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by Angelica Galicia

CMPI Senior Sofia Villanueva has been playing the flute since she was in fourth grade at Edison Park Elementary school when the music program Music Education Services visited her school to show the students different instruments and form a band program. Sofia chose to try out the trumpet and the flute, thinking the trumpet was easier to play since it only had three keys. When the time came for her to be graded on how she played on each, she was graded lower on the flute and decided that she would choose the flute and practice and improve on it and prove everyone who gave her a lower grade wrong. She has not looked back on her choice.

sophia villanuevaSofia is a senior at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) and is part of the ChiArts Wind Symphony, Orchestra, and Woodwind Quintet. She also attends the Merit School of Music, where she is part of the Wind Symphony, the Philharmonic, and the Purple Hippopotami, a flute ensemble that won the Open Division in the flute Category at the 2024 National Chamber Competition. She participated in the Youth in Music Festival in 2023, and when I spoke to her, she had returned from recording that day for an episode of WFMT’s show of young performers under college age called Introductions.

Sofia and I spoke about what she’s taking away from her experience with CMPI. She said she is grateful for the assistance that was provided for her to attend the summer music festivals that she was fortunate to participate in. Her most memorable music experience was actually attending Sewanee Music Festival in 2023; she enjoyed playing Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff, one of her favorite pieces, alongside college performers, not just musicians her own age. CMPI also helped her out with college auditions by scheduling flights for her auditions. Another helpful aspect of CMPI were the juries; she says it was hard to read the comments sometimes, but the feedback helped her grow as a musician.

Sofia had a setback a few months ago when it was apparent she was going to need surgery on her arm for a recurring pain she felt when she played her flute. Her pain started last summer when she sometimes felt shots of numbness. She had to sit out a few performances and eventually had Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery in December. She is doing much better, and believes the injury was caused by holding her flute incorrectly. We both realized that injuries and injury prevention is not something that is addressed often with young musicians. It was refreshing for her when during one of the CMPI meetings this year injury prevention was addressed with two physical therapists who showed the fellows different techniques they could take away for their own practice.

When I asked Sofia what advice she had for CMPI fellows and upcoming seniors, she said that it is important to make an organized practice schedule. “As high school goes on, you get more and more busy. But more importantly, because you are busier, it’s important to take care of your body.”

I have been lucky to know Sofia for almost four years now since she is a classmate and good friend of my son’s. I have had the pleasure to see her grow as a musician, a leader, and a responsible young adult. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her, and know that she appreciated the opportunities CMPI has given her on way to becoming a successful musician.


Sofia with flute

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