Twice a year, each CMPI fellow participates in what is perhaps the most integral part of CMPI: the Advisory.
What is the Advisory?
The Advisory is simply a meeting that includes the fellow, one or more parents or guardians, a student navigator, and the fellow’s teacher. Each CMPI fellow has two advisories per year, one at the end of the calendar year and one at the end of the school year. Each occurs after completion of a jury, which is a performance for a panel of teachers or performers.
The Advisory is a time of both reflection and looking toward the future. Since fellows and teachers tend to be very busy, the Advisory gives them time to sit down, contemplate, and evaluate. According to oboe faculty member Erica Anderson, “The teacher gives the student, parent, and CMPI staff feedback on the educational journey that the student is on. Since it’s not a lesson, it is much easier to communicate the observations and bigger picture of the long-term goals.”
Simply put, as Anderson says, “Each lesson is the ‘how’ in our students’ work; advisories are the ‘why.'”
It’s also a time when parents, who may or may not be intimately involved in their child’s music making process, are able to ask questions, learn about the college admissions process, and learn how to better support their musician. As cello faculty member Martine Benmann says, “This discussion is also witnessed by the parent who can better understand what the student needs to achieve and how. The parent has also the opportunity to ask questions and share information about the learning process at home.”
Purpose of the Advisory
The Advisory serves a number of purposes for the fellow, and these change as the student gets older. Younger students tend to focus primarily on jury feedback, practicing strategies, and goals. Juniors and seniors spend more time making sure they are completing the steps necessary for college admissions.
Meeting CMPI program requirements
Technical and musical issues that need improvement
Practice time, goals, and strategies
Improvement in non-musical skills, such as time management, academics, standardized testing, soft skills, and life skills
According to student navigator Jennifer Woodrum, her job is to serve as a Facilitator of Truth, to “ask enough questions that we collectively uncover something we didn’t know before.”
From the teacher perspective, Anderson says her goal is “to demonstrate how I’m 100% on the student’s side.”
CMPI parent Janice Williams Miller sees her role as one of restraint. “I like the license CMPI gives me to be an active participant in advisory. By active, I mean using aaaalll my restraint against answering all the questions and only filling in gaps that might skew the perception of the adults in the room who lovingly advise my Bundle of Joy.”
For fellow Zachary Allen, the advisory is all about goal setting. “The purpose of the advisory is to help the fellow evaluate their progress over the semester, and use that evaluation to create a plan for improvement over the course of the next semester. By already having goals in mind, the advisory panel is able to help the fellow more efficiently and effectively.”
As Project Director James Hall says, “Often, we may be repeating and emphasizing things that the teacher is already saying every week in the lesson, but sometimes the student processes the information in a different way when it’s coming from a different source.”
How to Have a Successful Advisory
As Hall says, “An advisory is successful when all parties (navigator, student, parents, and teacher) come together with an open mind and in consideration of what is in the best interests of the student. Regardless of where the student is in their musical journey, everyone around the table should leave with a clear, shared understanding of what is needed for the student to reach the next level in their music making.”
Fellow Aleo Esparza has sage advice from the student perspective. “What makes a good advisory is being able to have an open, constructive conversation on the areas that may need improvement. And in order for this to work is by being able to handle criticism and see it as the student navigator, judge, and teacher wanting to see you succeed rather than seeing it as them scolding you. They want the best for you!”
Parent Denise Allen emphasizes the importance of preparation. “There are two tools that I use to prepare. First I refer to the College Prep For Musicians book [and] note actions that we have taken and those we plan to take. Secondly, I refer to the CMPI handbook and chart Zachary’s progress towards meeting the years’ obligations. It is very important to review outside musical commitments to make sure that they are actually contributing to the overall success of the fellow in the program and that you are not swimming against the tide.”
For teacher Benmann, self-reflection is critical. “During the advisory meetings students are asked to formulate in their own words how they understand the jurors’ remarks and are encouraged to reflect upon them. This process helps students become more conscious about their strengths and weaknesses.”
While student navigators have specific questions and topics they must ask at each Advisory, much of the time can be dedicated to issues specific to the fellow or teacher. For student navigator Miguel Aguirre, “I always ask the fellows many questions during the process because I want to know how they register the information presented.” He asks himself, “What is the best way to serve this student and their family? Do they need more performing opportunities, a metronome, some words of encouragement, a reality check?”
For student navigator Woodrum, it’s more about listening and creating a plan. “I like when the advisory ends with a clear action step, whether it be changing some aspects of how the student practices, doing more intentional listening or setting a daily time to organize deadlines and respond to emails.”
Teacher Anderson states, “It is an excellent opportunity to delve into the learning style of each student. This meeting is an important time for all involved to strategize how to effectively support each student musically, socially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and academically.”
The primary goal of CMPI is to help fellows achieve admission to top music programs across the country. Each Advisory is a critical step in achieving the goal.
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