It has been a year… Of closed schools and remote learning. Of masks and social isolation. Of toilet paper and disinfectant shortages. Of Zoom family meetings and virtual lessons. Of coping. Of gratitude, of pain, and of grief. Yet, our CMPI seniors persevered. They held on and continued their trek towards the finish line of a journey that they began many years ago.

Noah Mercadillo acknowledged his support system. “I owe [CMPI Mentor James Sanders] much gratitude for the knowledge he has passed on to me this year, and for keeping my spirits up during the notoriously stressful college application process.” Noah also was quick to thank CMPI administrators James Hall and Jennifer Woodrum. “They have assisted me whenever I contacted them and have provided wisdom to me when I needed it most.”

Through CMPI’s instrument purchase program Nate Scott got a new viola, Olivia Molina’s bow came all the way from London, and Ixchel Camacho added a new case amongst her purchases. And they all embarked upon a search.

Trial lessons with potential teachers began in the summer and continued into the fall. Peter Slowik from Oberlin and Melissa Kraut from CIM. USC, Juilliard, and so many more! Xavier Perry said, “Not only did I learn about different teaching styles from the trial lessons, but I also received feedback that was incorporated into how I prepared the pieces for my auditions” Along the same lines, Rafael Noreiga believed that “taking private lessons with other professional musicians and college teachers from across the country was very beneficial in order to get to know better the people and styles, and to determine if you ultimately see yourself studying with him/her in college.”

Our seniors had ample opportunities to learn how to perform by performing. They began with studio classes, where they played for each other and started to get to know each other. It continued with a Mozart master class for our wind players as well as a Bach master class for our string players. These seniors played for Nathan Cole, Joshua Roman, David Cooper, Anthony McGill and Weston Sprott. It included a three-session mock audition series with Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians.

Michelle Brannon remarked that she “was able to understand the mental battle of music performance through reading about, and talking to, [CMPI Coach] Dr. Orit, a psychologist, periodically to track growth.”

One of Miguel Rodriguez’s highlights was “the amazing opportunity to be featured on WFMT radio. I still get complemints to this day and it is one of the most amazing things that I have gotten to do as a musician, and in my life, in general.”

Melissa Everson pointed out how “CMPI places a lot of responsibility on its students, which taught me a lot about how to maintain self-care, schoolwork, and music. I never thought I would be checking my emails as often as I do today, but I find it incredibly rewarding to stay organized.”

Our musicians prepared prescreening recordings…and waited. Then they sent in audition videos…and waited. They received acceptances and pondered. They received financial aid packages and, in some cases, appealed. And now? Now they have decided!

2021 CMPI Seniors, College Destinations

  1. Nicole Kwasny, DePaul University
  2. Nathaniel Scott, DePaul University
  3. Nando Cordeiro, DePaul University
  4. Kailie Holliday, Northwestern University
  5. Miguel Rodriguez, Northwestern University
  6. Rafael Noriega, Cleveland Institute of Music
  7. Ixchel Camacho, University of North Texas
  8. Xavier Perry, Drake University
  9. Noah Mercadillo, Roosevelt University
  10. Michelle Brannon, University of Colorado – Boulder
  11. Bryce Kayser, University of Colorado – Boulder
  12. Olivia Molina, Oberlin
  13. Melissa Everson, San Francisco Conservatory
  14. Eric Bahena, chose not to attend college and will be taking a gap year

Olivia Molina described the impact of CMPI when she discussed how “the application/audition process has been pretty stressful, especially this year with the pandemic. But CMPI has given me the privilege to minimize worry about the quality of my instrument, application fees, etc. Instead, I am able to focus on making sure my auditions go well, choosing rep, and playing the best I possibly can”.

In summary, Melissa Everson said that CMPI taught her “that we should work hard for our dreams, and that we should not feel hesitant to aim high. The core belief I learned is that if we do achieve our goals and dreams, it will not be because of luck this time, but drive and passion.”

The entire CMPI family recognizes and rejoices with these seniors. You make us proud!


Adrienne Thompson, CMPI Project Director

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