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Sarah Vander Ploeg joined the CMPI staff team in late June of 2022, but is grateful to have been around the program since the first student cohort started in 2019, when she was giving staff support from her previous role at the CSO! She was happy to share a bit more about her own pathway and life outside of CMPI for this month’s newsletter.

Where did you study before beginning your career as an administrator?

Sarah headshotMy academic career has been a winding one since high school in New Jersey, including a gap year at Calvin University in Grand Rapids Michigan before an undergraduate degree in Public Policy (Arts Policy focus) with a Music Performance Certificate from Princeton. I started undergrad as a violist but ended up focusing more on classical singing by the time I graduated, so followed that up with a pair of Masters degrees from the Royal Academy of Music in London (MMus, Vocal Faculty) and Northwestern University (MM, Voice & Opera).

What does a Project Manager do?

What doesn’t a Project Manager do? 😉 My role is primarily to make sure all the elements of CMPI keep ticking along smoothly and on time, including building the program calendar each year (including securing the venues and guests), managing private teacher payroll, managing all aspects of the CMPI Mentors program and personnel, and generally being the “hub” for information and communications. I also love being a student navigator for some of our fellows and families. If you have a question your student navigator can’t answer (unlikely, but it happens), I’m a good person to ask. It’s also why you get so many emails from me.

What has been the highlight of your time in CMPI?

Every time I get to witness one of our fellows having a new “aha” moment in a masterclass or workshop, performing at their best in a recital or jury, learning something new about themselves in an advisory meeting, finding out they got accepted into college or a summer camp, or getting excited telling me about something new they’ve discovered – it’s my new highlight. It just keeps getting better, and it’s impossible to pick just one. I can’t wait for all the new highlights this year.

How do you remain active as a musician outside of CMPI? Where can we see you perform?

Sarah singingI’m still a very active performer! I’m the soprano member of the Fourth Coast Ensemble, a classical vocal quartet that specializes in vocal chamber music and in programming purposefully inclusive repertoire. I love it because it’s like being in a string quartet as a singer. I’ve also been singing with the Grant Park Music Festival Chorus since 2011, and love spending the summer onstage in Millennium Park each year.

What is a piece of advice you’d like to pass along to all our CMPI fellows? What have you learned along the way?

Don’t freak out if things don’t go the way you thought they would, or if there’s an unexpected “zig” or “zag” in your journey. The best and most interesting opportunities I’ve had – in life and in music – have been the ones I could never have foreseen, and usually only happened because of a previous chapter where I thought things had gone “off course.” Those experiences make you a better performer and a more complete human: bring all of who you are to the table, and the right people will celebrate that, not make you feel less because of it.

What are you passionate about?

The work we do at CMPI. The students I get to work to support every day. The fact that classical music is a living, breathing art form and that there’s plenty of room for everyone – and it makes the art form better to have more voices being visibly represented.

Also, that Italian food is better in New Jersey (I’m sorry, it’s just true) and that I have the cutest kid and dog on the planet.

What do you do for fun?

These days I do a lot of toddler-chasing, which is exhausting but the giggles are life-affirming. I also love running and practicing yoga, and my husband and I enjoy trying new loose-leaf teas together, especially Oolongs lately. I also spend as much time outside as possible while the weather allows for it!


Sarah Vander Ploeg and family

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