Merit School of Music

The Joy of Music: Merit’s Leadership Institute Provides Students with Insightful Life Advice

Even as we make our way through this season of chilly, snowy days, growth and excitement can be seen, heard, and felt in Merit School of Music’s young musicians, who are ardently preparing for their bright futures.

Merit’s Associate Board recently hosted a Leadership Institute panel at the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center here in the West Loop to discuss with students topics such as building careers, facing rejection, and deciding what comes next in their musical journeys. Merit’s Leadership Institute is a free mentorship program supporting Conservatory high school juniors and seniors as they prepare for their first year of college.

In the session moderated by Associate Board members Conrad Devin and Eduardo Lopez, arts administrators (Tim Corpus, Kurt Gildow, and Richard Riedl), a record label executive (Binta Niambi Brown), and employees of music technology company, Shure Incorporated (Chery Jennison DaProza and Brent Shumard) shared their experiences with our students on how they found their career paths, how their musical training and education has supported their goals, and expanded definitions for our students of what careers in music can look like beyond performance and teaching.

Read below for some key insights and advice shared by our panelists.

“The best thing you can do for yourself as you move towards adulthood, especially if you are aiming for a job in music, is to embrace radical uncertainty and learn to live with that.”

– Binta Niambi Brown, Founder & Executive, Omalilly Projects


“Rejection hurt a lot. But it’s what put me on my path. There is no right path to get to where you want to be, there’s just your path.”

– Tim Corpus, Composer & Arts Manager


“Don’t ever be afraid to redefine what success is and what it looks like for yourself.”

– Cheryl Jennison DaProza, Associate Manager of Corporate Communications, Shure Inc.

“It’s okay not to be the smartest person in the room. In fact, it’s very valuable, because you want to be in a position to learn and grow. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you probably need to find a different room.”

– Richard Riedl, Manager of Governing Member Gifts, Chicago Symphony Orchestra


“When it comes to the next steps in life, organizational skills and study skills transcend school, and are incredibly important.”

– Brent Shumard, Acoustical Engineer, Shure Inc.


While planning for the future and navigating career paths can be nerve-wracking for young students, hearing firsthand from these talented professionals may just be the support and reassurance these students need to keep the music, and joy, alive.

Add a Little Music to Your Inbox

Get the latest news from Merit delivered to you!

Share This Post

More To Explore