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As a music major at Adrian College, Dana Musial (2L) never imagined she would go to law school. It took a particularly persistent academic advisor to show Musial how her strengths could be used in the legal field. Now a JD student at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law, Musial is using her performance background to shed light on the impact of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) in the upcoming opera, “Blind Injustice.”
As a first generation college student, Musial has battled more than many students. During her junior year of college, she received a disappointing diagnosis of vocal nodules (nodes) that would affect her singing career and dreams of becoming a music teacher. During her first year as a law student, she was also diagnosed with ADHD, a chronic disorder which includes attention difficulty and hyperactivity. Musial isn’t afraid of talking about the disorder and hopes these conversations will “destigmatize ADHD” in law schools and the legal field.
However, none of these setbacks prevented her from pursuing the passions she had all her life. When she was in high school, Musial’s younger sister’s school planned to reduce the number of art classes by not replacing the retiring art teacher. As a young advocate for the arts, Musial demanded the budget from the superintendent and figured out how to make it work. She delivered a speech to the school board explaining that her sister and other student artists are entitled to art class every year. And it worked, a replacement art teacher was added to the budget.
From these experiences, Musial’s adviser urged her to put her public policy skills to good use. She decided soon after to set her eyes on law school rather than a master’s program in public policy. “Anyone can be a politician, but not everyone can be a lawyer,” she explains. “I want to be a voice for marginalized people.” Her studies are currently focused on intellectual property law, specifically copyright law.
Named after the book "Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions" by OIP director Mark Godsey, the opera will explore the lives of six exonerees and their experience of being wrongly convicted of a crime, time in the prison system, and life after exoneration.
Interestingly, Musial will be performing in the opera’s chorus, which is made up of singers who auditioned through Cincinnati’s Young Professionals Choral Collective. The diverse group is comprised of singers aged 21-45 from the Cincinnati community, and Musial is the youngest in the 16-member chorus.
When she first heard about this opportunity to get involved in music once again, she thought, “Why not?” and auditioned.
While this is her first full-length opera performance, Musial isn’t nervous. “I planned my whole summer around being a part of this. I’ll be here in Cincinnati working as a research assistant part-time.”
We can’t stand by and shrug our shoulders at injustices. A human life is priceless. And while some would say that only 28 exonerees since the Ohio chapter’s opening in 2003 isn’t enough, I would say one is enough.
Musial is very enthusiastic about the opera and how impactful it will be. She explains that everyone should see the Blind Injustice opera because “it’s important to educate yourself on the innocence movement.” It wasn’t until Musial became an OIP fellow last year that she really learned about the movement and its network across the country. “We can’t stand by and shrug our shoulders at injustices. A human life is priceless. And while some would say that only 28 exonerees since the Ohio chapter’s opening in 2003 isn’t enough, I would say one is enough.”
Musial was attracted to more than just the academics and extracurriculars Cincinnati Law offered. “I appreciated the diversity and female leaders at the law school. Dean Verna Williams and Dean Staci Rucker are a power dynamic that is unmatched.”
Reflecting on her law school experience thus far, Musial has no regrets. And while she’s keeping busy with rehearsals, classes, and planning her wedding for next year, she knows the importance of her work as an OIP fellow and values her contributions with the opera. Musial knows she has a unique view of the experience, which brings greater passion to her opera experience.