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Seth Pae headshotIn this month’s CMPI mentor feature, Seth Pae talks to us about his current music projects, mentors, and his belief in CMPI’s mission.

Seth enjoys a diverse musical career playing, writing, and arranging music. “I think it’s a helpful skill to arrange, and it’s something I’ve always done. I’d book a gig, and they’d ask for a pop song that we didn’t have charts for, so I would write it out.”

Mentoring for CMPI has been a welcomed opportunity. “I heard about the mission and thought, oh man, if I had this in high school, it would have been beneficial. The mission of changing the face of classical resonated with me.” As a former fellow with Chicago Sinfonietta and Grant Park Music Festival’s project inclusion, Seth is passionate about change. “I’ve given a lot of thought to changing the face of classical music, having composers of color in the programming. I’m only one person but can pay it forward, and that’s how you change something on a large scale.”

Seth enjoys mentoring and connecting with the families. “It’s really rewarding to get to know the families, and I try to be a figure that’s there for them.” CMPI mentors meet monthly as a group to share program happenings and develop more familiarity with each other. “I really like the mentor meetings when we all get to talk, bounce ideas off each other. Everyone has the same vision, and that’s really great!”

Growing up, Seth’s musical mentors were his private teacher, Lembi Veskimets, and his youth orchestra conductor, Liza Grossman. Lembi Veskimets focused on preparing high school students for college. “She developed my technical base but looking back, she instilled this idea: you have the main goal you want to do, but you never know how else you will impact someone’s life. She got me to play at a higher level.”

Liza Grossman saw the most in all her students and believed that everyone had something to contribute. “She started her own youth orchestra and prepared kids in many areas of development. She’s a creative and loving force with lots of patience! Sometimes there were hundreds of us and a lot going on, but she always found a way. Her resilience was remarkable and inspirational. If I ever start my own program, those are the qualities I would want to emulate.”

One of Seth’s most rewarding CMPI experiences has been watching a mentee go through the college application process and get into one of their dream schools. “The student didn’t know if they were going to get into any of the schools on their list. I was crossing my fingers, hoping for the best, and the kid ended up getting into one of the schools that they really wanted.”

To Seth, CMPI is more than a music program; it’s a community and a family. “I feel a closeness that’s growing between all of the mentors. We are always asked by CMPI why we mentor. When CMPI asks that, it makes me light up! Everyone is here because they want to provide the fellows with opportunities. If I help someone out on their musical journey, it brings me happiness.”


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