This month we are catching up with the first class of CMPI graduates to see how their freshman year of college went. The alums offer some reflections on the past year and advice for the current class of graduating seniors.


Amanda Perez
Northern Illinois University | Music Performance
Hometown: Barrington, IL
Primary Studio Teacher: Anthony Devroye
Favorite Class: Chamber Ensemble

What musical/personal highlight are you most proud of this past school year?
This past semester I was able to perform my first full recital at NIU. It was a lot of work preparing all the music and a bit scary to perform but it was so much fun. I am so lucky to have already had this opportunity and can’t wait do another recital.

In what ways did CMPI help prepare you for this past school year?
CMPI helped me understand how to practice properly. It’s such an important skill to be able to practice properly and for the correct number of hours every day. This was definitely a skill I did not have before CMPI but after all of the masterclasses and tips from CMPI I have been able to practice well and succeed with my college music.

What’s the best advice you received all year?
I think the best advice I’ve received is from my teacher about practicing. He said that when you are practicing instead of being negative in your assessment of yourself try and look at the positives of what you’re doing and how you can make yourself even better.

What is one thing that you wish you had known at this exact time last year?
College classes are hard… they just are no matter where you go because it’s college. Make sure you study your music theory and practice, practice, practice, you’ll miss having all the time in the world to practice when classes get really rough.

What words of encouragement do you have for the current CMPI seniors?
Keep going! You’re almost done with high school and getting to college will be work but you’ll have fun. Hopefully, you can be in person and meet some new people that will add to your life. Also, everything happens for a reason and you’re going to be exactly where you need to be. Above all though the best words of encouragement are… listen to what CMPI has taught you. Everyone there knows what they’re talking about and their advice is the best to help you be successful 😊

How can the mission of CMPI affect/influence/motivate the current seniors as the begin their college journey, and beyond?
We really are a new generation of musicians. This is only the beginning. The diversity coming from CMPI is so wonderful and prepares everybody that is in the program to not only be a great musician but also a great person. If you start to get discouraged just remember how hard you had to work to get where you are and how fortunate you are to get an education with doing what you love.

**LIGHTNING ROUND**
What’s the last physical change you made to your instrument? Chin Pad
What’s the last series you binge-watched? Queen’s Gambit
Favorite piece of classical music by a BIPOC composer? Florence Price
What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better? Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp
What’s the phone app you use most? Google
Do you hit the snooze button or wake up immediately? Wake up but lay there for 10 min hehe
Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales? All the scales, even the minor ones
Who would play you in the movie of your life? George Clooney
What’s your go-to midnight snack? Ice cream

Checkout Amanda’s latest videos on YouTube, here, here, and here!


Sajdah M. Muhammad
Rice University | Music Performance
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Primary Studio Teacher: Norman Fischer
Favorite Class: Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar: Women Artists

What musical/personal highlight are you most proud of this past school year?
I am especially proud of finishing my first year of college, all online!

In what ways did the pandemic affect your first year, good or bad?
The pandemic was what made me decide to spend my entire first year as a remote student, which definitely had its pros and cons. Whether it was more positive or negative, all I can say is that I’m grateful for the experience and what it has taught me about myself. Also, one year down and three to go!

What’s the best advice you received all year? Trust yourself.

What is one thing that you wish you had known at this exact time last year?
I wish I would have known that, no matter the amount of difficulty I faced, I would eventually overcome.

What words of encouragement do you have for the current CMPI seniors? Keep doing what you’re doing! 🙂

How can the mission of CMPI affect/influence/motivate the current seniors as they begin their college journey, and beyond?
I think CMPI’s mission can give current seniors a family that they can come back to for different things such as support and work opportunities.

**LIGHTNING ROUND**
What’s the last physical change you made to your instrument?
Turning my tuners
What’s the last series you binge-watched? The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Favorite piece of classical music by a BIPOC composer? Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag
What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better? Nature
What’s the phone app you use most? YouTube
Do you hit the snooze button or wake up immediately? Snooze
Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales? Fur for Chicago weather
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Maybe Yara Shahidi
What’s your go-to midnight snack? Hot Tea


Oliver Talukder
Curtis Institute of Music | Oboe Performance
Hometown: Glenview, IL
Primary Studio Teacher: Richard Woodhams
Favorite Class: The Curtis Seminar

What musical/personal highlight are you most proud of this past school year?
Early in the spring semester, I played in my first Curtis Oboe Studio Recital. Although it was a fully online performance, I had a lot of fun making the recording and watching it with my friends and family as it premiered. I played a newer solo piece that really pushed my boundaries and I clearly saw my improvement from the previous semester. The recital got a lot of attention from outside of the Curtis Community and it led to a masterclass with the new Principal Oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Phillipe Tondre!

 In what ways did CMPI help prepare you for this past school year?
Throughout my senior year of high school, CMPI really taught me how to hold myself accountable in practicing and goal setting. This online school year has been extremely difficult in terms of motivation, but every time I’d not want to practice or make reeds, I’d see Ms. Adrienne Thompson’s face in my head and then I’d get up and put my oboe together!

In what ways did the pandemic affect your first year, good or bad?
This pandemic has been both good and bad for my first year. In terms of school, obviously, I missed out on ensemble playing for a whole year, and fostering relationships with my new classmates and teachers was not as easy. But, despite this, I’m glad I stayed home for an extra year because it allowed me to solidify relationships with my family and friends here in Chicago. It also allowed me to continue several hobbies including long distance running, being producer on The Take Five! Podcast, as well as becoming a well-versed K-Pop stan.

What is one thing that you wish you had known at this exact time last year?
The academic classes at conservatory are no joke! They will challenge you both musically and intellectually, so be prepared to spend a good amount of time on classwork and homework.

What’s the best way to prepare for the transition from high school to college?
Reach out to the upperclassmen in your studio and ask what your teacher will primarily teach you in your first year. Then, focus on that material over the summer. It’ll make your first year a lot less stressful because you’ll be familiar with the music already and it’ll set a really good first impression.

What words of encouragement do you have for the current CMPI seniors?
CMPI has set you up with lifelong skills so don’t be afraid to use them in college! Trust the process and you’ll be surprised with how much you’ll improve even in just your first semester.

**LIGHTNING ROUND**
What’s the last physical change you made to your instrument? I recently dropped one of my reed making knives and on its descent, it hit the upper part of my oboe, so now she has a cute scratch on the top joint. I’d say it gives my oboe a little more character now haha!

What’s the last series you binge-watched?
Modern Family. Best TV sitcom ever.

Favorite piece of classical music by a BIPOC composer?
Lately I’ve been really into William Grant Still’s Incantation and Dance for oboe and piano.

What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better?
Any K-pop music video

What’s the phone app you use most?
Tiktok 🙂 oh and my metronome/tuner app of course.

Do you hit the snooze button or wake up immediately?
I set up like 6 alarms in the morning and snooze all of them.

Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales?
Scales, because I’m always really hot and I feel like those would cool me down.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Joshua Bassett.

What’s your go-to midnight snack?
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Reese’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

You can keep up with Oliver on Instagram, @pritaykitay, and by subscribing to his podcast The Take Five! Podcast which can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you can find podcasts.


Julian Bradford cmpiJulian Bradford
Northern Illinois University | Trombone Performance
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Primary Studio Teacher: Timothy Riordan
Favorite Class: Music Theory

What musical/personal highlight are you most proud of this past school year?
Our last trombone concert is what I’m most proud of.

In what ways did CMPI help prepare you for this past school year?
The recitals and mock juries prepared me the most.

In what ways did the pandemic affect your first year, good or bad?
The pandemic is the reason I ended up at NIU.

What is one thing that you wish you had known at this exact time last year?
I wish that I had more practice and experience with doing remote music so that I would have been better prepared for this last year.

What’s the best way to prepare for the transition from high school to college?
Get used to playing in front of people more. Try to find people better than you to play with so that you are more used to it when the time comes.

What words of encouragement do you have for the current CMPI seniors?
College during the pandemic isn’t as bad as it seems. You can get just as much out of it as a normal year.

**LIGHTNING ROUND**
What’s the last physical change you made to your instrument? Added leather hand grips
What’s the last series you binge-watched? Stranger Things
Favorite piece of classical music by a BIPOC composer? Anthony Barfield, “Here We Rest”
What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better? A doughnut
What’s the phone app you use most? Spotify
Do you hit the snooze button or wake up immediately? Usually snooze, unless it’s for a rehearsal
Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales? Probably fur.
What’s your go-to midnight snack? Mac and Cheese



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