Mimi Laws playing her viola in Perkinson Recital Hall

Mimi Laws, '22

February 14, 2022
Violoist seeks to share love of music through career in arts management

The lights gave a soft glow to the Perkinson Recital Hall stage as Mimi Laws, ’22, played her viola during a recent Monday evening rehearsal of the University’s Chamber Music Ensembles. Laws, who said she practices viola 30-90 minutes a day, will perform in a duet and a quintet in the ensembles' spring concert. 

“Playing the viola has been part of my life since I was eight,” she said. “Some of my earliest memories are of listening to my Japanese great-grandmother play the piano on Saturday mornings and listening to my grandmother singing hymns.

“I am not a performer at heart. I play to build community and make connections. My passion lies in working in arts administration where I can offer other students the kinds of opportunities I have had to explore creative expression.”

Participating in the University’s Bonner Scholars Program provides one such opportunity, said the violist from Summit, N.J. Since January 2019, she has fulfilled her Bonner community service requirement by working 10 hours a week for the Richmond Symphony, Central Virginia’s largest performing arts organization. Currently, she communicates with vendors and performers, creates graphic designs for publications and fundraising campaigns, and facilitates for the Richmond Symphony School of Music.

“Launched during the pandemic, the virtual school offers a variety of classes for adults and youth on topics such as music history and theory, harmony, and instrument instruction,” she said. “On Saturday mornings, I help the teacher of the youth honors theory class with managing the technology, taking attendance, and performing other duties. The youth really like what they’re learning. Some want to be composers and conductors.”

Like her community service, her academics are preparing her for a career in arts administration, Laws said. 

“In my leadership studies major, I’ve learned about group dynamics, the societal inequities that contribute to the underrepresentation of people of color in the arts, and how to interact with and serve the community,” she said. “In my business administration minor, I’ve learned development and promotional strategies. Both my major and minor have taught me to communicate effectively.”

Department of Music classes, such as Philanthropy in the Arts and Managing Performing Arts Organizations, round out her liberal arts education, she said.

This past summer, Laws, who identifies as Black and Asian American, completed her virtual Jepson School internship as a participant in the Diversity in the Arts Leadership (DIAL) internship program, administered by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts. DIAL placed her at the Rowan Community Music School. Run by Rowan University, the Glassboro, N.J., school offers private lessons, ensembles, and workshops and events to musicians of all ages.

The school’s mission to transform the community through high-quality music for all spoke to Laws. “I love being a part of a bigger effort to bring music to the community. It’s intrinsic to me. It comes from a place in here,” she said, pointing to her heart.

During her virtual internship, she redesigned the website, created several editions of the monthly newsletter, developed an annual report, and worked on social media and marketing projects. When her internship ended, she accepted an offer from the school to work 10 hours a week as its first social media, marketing, and development assistant.

Laws said she is eager to share her love of all kinds of music—rhythm and blues, soul, jazz, and of course, classical—through a career in arts management. In particular, she wants to reach communities traditionally underserved by and underrepresented in the arts. 

“The arts tap into our inherent humanity. We should all have the chance to express ourselves creatively. Music ties us back to a place of belonging, community, and love.”