Let’s take a peek behind the curtain and get to know some of the fantastic Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative administration. First up? CMPI Student Navigator Jennifer Woodrum.


Name: Jennifer Woodrum
Hometown: Lemont, IL
Primary Instrument: clarinet
College(s) and Major(s): Northwestern University, Music Performance
How did you get your name? I’m a girl of the 1970s: we were for the most part all named Jennifer. 😉
Do you have a nickname? Most people call me Jenny
Do you currently have any pets? Louie (4), who is an Aruban Cunucu (no joke), which is basically the name given to street dogs in Aruba. A friend of mine fosters dogs from Aruba through a foundation that sponsors their migration to the US. He looks kind of like a black lab. We adopted him when he was 8 weeks. Amy Santiago (2), who is a cattle dog mix, spends most of her days dropping the ball at my feet and waiting for me to throw it. That is, when she is not involved in her detective work for the 99th Precinct in Brooklyn.


What career highlight are you most proud of?
The bulk of my career was spent as a freelance clarinetist and private teacher. When I returned to Northwestern for my DMA in 2017, I had intentions to get my degree and seek out a full-time teaching position. Being back at NU after being a professional for 17 years was weird, hard, intimidating, awkward and eye-opening. I was immediately struck by how little had changed in the curriculum despite all the changes that were taking place in the field of music as a whole. I found my tribe in the Music Education department. I took courses on creativity (or the lack thereof) in music teaching, unconventional ways to teach composition in the classroom, how to be an effective facilitator in community music settings, the merits and downfalls of culturally relevant pedagogy and social justice and music education. I was greatly inspired by the research and work done by my professor Dr. Maud Hickey on teaching composition in Cook County’s Juvenile Detention Center. The hours spent in these courses changed me forever. As an adjunct teacher and freelance performer, I was limited in the impact I could have on the trajectory of music education. In speaking to some of my mentors, I decided to seek out career options in administration, where my experience and research could lead discussions on curriculum design, access and inclusion. When I heard about Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, I began stalking the website for job openings. The student navigator position seemed like the perfect position to continue to draw on the experiences I have as a teacher, performer and collaborator, while also trying out this whole administrative thing. I love my job.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Take feedback with gratitude, not attitude. I was THE WORST at getting feedback from colleagues, teachers and conductors early in my career. I would take the feedback respectfully to their faces but I would take it home with me and usually cry, seek out a friend that would agree with me that this person was wrong and being a jerk, get angry and dismiss it. I created so many obstacles for myself in doing so. Over time, I’ve gotten better at receiving feedback, but it is something that I have to consciously work on.

What’s one work-related thing you want to accomplish in the next year?
This month, I am excited to pass the rest of my history exams for my DMA, so that I have more mental energy to devote to designing our three-year SEL curriculum on identity, self and belonging.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned in your current position?
I am constantly learning in this position, but here’s one that I think about a lot. This is the first social, academic or professional setting where I have had the opportunity to be the only white voice in the room. It is a gift that I do not take for granted. It allows me the space to decenter my whiteness and constantly put my privilege in check.

What’s your favorite thing about your current job?
Creating space and a framework for relationship building among all of the components of the fellow’s web of support: the private teacher, the mentor, the parents, the student, the student navigator and the fellows and families with one another. Over this past semester, I have been holding weekly meetings with a small group of students. We talk about ways to improve CMPI connection among fellows and families and engage in various activities toward becoming our best selves. So far, we’ve explored mindful breathing exercises, goal setting strategies and mapping tension and release in musical phrases. I leave these sessions feeling completely energized and hopeful that even during this pandemic, the power of human connection prevails.


CMPI Student Navigator Jennifer Woodrum with her family, Christmas 2020.

What music are you listening to these days?
Late 19th century art songs, Billie Eilish, Lake Street Dive, Vulfpeck, I’m With Her, Tank and the Bangas

What was the best vacation you ever took and why?
If you asked me this question at a different time, you might get a different answer. Given the past year (being with my children almost constantly and being deprived of live music) it has to be when my husband and I left the kids behind and went to New Orleans right before I started my DMA. It was a glorious week of decadent dining and music everywhere. We have plans to return the minute I finish my degree.

Do you have a favorite type of exercise?
Running – I love being outdoors with my thoughts. It’s my self-improvement time – I listen to audiobooks or music and allow the experiences of the previous day and what lies ahead to slowly simmer.

What’s on your bucket list?
Run a marathon, ski a real Black Diamond (not a Wisconsin Black Diamond), take my kids to the see an ocean, the Redwoods, Niagra Falls, the Grand Canyon, somewhere tropical and somewhere in Europe, finish my degree 🤣

Do you have any pet peeves?
Loud chewers, Ice Chompers, Slurping, Holes in socks


Lightning Round

What was the last TV show you binge-watched? The Righteous Gemstones
What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better? A long walk with my dogs, a friend and a cup of coffee
What song always gets you out on the dance floor? I love to dance. You will not be able to get me off the dance floor if there is any 90s hip hop involved.
What’s the phone app you use most? Spotify
Who was your first celebrity crush? Michael Jackson
What’s your favorite board game? Ticket to Ride
If you see a puddle on the ground, do you walk around it or over it? Leap over it
What would be the title of your memoir? If Jennifer Lopez would be okay with it, I’m Still Jenny From the Block
Do you hit the snooze button or wake up immediately? Snooze 1-2 times
Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales? Fur
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Catherine O’Hara because she can do no wrong.
What’s your go-to midnight snack? Cheese or Nuts


TOP: CMPI Student Navigator Jennifer Woodrum | © Nicole Bitonti


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