Pianos are playing. Horns can be heard. And students are practicing opera. It’s just a typical morning for Lori Melchi, an administrative aide at the School of Music.
Melchi often hears students practicing music on her floor and the one above her when she arrives at work around 7 a.m.
“I walk down the halls some days, and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s just so lovely,’” she said. “Their dedication to their craft or their art is just remarkable.”
As the assistant to the director of the school, Melchi ensures the director is where he needs to be. She oversees the administrative calendar for the unit, making sure the college and campus deadlines are being met.
She also is in charge of coordinating promotion and tenure and sabbatical leave applications, along with award nominations. And she makes the travel accommodations for faculty candidates and speakers visiting the school. Last month, that entailed making travel accommodations for eight faculty candidates. She helps others whenever she can, and she directs people to someone else, if for some reason, she can’t assist them herself.
“I’ve been around campus long enough that I know pretty much an area that we can investigate or know who to ask (if I don’t know the answer),” she said.
She started working on campus in 1999 as a receptionist in the department of computer science. She was soon hired as the assistant to the dean for the College of Engineering, and she later became the assistant to the associate dean for research for engineering. She also has worked for the Information Trust Institute. She has served in her current position for three years.
Prior to the U. of I., Melchi was involved in advertising, enduring 70-hour weeks.
“Working in advertising for a private corporation is very competitive. I mean even just among co-workers,” she said. “To come into an organization that's focused on mentoring, it was really exciting for me.”
Her favorite part of working on campus has been the people, who she said work together to benefit the students. She also has enjoyed the challenges involved with her jobs, such as creating the administrative calendar.
Melchi said the school holds a lot of musical talent.
“A lot of people on campus think of music as the Marching Illini, but it’s so much more than that,” she said. “The Marching Illini is wonderful and awesome and incredible, and they do some marvelous things, but there’s also the symphony and all the other ensembles that we have. The School of Music houses 17 divisions, encompassing ensembles, applied studios and academic areas.”
Melchi and her husband, a retired carpenter, will celebrate 34 years of marriage this April. While Melchi works, her husband spends time with their dog, Ruby. Melchi and her husband have a motor home and enjoy camping. She also enjoys reading, running and volunteering.
One of her favorite memories is of the time she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The trip took seven days, and she carried a banner to the summit with the names of 350 people – cancer survivors and those who died from the disease.
She trained for nine months, hiking all over campus on her lunch breaks. She hiked up the ramps at Memorial Stadium with a pack on her back. She traveled to Kilimanjaro with a high school friend who was advocating for animal rights and who teaches in the United Arab Emirates, two women from Canada who went for the experience, and a woman from Champaign who also made the trip for the American Cancer Society.
“It was grueling, but it was just fascinating, too,” Melchi said.
No matter the job she’s worked at on campus, she’s always enjoyed the sense of community here.
“When I worked in advertising before I came to work here, I was always envious of people who worked on campus,” she said. “From the outside looking in, it’s almost like a secret society, but once you get here, it’s just like a really great community.”