Mentorship Program for Music Students from Underrepresented Communities Invites Applicants for 2021-2022 Cohort (Feb 5 Deadline)

Press release

Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative(CMPI), a mentorship program launched in Fall 2019 for talented student musicians from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, invites dedicated music students to audition for its third cohort of ‘Fellows’ starting in the 2021-22 academic year. CMPI offers its student Fellows a robust training curriculum – offered virtually until further notice – designed to prepare young musicians to successfully audition into top tier college-level music schools in the country. 

In addition to providing vital financial support, among CMPI’s valuable program offerings include weekly private lessons, ongoing written and verbal feedback, master classes and mock auditions with musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, monthly mentorship for the entire family from professional musicians, and more. Online applications for the CMPI 2021-22 cohort are due February 5, followed by virtual information sessions and audition video submissions.  For additional program offerings, application guidelines and to sign up, visit

Acknowledging that African American and Latinx musicians hold less than 3% of the positions in major American orchestras (League of American Orchestras), the mission of CMPI is to identify and develop gifted and motivated orchestral students from underrepresented backgrounds for acceptance into top-tier conservatory, college or university classical music programs in preparation for careers as professional musicians. Now in its second full season, some 93 student Fellowsare currently enrolled in CMPI, representing 57 zip codes from across the greater Chicago area and reflecting the diversity of the city of Chicago (31% African American, 51% Latinx, 5% Southeast Asian, 2% South Asian, 4% East Asian, and 7% Caucasian).  Learn more about all the Fellows at

Second year CMPI Violin Fellow Noah Briones, a Latinx-Asian junior at Riverside Brookfield High School, enjoys the camaraderie and musicianship of the program. “Watching my CMPI peers perform at our virtual recitals inspires me to keep getting better and assures me that I am not the only one working hard at pursuing this goal,” he said.  “If one day in the future I could sit in the same chair where my awesome CMPI teacher, CSO Assistant Concertmaster David Taylor, now sits, that would be a dream come true! For now, I know I still have a long way to go.”

Added CMPI Project Director Adrienne Thompson, “Through exceptional guidance, musician mentorship, and a profound sense of community, we support our current and incoming students on their journey towards top tier conservatory and college music school admission,” “Since many of our programs now take place virtually, it has been especially rewarding to see the adaptability and flexible thinking of our students and families this year.”

The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI) is a multi-organization collaborative effort established in 2018 with an extraordinary $3.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Its long-term goal is to help address the persistent lack of diversity in American orchestras – a condition that threatens the vitality and viability of classical, orchestral music. CMPI is aimed at building a more robust Chicago-area training pathway for talented student musicians from traditionally under-represented backgrounds, from 6th grade through 12th grade. The project focuses on instrumental students of classical music who have demonstrated both aptitude and interest in pursuing intensive study and a career specifically as a professional performing musician.

The initiative involves close collaboration and resource sharing among a diverse network of well-established non-profit Chicago youth and music education focused organizations. Together, participating organizations are working to identify talented, motivated students early in their training. Students selected for CMPI will be carefully assessed and provided with comprehensive supports – musical and extra-musical (e.g. financial, instructional, academic, etc.) to remove many of the barriers to access that can discourage or derail the training of talented students from under-represented backgrounds before they are able to realize their full musical potential.

Participating organizations include Merit School of Music, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Chicago High School for the Arts, Chicago Sinfonietta, Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, DePaul University School of Music, Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, Musical Arts Institute, and Ravinia Festival.  

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at

Learn more about CMPI at

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