$3.5 Million Grant Launches Initiative to Diversify the Next Generation of Musicians

By Michael San Gabino |

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A brass quartet made up of young artists from different Chicago high schools performs at the announcement of the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative at Merit School of Music. The artists are (L-R): Spencer Smith (Stevenson), Krishnaraj Davis (Walter Payton), Daniel Dardon (Lane Tech) and Quinn Greven (Whitney Young) (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

On October 23, 2018, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a $3.5 million grant to seven Chicago area music organizations to establish the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI). CMPI will support promising young musicians from underrepresented backgrounds and low-income households in order to diversify the next generation of musicians. Ultimately, CMPI’s goal is to prepare these musicians to excel at the nation’s finest music schools, and, eventually, to perform with the nation’s premiere ensembles.

The announcement took place during a news conference at Merit School of Music in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Merit, along with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), Chicago Sinfonietta, DePaul University School of Music, The Negaunee Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Ravinia Festival, will serve as the Steering Team to implement CMPI. Student musicians from Merit and CYSO also performed during the news conference.

In a statement, Susan Feder, program officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Arts and Cultural Heritage program, said, “This is a matter of access and opportunity, not one of a lack of talent. Mellon-supported consortia are already working in Philadelphia and are concurrently beginning in Boston. As a major market for classical music and the third-largest school district in the nation, Chicago was a natural site for such work, and CMPI has received our largest ‘Pathways’ grant to date.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel added, “Music and arts are inseparable from a well-rounded education, and in Chicago, we are committed to expanding programs and initiatives designed to develop vital critical thinking skills and help all children realize their limitless potential. The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative will help spark the imagination and creativity of students across the city.” Mayor Emanuel was represented by his wife, Amy Rule, at the news conference.

CMPI will start recruiting young musicians in spring 2019, with the hopes of engaging 150 young musicians by 2022. Participants will receive personalized education and career plans to succeed in music.

CMPI and its partner organizations will also work closely with the following organizations to identify and support talented young musicians: Chicago Academy for the Arts, Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Chicago Mariachi Project, Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project, Chicago Public Schools, DePaul Community Music Division, Grant Park Music Festival, Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, Hyde Park Youth Symphony Orchestra, Ingenuity, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, Music Institute of Chicago, Musical Arts Institute, Shift: Englewood Youth Orchestra, The Chicago Philharmonic Society, and The People’s Music School.