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This year, CMPI welcomes nine new fellows, including five violinists, a violist, a cellist, a flutist, and a bass trombonist. They range in age from sixth to eleventh grade and represent both Chicago and the suburbs.

new fellow collage

Give a warm welcome to this year’s new fellows!

Amirah Muhammad

Amirah Muhammad is currently in the eighth grade. While she began her musical career as a vocalist, she began studying violin during the pandemic. She currently plays in A Touch of Classical Plus String Ensemble and studies with Phyllis Calderon.

Beatrice Valenzuela

Beatrice Valenzuela is a sixth grader who currently studies violin with Desirée Ruhstrat and Timothy Hager, and serves as CYSO’s concertmaster for Debut Orchestra. In addition, she plays in a piano trio and recently served as understudy to the Young Fiddler in the Lyric Opera’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. She has participated in masterclasses with musicians such as David Taylor and Arnaud Sussman. She also enjoys horseback riding, reading, and learning languages.

Chloe Nam

Chloe Nam is in the ninth grade. She began her flute studies at age 6 and currently studies with Hideko Amano. She performs with CYSO’s Philharmonic Orchestra and has also been in Merit School of Music’s Conservatory for three years. She was first chair flute in ILMEA District Junior Band and has also won awards in the Society of American Musicians’ competition, CYSO’s Concerto Competition, the DePaul Concerto Festival, Walgreens National Concerto Competition, and the Chicago Flute Club Student Competition. She enjoys reading, writing, drawing, programming, and Latin Club.

Diego Gomez

Diego Gomez is an eleventh grader whose musical studies began in fifth grade, with opera, choir, and viola. He plays in his school orchestra and the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra. This past year, he rejoined choir, went to a summer music program, and started private lessons.

Eric Nickerson

Eric Nickerson is in the tenth grade. Eric has always loved music of all genres and spends much of his day trying to understand all types of music, whether that’s wordplay in rap or beautifully written symphonies. At age 8 he began participating in choir and started the cello two years later. He currently takes private lessons and plays with CYSO’s Accelerando Strings.

Juan Garcia Jr.
Bass Trombone

Juan Garcia Jr. is an eleventh grader who attends John Hancock College Prep and studies at the Merit School of Music. He began playing trombone in fourth grade and switched to bass trombone last year. He is a leader in his Robotics Team and led them to win the school’s first award, this year’s Rookie Sensation.

Luis Fernandez Jr.

Luis Fernandez Jr. is in the seventh grade, attends Fuentes Acero School, and began playing the violin at age nine. He plays in his school orchestra, has studied at Merit School of Music, and participates in Music Inc. with Ms. Sarah Dupuis.

Mahalia Hernandez

Mahalia Hernandez is an eleventh grader at Lincoln Park High School. At age four, she began learning both piano and violin. She loves watching culinary, baking, and farming videos on YouTube, learning about history, drawing with ballpoint pens, and thinking about her future as a cat mom.

Nnemka Okeke

Nnemka Okeke is in the eleventh grade. She began her violin studies in 2018 with the Golf Middle School Orchestra and this fall will play in the North Shore Country Day School Ensemble. In the past, she has played in the Glen Waverley Secondary School Orchestra in Melbourne, Australia, and the Niles North High School Orchestra. She also studies piano and voice and hopes to someday play violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


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