It’s that time of year! The weather is changing, clothing styles are back to layering, and high school seniors are stressing. Well, not too much, hopefully. The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative senior fellows, including Chicago’s Rising Star Honor Roll awardee Rafael Noriega, are gearing up for college auditions, and what a busy yet exciting time it is!

Rafael Noriega cmpi

CMPI Trombone Fellow Rafael Noriega

Like his CMPI peers, Rafael, a senior at Brooks College Prep, is aiming for admission into the top conservatories in the country and dreams of later being a professional orchestra musician. In addition to winning From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award in 2018 and the Merit School of Music’s concerto competition in 2019, Rafael was a member of NYO, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States, and also participated in NYO2 during summer 2019. While it may seem from all the awards that he has received in previous years as a trombonist that his goals are “in the bag,” Rafael stays committed to putting in the hard work to prepare for his upcoming college auditions and applications.

We asked Rafael how his preparations have been going so far, and what he finds to be especially helpful as he gears up for his next steps. He thoughtfully replied, “Preparation for college auditions has been going pretty well, yet [it’s still] pretty stressful. Something that I find really helpful is recording myself when practicing because it gives me a better idea of what my weaknesses are, especially since auditions are going to have to be recorded this year due to the pandemic.”

In addition to the discipline of recording and reviewing his practices, Rafael finds the feedback of others to be immensely valuable, citing the helpful feedback he has received at CMPI senior events. “CMPI has hosted several opportunities for seniors to play for others and receive feedback. We’ve had a studio class with the seniors and played for each other and received constructive feedback. We’ve also had a CSO Mock Audition workshop for seniors where a panel of Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians listen to us play and give us their feedback, which has been tremendously helpful.”

Rafael has been a true advocate for the work that CMPI is doing for talented young musicians like himself in the Chicagoland area. He recalls being interviewed for NBC/Telemundo to spread awareness about CMPI as one of his favorite experiences last year. Speaking from his own experience, Rafael sees CMPI’s role as “to prepare students to become the best musician and person that they can become. With the scholarship money they provide for each of us, we have access to purchasing a professional quality instrument, trial lessons with college professors, travel expenses, etc. CMPI wants to remove the economic barrier [for] students to help them get the most that they can possibly receive.”

As they prepare for these challenging yet exciting times ahead, CMPI has high hopes for Rafael and all of our CMPI senior fellows. CMPI supports their dedication and hard work, and looks forward to celebrating their many successes still to come.

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