Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative helping minority youth get into music school

CHICAGO (WLS) -- African-American and Latinx musicians hold less than three percent of positions in major American orchestras. That's according to the League of American Orchestras.

A local group is trying to make it easier for minority students to break into the classical music industry. They are looking for gifted young musicians.

Riverside Brookfield High School student Noah Briones, 17, is passionate about his music.

"I want to be a violinist in a professional orchestra and right now a step toward that is getting into a college music college, a conservatory," Briones said.

The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative is all about showing underserved, underrepresented young people - like Noah - the in's and out's of getting a top-notch musical education.

"They get an hour private music lesson once a week," said Adrienne Thompson, Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative's project director. "It involves matching them with a mentor who provides support and knowledge about the industry. It includes family education for parents so they know what to expect and how to support their child."

The students also work with academic guides or navigators from 6th grade through graduation. They are given professional-quality instruments and can attend summer music camps conducted by world-class musicians, although most of that has been virtual lately. It's all about making connections - and it's all free.

"What we are doing is sharing that good ole boy network with our families," Thompson said.

The goal is more diversity and inclusion in the world of classical music.

"It's very important to me because I want to bring a new face to music," Briones said. "They build you up from the ground up so that you are prepared for those college auditions."

CMPI placed all seven of its first group of students in top-notch music schools across the country. It's in the middle of its 2nd year.

"If a student comes in and they are willing to do the work, then what we are guaranteeing is that they are going to get into a good music school," Thompson said. "Guaranteeing! If they do the work, the process works!"

And that could mean music to so many ears!

In this second year, Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative has 93 students from 57 different Chicago zip codes currently enrolled. There's an audition process in order for a student to take part in this free mentorship program for the next class.
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