“Just be brave.” That’s what Meini Li (MFA ’14) said when asked what her advice was for international students starting the MFA Arts Leadership program this year. Meini knows a couple of things about bravery: she came to the United States to start the Arts Leadership program from Changchun, China, without having visited, after only reading about the program on the website.
Meini always found the music, movies, and literature of Western culture captivating and wanted to attend the MFA program because of its combination of Western artistic expression with experiences that would catapult her career. Seattle, with its lush outdoor spaces, was not a bad place to relocate to either.
Looking back on her time at SeattleU she is grateful that she continually tried to do and experience as much as possible. She believes that it was the coursework that equipped her with the knowledge of how different arts organizations work, but the practicum experiences that enhanced her learning by transforming that information into first-hand experiences.
“I think it’s helpful when you’re taking a particular class to find a practicum related to your course,” she said. She realized this after taking the marketing and fundraising classes while holding the position of Development Intern at Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO). Practicum experiences often provided a terrific platform for class discussion, and her practicum utilized some of the same materials discussed in the classroom, which allowed her to see how things were being used in arts organizations outside of a textbook. She found that she did not even realize the abundance of information she learned from her peers in the classroom and wishes now that she could return to the classroom to continue the conversation.
She never imagined that her practicum experience at SYSO would lead to her current position as Advancement Coordinator. Meini hopes that in this role she can bring SYSO to the next level. Like many arts organizations, SYSO does not have the capacity to accept all the children that audition for the program. Li desires to change this reality by gaining funding that will allow them to provide more opportunities for all kids that want to become a member of the youth symphony. “I think the concerts we carry out are very high quality… when people come to Seattle, they’ll see the Seattle Opera, they’ll see the Seattle Symphony, and they’ll see Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra as well. It’s a great program and I think people should know about it.”
Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra is the largest youth orchestra training program in the United States. The organization serves over 1,500 diverse students each year with four full orchestras, three summer festival programs, and extensive partnerships with local public schools. “It’s really amazing to see how those little kids play…we have kids about seven years old and when they play, their feet are hardly reaching the ground, but they’re playing like an adult. When they’re on stage, in their little tuxedos, they are professional musicians.”
On her favorite part of the MFA program: “I really liked the cohort system. We got to know each other really well and we are all future arts leaders in the community. Coming from out of the country and having those really solid connections, throughout the program, I think that’s really helpful. It’s not just about connections, it is the friendships too.”