Today we bring you four graduating seniors from Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative – a violinist, a horn player, and two percussionists.
Amarin Sharma recently graduated from York Community High School in Elmhurst. Amarin started playing the violin at 7 years old. At the age of 8 she joined Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), progressing through to the flagship Symphony Orchestra, as well as chamber groups and the Classical Orchestral Repertory Ensemble (CORE). In addition to CYSO, Amarin was involved in York Symphony Orchestra and Northwestern Music Academy Virtuosi Strings throughout high school.
Amarin was a Fellow of Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative (CMPI) and a Mellon Foundation Scholarship recipient for three years. Through CMPI, she received guidance and support to further develop her passion in violin performance and orchestral music in preparation for music education in college.
She has competed in violin competitions including the Illinois Music Association Annual Olympic Contest where she earned first place. Amarin also enjoyed participating in the ILMEA District 1 and All-State Honors orchestras festivals, as well as OPUS, Credo, and Fulton Music Academy summer camps. In developing her musical skills, Amarin was mentored by Ayako Kikuchi and Stacia Spencer at Northwestern University. In the fall she will study Violin Performance at Vanderbilt University.
Sophia Luong is a percussionist from Des Plaines and a recent graduate of Maine West High School. She has been playing percussion for six years and studying under John Ringor for three. Sophia was a fellow with Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative as well as a student at Merit School of Music. She has also been a member of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and National Youth Orchestra 2.
In the fall, Sophia will attend the Cleveland Institute of Music to study Percussion Performance.
Aleo Esparza, 18, is a Mexican-American percussionist from Chicago, where he graduated from the Francis W. Parker School. He was a fellow in Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative from 2019 to 2023, and studied classical percussion at Merit School of Music with Brandon Podjasek. As a student at Merit, Aleo played in the Philharmonic Orchestra and the percussion chamber group Sticks and Stones. Additionally, Aleo served as Principal Percussionist of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and Timpanist of the CYSO Classical Orchestral Repertory Ensemble for the 2022/23 season.
In 2021-22, Aleo was selected for the ILMEA Honors All-State Band and received the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. The latter led to a performance on Show 423 of NPR’s From The Top.
In the summers, Aleo has attended Interlochen Arts Camp twice – once in 2019, and then again in 2021, where he was selected to play in the World Youth Wind Symphony. Last summer, he attended the Brevard Music Center Summer Festival in North Carolina. In the fall, Aleo will attend the DePaul University School of Music for his undergraduate studies in classical percussion.
Elena Miller is an 18-year-old horn player from Orland Park, and a recent graduate of Victor J. Andrew High School. She was a member of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras for five years, taking part in the flagship Symphony Orchestra for three years and the top woodwind quintet for one. She studied horn with Dr. Randall Faust, and in the fall she heads to the Cleveland Institute of Music to study Horn Performance.