CYSO’s Adriana Koch Shares Her Experience as a CMPI Fellow

Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI) identifies orchestral students from underrepresented backgrounds and those from low-income backgrounds or who would be the first in their family to attend college and prepares them for careers as professional musicians. As a member of the CMPI Steering Committee, CYSO is proud to be part of such an innovative program and support the 40% of CMPI fellows who are also members of our ensembles! Symphony Orchestra’s Adriana Koch, who has been a member of CMPI for the past two years, recently reflected on her experience with the program. 

The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI) is a musical training program that supports talented orchestral musicians who face barriers to becoming professional musicians. In addition to financial support, CMPI fellows also receive mentoring by professional musicians of their instrument in the Chicagoland area, as well as participation in masterclasses and workshops. 
During my time at CMPI, I have had many wonderful experiences. One of my most memorable was when I performed for Titus Underwood, principal oboe of the Nashville Symphony. Mr. Underwood taught me not only how to practice efficiently, but also how to take my playing to the next level. He emphasized the need to use a drone during every practice session and how quality is better than quantity when it comes to practicing.
When I and the other CMPI fellows performed for Mr. Underwood, he was tough on us and picked out many tiny things throughout our performance that could help take us to the next level. He talked about how our performances were like “a clean room,” in the sense that even one dirty sock on the ground it will stick out when the rest of your room is spotless. Small changes could help our playing improve a lot.

Another great experience I’ve had at CMPI is their help with the college audition process. CMPI has made the journey to conservatory seem more realistic and less frightening and stressful than it felt before. CMPI has set up meetings with the admissions committee of many of the top conservatories to cover information about the school, audition process, and any additional questions we fellows had about applying. These meetings are a good way to get to know the school to see if it would be a good fit for me.
CMPI fellows also participate in two juries throughout the school year. The juries are similar to ones we will participate in in college and help make sure we’re making adequate progress in our playing. participating in the juries has helped me stay on track to make sure I’m at the level I need to be for acceptance into conservatory.
CMPI has taught me how to be responsible for myself which has effected my performance at CYSO as well. The experience has taught me how to adequately prepare for rehearsals, auditions, and more. After I joined CMPI, I started coming to my CYSO rehearsals more prepared and therefore got to play a an even higher level than ever before.

CMPI’s inaugural fellows in 2019. Adriana is pictured in the front row, 5th from the right

It’s safe to say that my experiences at CMPI have been nothing short of phenomenal. Not only have I had numerous musical opportunities, CMPI has also provided me with a community of like-minded musicians. I am able to learn and grow with other supportive students going through the same process as I am. 
I want to thank Adrienne Thompson, James Hall, Jennifer Woodrum, and Miguel Aguirre for making my CMPI experience so positive. With CMPI’s help, I am able to pursue my dream of becoming a classical musician.

For more information on CMPI and joining the next cohort of fellows, visit

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