Jonathan Ayestas is a junior at Sacramento State studying journalism. He has an interest in social media engagement and online storytelling.

How One Sac State Student Found Purpose Through Music

By Jonathan Ayestas




Dylan Beaty paces around a backpack hanging on a fence in Sacramento State’s quad. It’s not an ordinary backpack– it represents someone who took their life — and for Beaty, it hits close to home.

“There was a time in my life that I might have been one of these backpacks,” Beaty says. “It’s just hard…hard to see that some people can actually feel like they have to. And I’m glad that there’s some awareness getting out there that people are hurting and they need help,” he continues.

More than a thousand multi-colored backpacks scattered around the quad tell the stories of students across the U.S. who killed themselves. Sacramento State’s mental health advocacy group Active Minds hosted the nationwide travelling exhibition. Students passing by stopped to look at the backpacks, sit in silence, and some even broke down from being overwhelmed.

A senior at Sac State, Beaty, 24, hit a low point earlier in his life when he felt lost after sustaining a football injury that prevented him from joining the Marines.

“For a moment, I was lost a little bit,” Beaty says. “I had my idea and it was kind of just blown out of the water in three minutes. I had no idea what I was going to do.”

He soon found a new purpose in life through music. These days, he spends at least four hours a day practicing the tuba, his instrument of choice. He starts by tuning his horn, flipping through pages in his sheet book, and warming up his vocals by humming notes before he starts playing.


Music is a demanding major. Beaty has to take 18 units to graduate this semester. He plays in music ensembles and practices almost everyday. He sees music as work, yet he loves playing music. To pay the bills, he works at a restaurant on the weekends to pay the bills.

In order to keep up with his hectic schedule, he had to replace longboarding and video games with practice sessions at Capistrano Hall.

He fits a half hour of relaxation time into his daily schedule. When Beaty comes home after school, he spends 30 minutes not thinking about anything. He believes when your brain tells you that you need a break, you need to take a break.


“Remember that school is important, but taking care of yourself is important, too. Eating healthy, getting exercise,” Beaty says. “They don’t have to take every weekend off, but every once in a while, take a break for yourself and do something.”

Tara Mills, a criminal justice student at Sac State, felt obliged to pay homage to the exhibit. She lost a friend to suicide in January. She encourages people to seek help early before they feel worse.

“Either you’ve been equipped to handle it or you haven’t,” Mills says. “And that’s why talking to people is going to be helpful for so many people because just talking through your feelings can relieve a lot of that stress.”

Campus President Robert Nelsen brought the entire administrative to the quad. He says it was important to be at the event.

He, like Beaty, finds passion in his work, yet he says he takes time to sit on the porch with a glass of wine to talk to his wife and pet his cat. He encourages students to be involved in recreational activities.

“Have fun — that’s what college life is about,” Nelsen says. “Yeah, it’s about learning, but have fun, join groups.”

Dylan Beaty is driven to become a professional musician. The stress can pile up on him, but he understands self-care is just as important as daily responsibilities.

“I think this is one of the hardest times in life,” Beaty says.  “It’s really bad because this is when kids are most vulnerable. I had to go halfway across the world. I studied in Germany for year. And that’s where I found the confidence to manage college life.”