Skip to main content

In CMPI’s February community meeting, our fellows got the chance to learn more about possible career paths in music from CMPI mentors James Sanders, Kevin Gupana, Lindsey Sharpe, and Robyn Smith. The fundamental question for the CMPI mentor panel was, “When you were thinking about your career, how was it different from what you expected in taking this journey?” or more simply, “Is it different from what you expected to be doing?” These are some of the answers they gave our fellows:

I did not imagine I would be doing all these things quite the way I am.

It is not what I thought I was going to be doing, but I am happy with where I am at right now.

I never thought my career would be like this. The experiences I have picked up in the last few years are definitely valuable, and I don’t regret it. It was not my expectation. A little bit of everything and I am happy.

Mentor Experiences

Mentor Kevin Gupana mentions that growing up in Chicago, he was in love with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and everything that they did. After playing for his first Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO) rehearsal, he knew that this was going to be a part of his life. During his college years, he envisioned winning a job in an orchestra and committed to that goal. However, before going to college, he got an internship with CYSO in their administrative department. That opened his eyes into arts administration as a career. Kevin had an idea of what that was, and knew it was something he could do, but when he went to college, he focused on becoming a great musician. While he feels like he has done that, he also developed this muscle that is really good at administration. As a result, he started working in a development role at CYSO. Now,  Kevin has grown that into working in the administrative offices at the Chicago Symphony. He never thought that he would say “I work at CSO,” and help lift up this incredible organization. It is not what he thought he was going to do, but he is happy with where he is at right now.

As a professional musician, there are various ways we organize our time, manage our energy, and become creative with ways that we stay on top of our everyday tasks. Mentor James Sanders had to become obsessed with what he does and become eclectic with his thinking. In order to achieve the highest level, he had to lock into that mindset of preparation. He expressed how you have to put your best foot forward, and the next step of your life depends on what you are doing right now. For him, it was important to find focus and become a music ninja.

Mentors Kevin and Lindsey agreed on having to learn how to say no. Lindsey mentions that when she says yes, she loses her personal time. She has to take a look at the end result, or see if she has the capacity to give it her best. Also, Google calendar is her best friend. She never wants to be the person to not show up or be 30 minutes late.

Advice on Applying to College

As these mentors have had more time after school to look back on their musical journey, there are some things that they wished they knew before applying to college. Robyn mentions to start early. Try to have your repertoire for the audition digested before the audition season. During the season, there is really no time to clean things up. Robyn wishes she set aside a more focused time to digest the repertoire she was working on.

cellist Lindsey SharpeFor Lindsey, it was helpful to make a list of schools and teachers. She went to summer festivals every year and made friends who went to the schools she wanted to go to. She also emphasized the importance of trial lessons. The college trips she went on were eye-opening, especially in being able to see the compatibility with a future potential teacher.

Mentors advised that when you audition, give yourself both physical and mental time between auditions. All of these auditions are in the middle of the winter and could be impacted by snow. Give yourself time and headspace to have the energy for these auditions.

James stated how things have changed so much, and music college auditions are much more competitive. He advises doing trial lessons at every school and making sure there is enough time for everything. He also recommends making connections, because, “The more connections you make, you never know how much it can work for you.”

This community meeting proved to be valuable, impactful, and extremely insightful for our CMPI fellows. Our mentors have been in the same shoes as our fellows, and it was beneficial to hear where they ended up, how they got to that point, how their time is organized, and what they wish they would have known before the college application process. With all this information received, CMPI is excited to see the hard work of our fellows pay off in the near future.


Above: James Sanders, Kevin Gupana with CMPI alum Oliver Talukder, James Sanders, and Lindsey Sharpe.

Would you like to make a gift to support CMPI?

Donate today