ABOVE: CMPI alumna Amanda Perez poses with her viola after a Fall 2019 recital.

Six years ago, Amanda Perez picked up a viola for the first time.

It was during a demonstration by her middle school orchestra director, and something he said led her to the alto-pitched instrument. “He said it would be a challenge to play, and I just loved the sound,” said Amanda, during a phone interview earlier this summer. Discovering the viola forever changed her, and Amanda knew instantly that she was “up for the challenge!”

Today, the 18-year-old from Barrington, Illinois, is a freshman on a full talent scholarship at Northern Illinois University, where she studies with associate professor and Avalon String Quartet violist, Anthony Devroye.

Perez is one of seven fellows from the inaugural 2019-20 class of Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative who graduated and are all now studying music at the collegiate or conservatory level.

She credits CMPI with providing her the support and information to successfully navigate the college application and selection process.

“Being able to ask [CMPI Project Director] Adrienne Thompson questions was invaluable, and all of the seminars that we [CMPI fellows] went through that addressed how to explore and apply to colleges, how to look for a teacher–were so helpful. Really, just everyone there, it is such a strong support system. The fact that if I needed anything, there was always somebody there to offer support and guidance.”

But she says she almost missed a chance to apply and audition for a CMPI fellowship.

“It was a last-minute decision. I actually wasn’t going to apply, but my teacher was like, ‘No, you need to do this.” Now, Amanda says she’s grateful for the experience and looking forward to the next chapter of her musical journey.

“Music is a feeling we can all have, and a feeling we can use to connect to one another. I remember our first concert, when Adrienne said, ‘This is only the beginning.’ She was so right — this isn’t the final result. We’re going to be seeing the result of all of this in, like, 15 years. CMPI is changing the face of classical music.”

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