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Meet the 2022/23 Student Cohort

Akosua-Haynes-CMPI

AKOSUA HAYNES

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Hyde Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, Music Institute of Chicago
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: I’ve had many experiences but getting accepted into CMPI ranks at the top.

ALEO ESPARZA

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Little Village
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
LARGE ENSEMBLES: Merit – Percussion Ensemble, Wind Symphony
FAVORITE SONG: My favorite piece of music is the First Suite in Eb by Holst.

AMARIN SHARMA

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Elmhurst
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: During my eighth grade year at Sandburg Middle School, I was appointed Concertmaster in my middle school orchestra and in Concert Orchestra at CYSO. I have learned great leadership skills from these experiences.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the architecture, diverse cultures, food, and variety of things to do.

AMIRA STERN

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Naperville, IL
LARGE ENSEMBLE: DuPage Youth Symphony Orchestra
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: What I like most about Chicago is the lakefront.

AMIRAH MUHAMMAD

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD: Crete, IL
FAVORITE SONG: My favorite song is One Summer's Day by Joe Hisaishi.

AMY LIANG

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: McKinley Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The musical experience that had been the most significant in my life so far would be how I started playing the violin. At first, I was supposed to play the piano, but I overheard someone playing the violin, and I just fell in love. And I just ended up leaning and playing violin.

ANDREI NAGUE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Skokie
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Being able to have my first experience preforming for others in studio class and getting into a state of mind known as “the zone.” Something that I believe will occur more often through more performance experiences and opportunities.

ANDREW OLVERA

INSTRUMENT: Clarinet
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Little Village
FAVORITE PIECE OF MUSIC: My favorite piece of music is Transfigured Night Op. 4 by Arnold Schoenberg
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I like everything about Chicago but mostly about the music that there is in Chicago

ANGEL COCONE

INSTRUMENT: Tuba
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Englewood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE OF MUSIC: Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner.

ANNA HUELKE

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Northbrook
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Midwest Young Artists Conservatory
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: My parish, St. John Cantius Church. It is a beautiful place to be, and being there is very calming.

Beatrice

BEATRICE VALENZUELA

IINSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 11
NEIGHBORHOOD: Wilmette, IL
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: When I was new to the CYSO, I was selected as the Concertmaster. I will never forget having the opportunity to walk on stage at the Harris Theater and to lead the orchestra in tuning.

BENJAMIN FERNANDEZ

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Logan Square
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: My first encounter with music was at age 3 when taking music theory classes back in my hometown of Madrid.
FAVORITE PIECE OF MUSIC: My favorite piece to listen to is tarantella by David Popper.

CALLEIGH RIORDAN

INSTRUMENT: Bass Trombone
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Dyer, Indiana
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE: My favorite song is September, by Earth Wind and Fire.
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: My most significant musical expeirence has been going to Interlochen for three weeks.

CAMILA MORENO

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Humboldt Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I first started getting involved in studying music when I was invited to my friend’s concert. I liked how beautiful the violin sounded, so I got interested in learning how to play violin.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love how beautiful the buildings are downtown; the windows reflect the sky and it looks beautiful.

Chloe

CHLOE NAM

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Sauganash
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I watched my brother's middle school band performance when I was 5, and I was intrigued by the flutes. I then picked up the flute and have been playing ever since.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: There's lots of resources and opportunities for students. Also, there's so many interesting ways to spend your day, such as going to a museum or a park!

DANTE ESPINOZA VILLASENOR

INSTRUMENT: Double Bass
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Back of the Yards
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
HOW I FIRST GOT INTO STUDYING MUSIC: I started playing cello in a Merit program in my school.
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Listening to records from my father's record collection as a child.

DAVID REYES

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Portage Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
HOW I FIRST GOT INTO STUDYING MUSIC: I was inspired by my older sisters who excel at playing the clarinet, violin, and cello. My sister Serena plays the cello and I was always drawn to the sound. At the age of 3, I attended a tryout class at Merit School of Music where all of my sisters were attending. It was a natural fit for me and the beginning of my musical career.

DIEGO CARILLO

INSTRUMENT: Clarinet
AGE: 16
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: Going into 6th grade, my dad asked me if I wanted to try out band. I said yes in part because he did it. Another reason I joined was because I was down to try something new. None of my other extracurricular activities that I was a part of in the past stuck with me for more than 2 years at a time. Music stuck with me the longest so far, and I foresee that it will stay with me for the better part of the rest of my time on Earth.
FAVORITE PIECE OF MUSIC: Hold on I’m Coming by Sam and Dave

Diego

DIEGO GOMEZ

INSTRUMENT: Viola
AGE: 16
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: The amount of music and arts there is in the place, theres so many events that happen that are about music, almost everyday there is a concert and on every corner you hear someone playing amazing music, I love that, just always hearing music and something is always happening.

DUBRAVKO RODRIGUEZ

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Wilmette
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Playing with my school's symphony orchestra in person since last March
FAVORITE PIECE: Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav

EFURU HAWA KILOLO HARMON-MILLER

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Glenwood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Hyde Park Suzuki Institute
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: I really loved the years I spent at the Musical Institute of Chicago’s Suzuki Camp.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the busy streets and that there’s always something to do in Chicago.

Elena headshot

ELENA MILLER

INSTRUMENT: French Horn
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Orland Park, IL
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I started music with taking piano lessons when I was six, and then in sixth grade I started playing the french horn for the school band.
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL MEMORY: Definitely getting to go to Orchestra Hall to record with the CYSO last May.
FAVORITE PIECE: Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5

ELIZABETH MUNOZ

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Back of the Yards
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I first got involved in music when I was in 4th grade. I saw the advanced band in my school play and I was interested in being part of that band.
FAVORITE PIECE: One of my favorite composers would be John Williams
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: That will have to be Merit's Tuition Free Conservatory, the reason why is because I have so many good memories going there on Saturdays as well as the concerts.

ELLA SAPUTRA

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Schaumburg
HOW I FIRST GOT INVOLVED IN STUDYING MUSIC: My sister, who is 4.5 years older than me, started learning violin when she was 6. I always tagged along and waited during her lessons, and watched her practice when I was younger. I finally started learning the violin after I turned 4.
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The musical experience that's been most significant in my life so far has been the opportunity to work with Maestro Riccardo Muti in a chamber masterclass with the CMPI Quartet.

Eric

ERIC NICKERSON

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Homewood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra

EVAN CAMPBELL

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Oak Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras
LARGE ENSEMBLES: CYSO - Concert Orchestra
FAVORITE PIECE: Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The musical experience that has been the most significant in my life was perhaps my first violin recital. It gave me a taste for performing and although it wasn’t my best performance, I still enjoy rewatching it and looking at how far I’ve come since then.

EYTHAN POKU

INSTRUMENT: Harp
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Homewood, IL
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I first got involved when I was in 4th grade. Last year the school orchestra hosted a presentation of the orchestra. I liked it so I joined next year. Then in 5th grade there was an opening for harp and I joined.

Fabrizio headshot

FABRIZIO MILCENT

INSTRUMENT: Bassoon
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Little Village
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago High School for the Arts
LARGE ENSEMBLES: Merit – Wind Symphony
FAVORITE PIECE: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov

GENESIS MORALES

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gage Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
LARGE ENSEMBLES: Merit – Symphonic Band
FAVORITE PIECE: Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major
FAVORITE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Being part of CMPI. It’s a big opportunity for me to grow in my musical life.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love how we are able to experience different cultures in just 1 city.

GIOVANI IBARRA

INSTRUMENT: Oboe
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Little Village
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago High School for the Arts
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: It has to be just being inspired by my conductor from grade school who got me to love music in the first place.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the fact that there is a wide range of things you can do and see.

GUADALUPE RAMIREZ

INSTRUMENT: Oboe
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Waukegan, IL
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE/SONG: My favorite classical piece is Nocturne op.9 No.2 - Chopin (I had to search that up...). I can't really choose a song because there are so many good ones. According to Spotify, my most repeated song right now is Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe. Some of my favorite singers/artists are Selena, Michael Jackson, One Direction, and Harry Styles.

HANNA MARSZALEK

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Algonquin, IL
LARGE ENSEMBLES: Midwest Young Artists Conservatory - Philharmonia, Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra - Sinfonia
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCES: Playing in orchestra hall, achieving 1st place in 2021 Illinois Music Association competition, and making in to CMPI.

ISABEL ARMENTA

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Montclare
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: CSO Percussion Scholarship Program
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Playing in Orchestra Hall at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
FAVORITE PIECE: Summer (Four Seasons) by Antonio Vivaldi.
WHY I LOVE CHICAGO: I love the architecture, sights, and food. The city is really fun.

ITZEL BUSTOS

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Garfield Ridge
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: When I was part of a mariachi group (Mariachi Herencia De Mexico) we went on the red carpet at the Grammys after our first CD release.

JACOB CORNEJO

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gage Park
HOW I FIRST GOT INVOLVED WITH MUSIC: Me and a couple of friends thought it would be fun to join the school band, and I chose the flute to be my instrument
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Performing in Orchestra Hall. Playing in a big space like that in front of a lot of people makes me want to play more and be better.

JAN VARGAS NEDVETSKY

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Wilmette
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The most significant musical experience in my life was when I met the teacher of the very same people who inspired me to play cello in the very same place I was so enchanted with the instrument and wanted to play it. When I was five years old, my sister who plays piano got into a music festival in Belgium. Since this was the first festival abroad that she had planned on going to, it was decided that my entire family would also go to Belgium and support her. The festival also included student concerts, where students would play for the public. In those concerts my sister performed, and to support her my entire family came to listen to her. In those concerts I heard many instruments, but the one that stood out to me most was the cello. It felt just right, not too small and not too big, not too high but neither too low, not too loud but not too soft. Just perfect. When I arrived back to Chicago, I knew that would be the instrument that I would commit myself to. A few years later, when I was nine, I got into that very same festival myself. When I attended that festival, I saw some familiar faces from when my sister was there. And then, I had a lesson with a certain teacher who just turned out to be the teacher of the very same people who inspired me to play cello.

JAVIER IRIZARRY

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Highland Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, Music Institute of Chicago
FAVORITE PIECE: Ave Maria by J.S. Bach, arranged by Gounod
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Joining Desiree Ruhstrat’s private violin studio

JESSE PEREZ

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Carpentersville
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I went to one of my brothers high school concerts, and at the end of the concert there was a flute soloist that played beautifully. After hearing the flute player I decided to get into music and play the flute.

JILLIAN RIORDAN

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Indiana
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE SONG: Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy by Queen
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the scenery in Chicago and how many places there are to see

JONATHAN MARTINEZ

INSTRUMENT: Bass Trombone
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Little Village
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE: The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Performing at a conference about W.E.B. DuBois in Paris, France.

JOYCE NAM

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Glenview
FAVORITE PIECE: My favorite piece right now is the Accolay Concerto in A minor
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: CMPI has been a great significance in my life, because of how much it changed me. This program pushes me to set goals and work hard, which I appreciate so much.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love seeing all the tall buildings and the unique structuring!

Juan

JUAN GARCIA JR.

INSTRUMENT: Bass trombone
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gage Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MOST MEMORABLE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Playing for my mom's birthday. Her Smile made me feel accomplished.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: The amount of culture it has. A bunch of different backgrounds and personalities.

KAI ISOKE ALI-LANDING

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: South Shore
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Musical Arts Institute, Hyde Park Suzuki Institute
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: I enjoy teaching younger kids how to play the violin and when they watch me play.

KAYLEE JOHNSON

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: North Austin
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Sistema Ravinia
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: When I was in third grade I had the opportunity to try different instruments and I choose the flute!
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Participating in a Sir Galaway masterclass and playing for the Sistema Ravinia womens board.

KEVIN HERNANDEZ

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Downers Grove
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: My parents enrolled me in cello lessons when I was 5 years old.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: There are a lot of cultural experiences to be part of.

KEVIN REYES

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gage Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Percussion Scholarship Program
FAVORITE PIECE: Mariachitlan by Juan Pablo Contreras
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: The culture and the amount of diversity that the city has. Also, all the programs that the city is willing to offer to help us out with our futures.

Luis

LUIS FERNANDEZ JR.

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD: Chicago
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music, South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: It was 9 and half years old that I began to play violin and my mind opened about all the things that are possible.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: Downtown of Chicago, eating pizza!

MADISON POINTER

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Chatham
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I first got involved in studying music when I was 4 years old and I took piano lessons.
FAVORITE SONG: Helena (So Long and Goodnight) by My Chemical Romance

Mahalia

MAHALIA HERNANDEZ

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Logan Square
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
MOST MEMORABLE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The most significant musical experience was when I got to see my orchestra teacher from my current school, Martin Nocedal, perform a selection of Beethoven pieces on the cello with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago at the DePaul School of Music, and I got to watch the second half of the concert on a seating level that allowed me observe every instrument section in action (I even got to wave at Mr. Nocedal before him and the orchestra played).
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the architecture; it's heavy on early 20th century intricacies. I also really like how easy it is to route through the public transportation, and how I end up seeing people I know despite how Chicago is a major city.

MALIK MUHAMMAD

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Hyde Park/Bronzeville
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Hyde Park Youth Symphony
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: I was able to combine my two passions-music and engineering. In my latest effort, I wrote a proposal to compete in the I-STEM Education Project’s 2021 Health Make-a-Thon. My proposal was entitled ‘Music To My Ears -A Balm for Bronzeville’. This proposal suggests using classical music performance as sound therapy, to help heal communities victimized by chronic violence, and hardest hit by COVID-19. I was 1 of 10 winners awarded by the Carle Illinois College of Medicine Health Maker Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MATEO ESANISLAO

INSTRUMENT: Double Bass
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Elgin, IL
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra
FAVORITE SONG: Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony
MY MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Getting accepted into the EYSO my freshman year despite never taking a private lesson. This opened up so many opportunities for me, by getting my first private teacher, allowing me to experience chamber music, and being surrounded by musicians who really took it seriously.

MEKHI MOSES

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Grand Boulevard
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Percussion Scholarship Program
FAVORITE PIECE: Libertango by Astor Piazzolla
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Being accepted into CYSO
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I was interested in playing the guitar in the third grade.

MICHAEL JOYA

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD: Oak Park
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Getting into CMPI, performing live for The Daily Bagel and The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, and performing live for a school assembly of over 700 students.

MICHELLE YEE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Brighton Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I was first invested in studying music by joining orchestras and participating in different competitions and concerts.
FAVORITE PIECE: The Swan by Saint-Saens

MILES MACKLIN

INSTRUMENT: Trumpet
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Bronzeville
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MOST MEMORABLE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Performing at Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran.

NA’ILAH SHAHID

INSTRUMENT: Viola
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Woodlawn
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE: I don’t have any favorites, but I do like Shostakovich, particularly his 8th quartet piece, and soldier, poet, king, by The Oh Hellos
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the way it has a lot of little forest preserves, it’s beautiful skyscrapers, and its pizza!

NASEEM SHAKIR

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Dolton
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Musical Arts Institute, Merit School of Music
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I used to hum a lot when I was young. My father picked up on this and thought that I may be musically inclined. When I was eight, he asked if I'd like to play an instrument, and I chose the violin.
FAVORITE PIECE: Concerto in A minor by J.S. Bach

NATALIA ALS

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Washington Park
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The most significant musical experience in my life so far was when I was in Puerto Rico and studying under these bomba legends and just being able to hear them talk and teach was a very significant moment in my life.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I love the friends that I have made here and all of the shops in Hyde Park.

NATALIA NORIEGA

INSTRUMENT: Trumpet
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: East Side
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: My most significant musical experience was attending Kinhaven Music School where I met great people and gained many musical experiences and knowledge.
FAVORITE PIECE: Dvořák - Carnival Overture Op. 92

NAZEEH SHAHID

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Woodlawn
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, Merit School of Music, Musical Arts Institute
LARGE ENSEMBLES: Merit – Philharmonic Orchestra
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Both my experience at Sphinx and in France definitely changed a lot on how I thought about music
FAVORITE PIECE: I don’t have a favorite, but some of the top ones are Stargazer by agst, Experience by Ludovico Einaudi, Stargazers by Varaza, and MOAI by Exyl, amongst others

NEAL KOTAMARTY EISFELDT

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Lake Zurich
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Music Institute of Chicago
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: My father encouraged me and introduced me to my first violin.
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Debuting in Carnegie Hall with Bruch Violin Concerto #1 in G minor.
FAVORITE PIECE: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake

NEENA AGRAWAL

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD: Albany Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: My brother played violin and I wanted to be like him.
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: When I was in Preparatory Strings (In CYSO) and I was the Principal of the second violins and I got to play a solo.

NISHANT CARR

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD: Lincolnwood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Music Institute of Chicago, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
FAVORITE PIECE: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major by Shostakovich
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Meeting people and teachers at summer camps every year.
WHY I LOVE CHICAGO: Food and people

Nnemka

NNEMKA OKEKE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Morton Grove
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Midwest Young Artists
MOST MEMORABLE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: This year, my orchestra teacher took the different classes on a field trip to Chicago, where we visited Vandercook College. At the college, we played a couple of pieces for a very experienced conductor, who gave us advice on how to improve our playing and gave me a newer perspective on the delicacy of music. I was really inspired by how attentive she was. It never felt any one player was ignored or any details were forgotten.

OLIVIA AGUILAR

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Gage Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: I think when I first got into merit it was the first school/program besides my school band that I’m in.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I like that my family and friends are here. l also like the lake front and the parks.

OLIVIA DOOLIN

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Hyde Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: When I was about 4 years old I loved music and enjoyed listening to it. I asked my mom for violin lessons and as soon I as I walked in that lesson I knew that this was for me.
FAVORITE PIECE: I have many favorites but one of them is called Otoño Porteño. The composer is Astor Piazzolla.

OWEN RIORDAN

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Schererville, IN
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE: Stravinsky's The Firebird, or Sibelius' Symphony No. 2
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I have always loved cities, but I particularly like the interactions that happen there. No matter where you are, there is something interesting and exciting happening.

PADRIC SULLIVAN

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Evergreen Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The first time I played in front of an audience
FAVORITE SONG:Yesterday, by the Beatles
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: The food and the music

PALOMA CHAVIRA

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Park Forest
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
LARGE ENSEMBLES: CYSO Concert Orchestra
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Being accepted into Desiree Ruhstrat's private studio.
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: When I was four years old, I wanted to play violin like my friend.
FAVORITE PIECE: Dvořák's String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 'American'
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: The lake front, the museums, and the food.

PATRICIA WASHINGTON

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Bronzeville
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
LARGE ENSEMBLES: CYSO Debut Orchestra
MY MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: I personally feel as though CYSO has had the most impact; I feel like it is the first orchestra to be all inclusive and have a very serious environment.

PIERRE NGOY

INSTRUMENT: Tuba
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Streamwood, IL
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Merit School of Music
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I have been playing tuba since 4th grade. As a result, I developed a great taste of classical music and curiosity to seek techniques for improving my tuba playing from great performers and teachers such as Gene Pokorny, and so many others.
WHY I LOVE CHICAGO: I love all aspects of Chicago including its food, music, and culture that are all diverse so personally, I think it is unique.

SAMEER AGRAWAL

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Albany Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Music Institute of Chicago
HOW I FIRST GOT INVOLVED IN STUDYING MUSIC: Funny story. When I was a toddler I saw Joshua Bell on Sesame Street. I begged my mom for 3 years and she finally let me start lessons when I was 5.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: I like the diversity, how there are many people of different cultures, languages, etc

SAMUELLA-DIVINE BOOKER-ALLEY

INSTRUMENT: Clarinet
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Forest Park, IL
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The most significant experience has to be being apart of the clarinet ensemble at Merit. Hearing beautiful sounds after a year had my adrenaline rushing and I remembered why I loved music
FAVORITE PIECE: Mother Earth by David Maslanka

SARAH MORRIS

INSTRUMENT: Clarinet
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Chicago Heights
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
FAVORITE SONG: Togo by Huntertones
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: The music teacher at the local junior high school was kind enough to let me join the after school music program
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Getting the opportunity to perform at Millennium Park

SEBASTIEN HUELKE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Northbrook
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Midwest Young Artists Conservatory
FAVORITE PIECE: Perpetuum Mobile by Novacek
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: It probably is starting to play with Shigetoshi Yamada and his Paganini and Kreitzer classes on Saturday afternoons.

SOFIA VILLANUEVA

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Norwood Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE: Andante Cantabile by Andersen!
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: A musical experience that has been most significant in my life has to be my first jury at ChiArts. I was extremely nervous for it but I was able to get over my fears and play by memory!

SOPHIA LUONG

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Des Plaines, IL
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE: Requiem in d minor k. 626 iii. sequentia 6 lacrimosa, Mozart
MOST SIGNIFICANT MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: The most significant musical experience in my life so far would have to be attending Interlochen Arts Camp. Going to the camp allowed me to focus on music and progress my playing. Also I was able to make a lot of new friends that share the same passion for music as I do.

TAYO AKINYEMI

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Bolingbrook
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Wheaton Community School for the Arts, Naperville Youth Symphony Orchestra
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: First getting my bow and finally being able to play my first songs.
FAVORITE PIECE: Rondo by Goltermann

WANYE WILLIAMS

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Austin
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Sistema Ravinia, Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Percussion Scholarship Program
HOW I GOT MY START IN MUSIC: I had attended a orchestra performance at my school and I thought it was amazing to see my peers playing all of these foreign instruments.
FAVORITE PIECE: Xylophonia by George Hamilton Green
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CHICAGO: All the different opportunities offers you coming up in the city

ZACHARY ALLEN

INSTRUMENT: Oboe
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Skokie
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Music Institute of Chicago
HOW I FIRST GOT INVOLVED IN STUDYING MUSIC: I first got involved with studying music when I joined my school’s orchestra in 4th grade. I played cello in the orchestra for 5 years.
MOST MEANINGFUL MUSICAL EXPERIENCE: Performing Sibelius 2 with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra this summer
FAVORITE PIECE: Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G Minor