Mina Tocalini’s Symphonic Success
By Leslie Feldman
Carnegie Mellon University alumna Mina Tocalini was into binge-watching before endlessly watching films had a trendy name.
“I have always been creative and borrowed movies 10 at a time from my local library,” Mina says. “As a kid, I wanted to be an artist and then a movie director, but toward the end of high school, I got cold feet.”
Instead of a career in the arts, she chose information systems as her major and a university with weather vastly different from her childhood homes in California and Arizona.
However, she found her studies didn’t fulfill her creative interests as much as she had hoped. So, she decided to take a leap and join the first class of the film and visual media program in Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science’s Department of English.
“Joining a new program was a risk, but at the same time, being that it was at Carnegie Mellon, I had no doubt it would be a great experience,” says Mina, who graduated in 2021 with her bachelor’s degree.
“Overall, the university creates an experience for you to grow and develop a stronger understanding of the world around you,” said Tocalini. "It pushes you to analyze your surroundings and find meaning in what you do. It gives you the foundation to be a lifelong learner.”
Now as one of the program’s first alumni, she uses her CMU education as the digital production coordinator for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The role fuses her two passions: visual storytelling and supporting music in her community.
“Every project, whether big or small, is a step toward that goal,” Mina says. “I played the violin from grades 4 to 10. I wasn’t particularly talented at it, but being part of an orchestra was always a fun way to explore music. Getting to come back to that world from a marketing lens helps continue that exploration and even inspired me to occasionally play the violin again.”
She works in the preproduction and postproduction stages of narrative and promotional materials. This includes video, photo, motion graphics, graphic design and podcast content.
“I enjoy all of it,” Mina says. “Every story or concert I engage with through creating content is a chance to connect with the music and people behind it.”
Starting her role in the midst of the pandemic, she only recently moved to a hybrid work model in which she splits her time between her home office and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
“I had to finish my degree remotely, so while it was a challenge, starting my job remotely was not a new experience,” says Mina, who also has a minor in animation and media design. “The pandemic brought on a lot of difficulties for an organization that provides live music, but overall, we stayed optimistic, tried new things and, most of all, worked as a team driven by our combined passion for music.”
Mina’s CMU courses taught her how to break down a movie to its building blocks of photography, performance, lighting, music, sound, production design, writing and editing, and see the potential for storytelling each step of the way.
In the film and visual media program, she developed technical skills to put those blocks together.
“Overall, it was an eye-opening experience for me,” she says. “I always loved movies, and now, I could explain that passion. I think a movie is one of the most collaborative art forms there is because of what it takes to create it. So, having that understanding and knowledge not only helps make movies, it helps create or analyze any form of media.”
She knows her success so far wouldn’t have been possible without choosing Carnegie Mellon.
“Overall, the university creates an experience for you to grow and develop a stronger understanding of the world around you,” Mina says. “It pushes you to analyze your surroundings and find meaning in what you do. It gives you the foundation to be a lifelong learner.”