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Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI) is blessed with an abundance of talented individuals. From our young fellows, to the seasoned teachers and faculty, to the committed staff who keep everything going — CMPI’s spectrum of musicians work together to make a meaningful difference in the community and in the world. One such individual is student navigator Miguel Aguirre.

Originally from Southern California, Miguel is a seasoned violinist who graduated from CSU Northridge with a Bachelor of Music with Latin Honors and the University of California Los Angeles with a Master’s in Music with Latin Honors.

Miguel recounted his journey to his current role in CMPI: “I started working with CMPI as a mentor for the program. Being a mentor helped me understand CMPI’s components before becoming a student navigator.” In his current role, Miguel reflects on CMPI’s mission. “What connects with me most about our mission is helping students who are passionate about music performance reach their full potential. Too often, it is the case that students receive high-level instruction and opportunities much later in their musical development. What is really special about CMPI is that the network begins that process for our fellows much earlier than usual, whether it’s performing in a masterclass for a world-class musician, providing resources to attend a national camp, or aiding in the process of acquiring a high-quality instrument. Every fellow in our program is at a different stage in their musical development, but we try to make sure we meet our fellows’ individual needs.”

“What I enjoy most about working at CMPI is the connection with other musicians, teachers, and students alike. As a navigator, I get a unique glimpse into the fellows’ musical development. While the private teacher sees them play once a week and the student hears individual progress daily, I get to listen less frequently, allowing me to see their musical growth over an extended period. It’s always rewarding to look back on all of the progress the students make every few months.”

Recognizing the important role of mentors in the life of young musicians, Miguel shared his own memories of mentors that greatly influenced him. “One of my musical mentors was Mrs. Victoria Shapiro. She was my first private violin teacher. We did not have much in common…beyond our common love for the violin! She was the first person who taught me the importance of taking notes during lessons, holding myself accountable, and introduced me to the violin technique. Mrs. Shapiro passed away a few years ago, but her influence stays with me. I still remember…the respect she had for me and my time, and how brutally honest she was about the importance of technique and practice.”

“Another mentor of mine is Melecio Huizar. Mr. Huizar was my solfege teacher. His love for music is infectious, and you can’t help but feel joyful when you are around him.  The observations I made while studying with him taught me that to experience music is a blessing, and as we continue to develop, we should aim not to lose that child-like joy.”

The work with CMPI that Miguel finds truly rewarding is not without its challenges. Miguel shared some of the most challenging and rewarding times he has experienced as a CMPI staff member. “The most challenging experience has been remote work. Shifting programming to a digital platform was challenging. So much of music requires in-person interaction. Looking back on the academic year, I am in awe of all of the fellows’ grit and perseverance. There were lots of successes and progress made, despite the difficulties of navigating these strange times.”

CMPI is truly blessed with a musician such as Miguel Aguirre whose life’s work goes beyond performing on stage, who shines the light on the young musicians who also dream of making a difference. The most important thing that he wants people to know about CMPI is that, “CMPI is genuinely committed to making sure that all of our fellows have the opportunity to reach their true potential. The program assists with financial needs and resources. CMPI provides a space for a community to work together with the end goal of developing and nurturing students who are passionate about music-making.”

ALL PHOTOS: Miguel Aguirre, all photos by Todd Rosenberg

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