Bo Li - Acting Assistant Principal Cello, BSO
Growing up in a musical family in China, music was always part of my life. My parents, being typical Chinese parents, were very strict with my studies. I used to resent how little time there was for play, but now I am grateful as they gave me a very strong work ethic and ability to excel at something I love: music.
I have been very lucky throughout my life to have had some wonderful mentors and friends. In 1990, while at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, I met Ko Iwasaki, who was one of the judges. He was so taken with my playing that he decided to sponsor me to come to the U.S. to study. This was a huge turning point in my career. Once here, he found me a sponsor to cover all my costs for my undergraduate years at Illinois State! I am incredibly grateful to him and we are still very close friends. After that, I had two wonderful teachers at New England Conservatory, Colin Carr and Laurence Lesser, who also went out of their ways to help me to develop as a musician. Because of those experiences, mentorship means more to me than just teaching someone in the classroom, but also includes caring enough to help someone to develop as a whole person. I try to take other young musicians under my wing with this same principal. For example, I helped develop an exchange program that makes it possible for the students from my hometown Wuhan to come study at the Peabody Conservatory.
The older I get, the more I understand the importance of family. My wife, Mary, is not a musician but somehow can read music. My two children, Mia and Ryan, are involved in many activities and music is also a big part of their lives. Both kids already play two instruments! The fun thing is they prefer to practice on their own without my help. I am glad Ryan decided to play soccer because thatís the sport I can demonstrate and help him with, at least for now.
If I werenít a musician, then I would probably go into arts management. I love to build a bridge between different organizations to develop programs that benefit both sides, such as the Peabody-Wuhan exchange program I mentioned. I also helped the BSO connect with the Chinese Culture Department to perform a concert at The Kennedy Center. Most recently, I participated in the Howard County BSO Side-by-Side concert. It was wonderful to work with those young people. I am looking forward to working on more projects like these.