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CMPI Senior Flute Fellow Michelle Brannon

One of the goals of Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative is to ensure that each fellow can gain admission to a top music school or conservatory. Michelle Brannon, a senior flute fellow at Chicago Height’s Marian Catholic High School, is done with her college auditions and getting ready to choose a school for next year. During a recent interview, Michelle discussed her college selection and preparations, the impact of CMPI, and her advice to other young musicians.

“When selecting colleges, I narrowed my list down based on factors like location from home, performance opportunities, proximity to professional orchestras, and the size of the school and flute studio.” Michelle said she consulted with her CMPI mentors and teachers to ensure her applications had a good mix of safety, match, and reach schools.

“I took trial lessons with the flute professors to better understand their teaching style and how I might grow in their studio. With many colleges canceling their on-campus tours, I reached out to current students in the flute studios and watched virtual tours to get a feel for each school.” Once Michelle felt confident about her final list of selected colleges, she made a spreadsheet of all their information and overlapping audition repertoire.

As a student of Marie Tachouet, principal flute of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Michelle has grown tremendously in her playing – including the nine months that she has been relegated to online lessons.

“I think some of my biggest weaknesses, before having lessons with Marie, were my tone, dynamic, and color range. We spent a lot of time working on harmonics and focused air for my college audition repertoire, which I can now apply to other pieces I perform,” explained Michelle, adding that she has been “extremely grateful” for CMPI and Marie’s support throughout the college audition process.

“CMPI has been great in helping my family and me understand the college audition process as well as life after college. Without it, there would have been numerous occasions I’d overlook something or be left completely in the dark. The guidance has focused on the musical and psychological aspects of auditions, so we felt more confident and grounded when it finally came time to begin the process.”

Even throughout the pandemic, Michelle has been able to branch out and connect to a wide range of talented and hardworking musicians. “One of my favorite parts of CMPI would have to be the masterclasses. I really enjoy performing in them and watching others perform. The success of these online programs has been surreal. It’s amazing and inspiring to hear their perspectives on performance aspects as well as their personal journeys in the field.”

Michelle’s hard work has paid off —  she recently earned a spot in this year’s ILMEA All-State Band. She also credits this recent win to the increased level of confidence she gained through the “numerous juries, recitals, masterclasses, and performance opportunities through CMPI.”

Michelle has some advice to high school musicians preparing for college: “Take trial lessons and get to know current students – preferably in your instrument area. A college may seem perfect on paper, but a lot of your time will be with the same professor(s). Even just sitting in on a studio class can tell a lot about the relationship between students and how they help each other grow. I’d also advise sending in your pre-screening videos to scholarship organizations since you already have worked hard and have them done.”

Hear some of Michelle’s music on her flute YouTube channel:

TOP: CMPI Senior Flute Fellow Michelle Brannon performs over Zoom during the December 2020 Recital in Curtiss Hall, where she performed the second movement from Mozart’s Concerto in G Major, accompanied by Beilin Han.

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