Chicago benefits from a robust youth-focused music education sector boasting many well-established and successful nonprofit organizations with distinctive missions, differing approaches and students engaged. CMPI provides the opportunity for these various organizations with like-minded missions to work together across the entire musical pathway.

As a major market for orchestral music and the third largest school district in the nation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation strongly believes that music education leaders in Chicago are poised to address the challenge identified by Mellon in ways that can inform national efforts and models for other regions.

Mellon is funding collaborative initiatives in major urban centers, hoping to improve the pathways for highly talented and dedicated young musicians from historically underrepresented communities who have committed to the goal of becoming professional musicians.  This is matter of access and opportunity, not one of a lack of talent.  Mellon-supported consortia are already working in Philadelphia and are concurrently beginning in Boston.

This collaborative process was initiated and co-led by Merit School of Music, a nationally accredited music school based in Chicago’s West Loop and working across the city to help young people of all backgrounds achieve lifelong success through music, and the Chicago Sinfonietta, the nation’s most diverse professional orchestra, which promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion not only through its orchestra roster, but through a highly effective fellowship programs for orchestral musicians and conductors.

Implementation of the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative will be led by Merit School of Music and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), which provides music education through orchestral programs and performance opportunities. Steering Team partners participating in the implementation of CMPI include:

  • Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts);
  • Chicago Sinfonietta;
  • DePaul University School of Music;
  • The Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and
  • The Ravinia Festival.

Planning by the Steering Team organizations is underway.  The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative will begin recruiting young musicians to the program in spring 2019. Approximately 50 musicians from the greater Chicago area will be identified as participants in CMPI by summer 2019, with a total of approximately 150 musicians engaged between 2019 and 2022.  Each musician will benefit from individualized plans that create a career roadmap for them, including the professional training and mentorship necessary for success.

Specific musician audition and selection criteria are under development. We seek musicians in grades 9 through 12, and on a smaller scale, grades 6 through 8, from underrepresented communities who demonstrate a passion, dedication and aptitude for music performance, and an interest in pursuing intensive study and a career specifically in orchestral music.  Through them, we will create role models for future generations of aspiring, young musicians.

If you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out a contact us form.

In addition, the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative and its Steering Team will work closely with the following organizations to identify potential program participants, and to collaboratively support them on their musical, developmental journey:

  • Chicago Academy for the Arts
  • Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University
  • Chicago Jazz Philharmonic
  • Chicago Mariachi Project
  • Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • DePaul Community Music Division
  • Grant Park Music Festival
  • Hyde Park Suzuki Institute
  • Hyde Park Youth Symphony Orchestra
  • Ingenuity
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Midwest Young Artists Conservatory
  • Music Institute of Chicago
  • Musical Arts Institute
  • Shift: Englewood Youth Orchestra
  • The Chicago Philharmonic Society
  • The People’s Music School

All instruments traditionally included in a symphony orchestra:

  • Violin, viola, cello and double bass
  • Flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon
  • French horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba
  • Percussion
  • Harp

The selection process will include auditions and interviews, including interviews with family members and other caregivers.  Musicians selected for CMPI will be carefully assessed and provided with comprehensive supports — musical and extra-musical — including financial, instructional and academic, to remove many of the barriers to access that can discourage or derail the training of talented students from underrepresented backgrounds before they are able to fully realize their musical potential.

We envision inviting 50 musicians annually or 150 program participants over the course of this initial grant.

Instruction will take place at the participating organization(s) based on the needs and best fit for each individual musician.

Musicians selected for CMPI will be carefully assessed and provided with comprehensive supports — musical and extra-musical — including financial, instructional and academic, to remove many of the barriers to access that can discourage or derail the training of talented students from underrepresented backgrounds before they are able to fully realize their musical potential.

Grant funds will underwrite private lessons, summer study, ensemble opportunities, audition preparation, and support with college applications and ACT/SAT preparation for participating students.

We believe that by providing tailored and intensive support to carefully vetted musicians of promise and commitment, we can offer opportunities to deserving young musicians who often fall through the cracks — or never even step onto the pathway.

Those selected will be assessed by CMPI staff, and provided with individualized support plans — including financial, musical, social-emotional, academic, family engagement, and peer-to-peer elements — enabling them to remain and succeed on the training pathway, despite the barriers they face.  Student progress will be monitored through semi-annual juries; meeting progress benchmarks will be a condition for remaining in the cohort.  Supports will be adjusted to reflect students’ changing needs and circumstances.  The primary focus of this project is refining and mastering musical skills; secondarily, students requiring additional academic supports to be successful in college will receive these via partnership with Chicago-based organizations who specialize in college readiness.

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