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PATHWAY

Meet the 2023/24 Student Cohort

Aki

AKI SANTIBANEZ

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
NEIGHBORHOOD: Prairie District
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Merit School of Music

AMIRAH MUHAMMAD

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Crete, IL
FAVORITE SONG: My favorite song is One Summer's Day by Joe Hisaishi.

Andrei

ANDREI NAGUE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
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: 17
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 ALDAY

INSTRUMENT: Trombone
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: West Elsdon
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago High School for the Arts, Merit School of Music

ANGEL COCONE

INSTRUMENT: Tuba
AGE: 18
NEIGHBORHOOD: Englewood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music
FAVORITE PIECE OF MUSIC: Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner.

Beatrice

BEATRICE VALENZUELA

IINSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 12
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: 16
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.

CAMILA MORENO

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
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.

DANTE ESPINOZA VILLASENOR

INSTRUMENT: Double Bass
AGE: 18
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 ROCHE

INSTRUMENT: Viola
AGE: 16
NEIGHBORHOOD: Edgewater
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Musical Arts Institute

DIEGO GOMEZ

INSTRUMENT: Viola
AGE: 17
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.

ELIZABETH MUNOZ

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
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.

ERIC NICKERSON

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Homewood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra

EYTHAN POKU

INSTRUMENT: Harp
AGE: 15
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

FABRIZIO MILCENT

INSTRUMENT: Bassoon
AGE: 18
NEIGHBORHOOD: Little Village
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago High School for the Arts
LARGE ENSEMBLES: Merit – Wind Symphony
FAVORITE PIECE: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov

GUADALUPE RAMIREZ

INSTRUMENT: Oboe
AGE: 17
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: 14
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: 17
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.

JACOB CORNEJO

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 17
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.

javier

JAVIER IRIZARRY

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
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: 16
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.

JULIANA DOOLIN

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 11
NEIGHBORHOOD: Munster, IN
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Hyde Park Youth Symphony

KAYLEE JOHNSON

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: North Austin
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Sistema Ravinia and Merit School of Music
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.

KEN TABUCHI-YANG

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 13
NEIGHBORHOOD: Rockton
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra

LUIS FERNANDEZ JR.

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
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!

MAHALIA HERNANDEZ

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 17
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.

MAJEED MUHAMMAD

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD:
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS:

MALIK MUHAMMAD

INSTRUMENT: Viola
AGE: 15
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

MICHAEL JOYA

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 13
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: 15
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

Na'ilah

NA’ILAH SHAHID

INSTRUMENT: Viola
AGE: 17
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: 18
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

NATALIA NORIEGA

INSTRUMENT: Trumpet
AGE: 17
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

NEAL KOTAMARTY EISFELDT

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 14
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: Viola
AGE: 14
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: 14
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 OKEKE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
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 DOOLIN

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
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.

OLIVIA VILLA

INSTRUMENT: Flute
AGE: 17
NEIGHBORHOOD: Oak Park
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Merit School of Music

Paloma

PALOMA CHAVIRA

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 15
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.

SARAH MORRIS

INSTRUMENT: Clarinet
AGE: 17
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

SAUL CIRILO

INSTRUMENT: Trumpet
AGE: 15
NEIGHBORHOOD: Marshall Square
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago High School for the Arts

SEBASTIEN HUELKE

INSTRUMENT: Violin
AGE: 16
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: 18
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!

WANYE WILLIAMS

INSTRUMENT: Percussion
AGE: 18
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

WYNSTAN WILLIAMS

INSTRUMENT: Cello
AGE: 12
NEIGHBORHOOD: Englewood
AFFILIATE ORGANIZATIONS: Hyde Park Youth Symphony