars meet Stradivarius violins at this dazzling museum.”*  The NMM is associated with the USD Department of Music as a unit within the College of Fine Arts.  Public programs range from concerts and lectures to school tours.  Multi-media tours allow visitors to see videos and hear instruments and curators.  For the right person, this is a “died and gone to heaven” job.  Visit to take a virtual tour. 


*Forbes lists the NMM as #8 on its international “Worth It” list, where #2 is the Hotel Le Bristol, Paris. #6 is a hotel suite at Dar Ahlam, Morocco near Marrakech; and #9 is the Epic Pass, a national season pass for unlimited skiing at top-tier mountains such as Vail and Tahoe. 



  • Graduate degree required in the field of musicology, museum studies, ethnomusicology, arts administration, business or a related field. 

  • At least three years of experience in museum administration, music administration, or other non-profit organization administration preferred.

  • Experience with non-profit fundraising for operations and capital, including private-donor development, grant-writing, and membership development at a scale appropriate to this museum is strongly preferred. 

  • Knowledge of new trends in museum exhibit installation and audience engagement desirable.

  • Communication and people skills to engage the Board, membership, donors, and the public, and to serve as the face of the Museum desirable.

  • Knowledge of new trends in nonprofit administration to engage new, younger audiences is desirable, and exhibit experience would be beneficial. 

  • Knowledge of and passion for music history and for rare and historical musical instruments desirable. 

  • Applicants who are selected for interviews must be able to show proof that they are eligible and qualified to work in the United States by the time of hire.  Sponsorship is not available.


Salary:  This position is a full-time, twelve-month administrative job with the salary commensurate with qualifications and experience.  USD offers a benefits package, and the NMM and USD offer a travel budget to attend conferences and maintain national/international contacts.  The person in this position reports to the Dean of the College of Fine Arts and to the Chair of the Board of Trustees.  Appointment begins on or about February 2019.


Current gallery installation of part of guitar collection

Current gallery installation of part of guitar collection

Location and USD: Enjoy the life-style of a small (population 10,000), safe university town and the option to teach at the state’s flagship liberal-arts university.  USD Vermillion encompasses the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine Arts, the Schools of Business, Law, Medicine, and Education, as well as the Graduate School.  USD offers 132 undergraduate programs, majors and minors and 65 graduate programs. Visit  USD is healthy, growing, and financially stable.   

Vermillion, SD, population 10,850 (2016) lies atop a bluff on the Missouri River and includes an attractive walkable/bikable downtown, recreational parks and amenities, and a winery.  It is home to the main campus of the University of South Dakota, which means there are frequent intellectual and cultural offerings and events.  Home to Native peoples for centuries, today’s Vermillion was founded in 1859 by French fur traders.  The city and regional towns have excellent schools.  Enjoy the low cost-of-housing and choose a Victorian mansion or Arts-and-Crafts bungalow in a lovely residential neighborhood near the University and cycle to work.  

Sioux Falls, an hour’s drive north of Vermillion, is South Dakota’s largest city with a greater metropolitan population of 250,000.  It offers restaurants and cultural attractions, including two theaters, a symphony orchestra, a water park, and an arts and science center with both a performance venue and a children’s museum.  The famous scenic Falls, minutes from downtown, sit in a large park that includes nature trails and biking paths. 

To Apply: Applications will only be accepted on-line at  Include on the website:  application letter, resume, one-page statement on how the applicant would lead the museum in the 21st century and thoughts on creating new educational programming, and names and contact information of five current references.  Nominations and inquiries are welcome and received in confidence by the retained search consultants, Marilyn Hoffman and Connie Rosemont. 

Inquiries and nominations, contact:

Marilyn Hoffman or Connie Rosemont, Museum Search & Reference

For details and updates, visit: 

Application Deadline: Review of applications will begin October 31, 2018, and will continue until the position is filled.  

USD is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty, staff, and students.