“There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.” – Idowu Koyenikan
CMPI parents are as different from one another as the sections of an orchestra. But just like in orchestral music, it is the harmonious convergence of their unique qualities that makes them able to create something greater together. Meet the parent volunteers who help bring meaningful and engaging newsletter content for our growing CMPI community every month.
Meet Susan Agrawal, mother of CMPI violin fellows Sameer and Neena Agrawal
“I currently work as a freelance writer, editor, and advocate primarily for organizations that serve children with disabilities and complex medical conditions. This, however, is a second career for me. I originally received a PhD from Northwestern University in music theory and musicology and served as a Presidential Fellow and adjunct faculty member there for a number of years. My oldest child Karuna, who passed away in 2014, led me to shift my focus first to parenting a child with multiple complex medical conditions, and then to working as a writer and advocate. I also play the viola, but if you ask my kids, they will tell you I’m not very good. (They are right.)”
Susan has been part of the CMPI newsletter team since its inception in 2020. “I have always been a writer, contributing articles on a number of topics, but lately I have also been editing most of the articles submitted by staff, parents, and students. I also create the online layout for each article on the website. Recently, I have had a lot of fun returning to my musicology and theory roots by contributing some educational content on composers such as Bach and Mozart. My favorite thing about the newsletter is that it lets my music nerd come out!”
Having two children in the program allows Susan a unique depth of appreciation for CMPI, and the growth of each of her children as musicians. “Sameer has been a CMPI Fellow since the inauguration of the program, while Neena is new to CMPI this year. It’s fascinating to have two children in such different phases of the program. My son is already a very experienced performer and is beginning to work on his journey to conservatory acceptance. CMPI has brought him countless opportunities that have been utterly amazing, such as masterclasses with Riccardo Muti and Hilary Hahn, and numerous performances on WFMT. My daughter, on the other hand, is just learning to perform and take ownership of her music-making. She is benefiting most from mentorship and the workshops on subjects like practicing.”
To those who may be interested in volunteering for the newsletter team, Susan says, “Parents and students should feel free to contribute to the newsletter even if they don’t feel they are great writers. We can always polish up their writing, but it is their willingness and thoughtfulness in sharing their perspectives that is most important!”
Meet Kenyetta Giles Haynes, mother of CMPI cello fellow Akosua Haynes
“When I’m not working as a clinical specialist for a healthcare company, I’m out and about in my ‘Sweet Home Chicagoland’ partaking in all of the arts and cultural events (CSO, Hyde Park Jazz Fest, etc.), or feasting on the natural beauty of Lake Michigan and Morton Arboretum, or planting/weeding/harvesting fruits and vegetables in our community garden, or relaxing at home with a good book.”
Having recently joined the CMPI newsletter team, Kenyetta enjoys the group brainstorming that occurs at the monthly meetings. “People share so many great tips and suggestions for our students.”
As a CMPI parent, Kenyetta continues to be amazed by all the tools and resources that fellows have through CMPI. “We attended CSO’s ‘All Beethoven’ concert last week. We got a chance to meet one of my daughter’s jury adjudicators, Katinka Kleijn, who is a cellist with the CSO, after the concert. We love that we can see Akosua’s mentor, Lindsay Sharpe, perform with the Civic Orchestra.”
In addition to a growing network and access to professional orchestra concerts, Kenyetta also highlights the support and encouragement her daughter receives. “Lindsay also practices with Akosua when she can and checks in on her regularly. I feel that [CMPI director] James Hall has been so encouraging and supportive of Akosua (and us as parents) from the very beginning of the program as her student navigator. He’s been a huge part of her growth over these last three years. It inspires me to keep our daughter motivated and appreciative of all the opportunities CMPI provides.”
Meet Yana Nedvetsky, mother of CMPI cello fellow Jan Vargas Nedvetsky
Yana enjoys being part of the CMPI newsletter writer’s pool. “I feel honored to be writing faculty and staff profiles for the newsletter. Each interview has been incredibly inspiring and illuminating.”
A practicing dentist, Yana is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Orthodontics of the University of Illinois School of Dentistry in Chicago. She is also the proud mom of CMPI fellow, Jan, and his two older sisters: Nikki, a journalist, and Natalie, a pianist, both living in New York City.
Of Jan and being part of CMPI, Yana says, “My son, Jan Vargas Nedvetsky, is a high school freshman, in his second year of CMPI. He is also a fellow at the Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago, where he studies cello with Hans Jensen. Jan enjoys very much participating in CMPI recitals and meetings, and is very grateful for the opportunities made available to him in the program.”
Meet Farah Briones, mother of CMPI violin fellow Noah Briones
“The first article I wrote was for the maiden issue of the CMPI newsletter in 2020. It was a feature on one of my favorite musicians who also happens to be my son, Noah. I have written many other pieces for the newsletter since then, including student, faculty, and staff features. With each assignment I feel that my appreciation for all of us, the people that make up the CMPI community, grows exponentially. Each fellow that I have interviewed has impressed me with their maturity and commitment to reaching their goal. What I have learned from doing the faculty and staff features has also been immense. I am grateful to be able to volunteer doing something that allows me to learn more about the people who make CMPI such a vibrant organization.”
With a masters degree in Communications from Northwestern University, Farah’s past employment has included writing, corporate management, and undergraduate teaching. As a polio survivor dealing with post-polio syndrome, Farah is now a full-time wife and mom. “I think my current occupation is the best one I have had yet,” she quips.
Farah’s son, violin fellow Noah Briones, is part of the inaugural class of CMPI. “Time has flown by so quickly, but we will not soon forget the tremendous support that we have received from CMPI. There have been many unique experiences that Noah has enjoyed as a fellow, and we have enjoyed as parents, from the time he joined in his sophomore year and up until now that he is a senior. The recitals, summer camps, masterclasses, mock auditions, trial lessons, concerts, coachings, juries and so much more are invaluable things that Noah has been blessed with through CMPI. In 2021 Noah was even given the unique opportunity to speak on behalf of CMPI in an ABC7 News feature. That experience helped Noah to truly understand and articulate exactly what CMPI is to him as an aspiring professional violinist. It is hard to imagine his growth as a musician in these past three years without CMPI. It’s my gratefulness for all of these things that have moved me to be a parent volunteer.”
Agrawal family outside; Neena Agrawal; Sameer Agrawal; Kenyetta Haynes with husband Charles Haynes and daughter Akosua at the Morton Arboretum; CMPI Cello fellow Akosua Haynes with CSO cellist and CMPI jury adjudicator, Katinka Kleijn; Farah Briones with husband Jon and son Noah after Noah’s solo recital in December 2021 at New Hope Church of Alsip, Illinois; Noah Briones.