Spotlight on Jessica E: What Your Support Makes Possible!

Jessica has been part of The People’s Music School family since she was in 5th grade. While she’s gone on to study pre-medicine at Northwestern University, she still feels that she “always has a home at People’s.” She’s performed alongside artists such as Yo-Yo Ma  and Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins. She’s represented her peers at the National Take a Stand Festival with the LA Philharmonic. And she has continued to use the skills she learned at People’s as a vehicle to success. We talked with her about the memories and life lessons she carries with her today.

TPMS: How long were you in the TPMS program? Which program site?

Jessica: I joined the program in 5th grade, and stayed through my graduation from Northside College Prep in 2017. I studied at Uptown Academy.

TPMS: What instrument did you play with TPMS?

Jessica: I started with the violin, and added harp in my freshman year. I was in the

TPMS: Do you still play music today?

Jessica: Yes, I play the violin in an orchestra at school — the Northwestern Philharmonia Orchestra

TPMS: Where do you go to school, and what are you studying?

Jessica: I’m in my first year at Northwestern University, and I’m studying pre-medicine. I’m choosing between biology and neuroscience, but want to focus on global health no matter what I decide to do. I’d like to do something that combines medicine and business — I like to work with other people and collaborate.

TPMS: What is the most important thing you learned at TPMS? How has what you learned at TPMS impacted you/helped you succeed as a college student?

Jessica: TPMS taught me to try new things, be open to new experiences, and seek out opportunity.  I would have never imagined myself playing the harp. It was helpful to know that everyone around me [at TPMS] was there to help me, and to have a strong support network through the music school.

At TPMS I also learned that everyone is an ambassador and that we represent so much more than just ourselves. This allows me to remember those who have helped me along the way, who have nurtured me, and it encourages me to do my best in everything I do. This has been helpful at Northwestern as it allows me to discern why I choose to do the things I do, whether that is taking a particular class, joining a particular organization, working on group projects, or working with others on a difficult assignment. Understanding who and what I represent has helped me to work even harder to make sure I can give my all in what I do. I learned from Ms. Jennifer [Kim Matsuzawa, President and Artistic Director] that learning a musical instrument is not just about notes and performance, but about being a better citizen, learning how to work with others, and always doing your best in whatever task is given to you.

TPMS: Any special memories from TPMS?

Jessica: I had lots of opportunities to collaborate with awesome artists – playing Tonight, Tonight with Jimmy Chamberlin at the 40th Anniversary Bash, playing Fourth Presbyterian with Yo-Yo Ma and the Bach Marathon with Civic. In the summer before my senior year, TPMS partnered with the International Contemporary Ensemble. Through this partnership, we learned to play our instruments in ways we wouldn’t normally play them.

It was a really great experience that opened my eyes to how diverse the music world is, and that it’s ok to break barriers and try different things. For example, we played in “textures” — four textures were written out with descriptions (i.e. light, airy, plucking). The conductor would hold up a number, and we would play that “texture.” Memorizing the textures and paying attention to the conductor helped make us more connected in playing together. There were so many ways to combine the “textures,” so it was always a new piece. It promoted togetherness, but also individual decision making.

I was also very grateful for the opportunities I had to work with younger students. I enjoyed teaching kids and playing with them. It was neat to see them go through the same things I went through when learning an instrument, and communicating tips and tricks to help them along.

TPMS: What does being a part of the TPMS family mean to you? To your own family?

Jessica: I am so thankful to be a part of the TPMS family. I have had the most wonderful experiences and met the most amazing people. I would not have had the chance to have such cool experiences without TPMS and I am forever grateful. I am thankful to all my mentors who have equipped with me with the skills I need to handle all types of situations. My siblings and I all went through the music school and we all understand the importance of music, how it can bring people together, and what an impact it has on people’s lives.  I always feel that I have a home there. It’s always so fun to go back and just chat with everyone and catch up.

Support from people like you helped make this story possible. You can empower more students like Jessica at our big community event, Performapaloozathon, on June 2! Attend, volunteer, or donate here.

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