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Ray Zeng on the Universality of Music

As an organization that serves musicians and audiences around the world, it naturally follows that Si-Yo’s staff is diverse in both background and experience. Hailing from China’s Yunnan province, International Relations Director Ray Zeng is no exception, having studied and worked in international development and business around the world.

Her experience includes stints as a Cornell International Humanitarian Fellow in Kenya, a Mansfield Foundation Fellow in International Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations in Manhattan; and a post with the Global Business Policy Council at A.T. Kearney in Virginia. She has also briefly lived in London, Bologna, and Brussels.

While her broad experience allows for a career in any number of industries and countries, Ms. Zeng was drawn to Si-Yo largely because of her passion for arts and culture. Music featured in one of her most memorable moments during her fellowship in Kenya, where she worked with patients with HIV.

“A 92-year-old grandmother began to play Bob Marley for us and the children, and everybody began to smile and dance,” she recalls. “I appreciate the universality of music; it goes beyond language and culture to connect people, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

“I believe that the arts shouldn’t be reserved for the elite, so I was attracted to the Foundation’s history and mission,” she continues. “Si-Yo also involves other interests of mine—cross-cultural collaboration and increasing the quality of life for underserved communities.”

She also recalls being moved by how two of Si-Yo’s co-founders, Sau-Wing Lam and Jean Lam, were committed to helping musicians—in particular Jian Wang, internationally acclaimed Si-Yo Master Artist™, to whom the Lams loaned the 1622 A & H Amati cello that he plays.

“Their work was so meaningful,” she says. “I wanted to be a part of an organization whose work brings people together.”