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The work of Pathways programs is not new; organizations like the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program have been around for decades, supporting the musical growth of students from underrepresented backgrounds. With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the work has grown and new programs have taken root in major cities across the country. New allies and leaders in the field present new opportunities to support and celebrate the work. A major example of this was April’s Chicago Youth in Music Festival and National Pathways Summit, presented from April 9-11, 2022, in partnership with the National Instrumentalist Mentoring and Advancement Network (NIMAN), the Negaunee Music Institute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), and CMPI.

The first event of its kind, the Festival and Summit brought together students and staff from 10 Pathways programs from around the country for three days of activities celebrating the talent and hard work of young Pathways students and the programs where they study.

Youth in Music Festival OrchestraThe students participated in intensive rehearsals with the CSO Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice Lina Gonzales-Granados, leading up to a side-by-side performance of Valerie Coleman’s Seven O’Clock Shout with members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and a side-by-side open rehearsal with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago and Chicago Sinfonietta of Liszt’s Les preludes led by CSO Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. Along the way, they participated in sectional coaching sessions with musicians of the CSO, joined breakout conversation groups with their fellow students facilitated by members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, attended a college fair with representatives from top music schools from around the country, and even took an architectural boat tour of the Chicago River. You can read some of our students’ reactions to the weekend’s activities here.

NIMAN RoundtableWhile the students were busy making music, staff members from the various pathways programs spent over 13 hours in meetings together over the course of the three days to talk about our individual and collective work. The meetings focused on questions of efficacy, sustainability, and establishing a national network of pathways programs, addressing such questions as, “How do we define our work?” and, “How can we leverage the unique resources of each Pathway program to strengthen our collective work?”

Monday, April 11 was a moment of celebration and sharing. Staff from the Pathways programs shared information from their various working group conversations and presented their ideas to an audience of representatives from colleges, conservatories, and foundations. The students shared their performance of Valerie Coleman’s Seven O’Clock Shout, listened to a stirring, personal keynote address delivered by Lina Gonzales-Granados, and heard from their fellow students in a panel conversation. The weekend culminated with a public, open rehearsal of the festival orchestra led by Maestro Riccardo Muti, who, in only five words, managed to convey a profound summation of the weekend: “This is just the beginning.”

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