October 9, 2019

CIM's New Class of Musical Pathway Fellows Following Their Dreams and Changing the Face of Classical Music

MPF fellows
MPF fellows (from left to right) Damian Goggans, Jackson Marshall, Mariana Castañeda, Hannah Rowland-Seymour, Travis Phillips and Jamiyah Dotson. Not pictured: Alexa Clawson and Daziel Pérez Pagán.

Jamiyah Dotson’s friends and some family members have told her that her dream to become a role model violinist and inspire other children and people like her might be a bit cliché and perhaps she could find a different reason to stand out. But Jamiyah says she is staying true to herself and holding firm to that dream.

The 15-year-old Cleveland School of the Arts student is one of the four new fellows inducted into the Musical Pathway Fellowship (MPF) program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, bringing the total number of MPF fellows to eight.  

“Honestly I considered it but after thinking and thinking I couldn’t find another reason while staying true to me,” Jamiyah wrote in her application essay. “The MPF program will give me more learning opportunities that I was not able to come across before. Access to further educational resources will broaden my horizons as a musician.”

Thanks to the visionary support of the Cleveland Foundation and George Gund Foundation, MPF champions and provides guidance to Cleveland area African American and Latinx students in grades 5-10 interested in pursuing a classical music career. Additionally, MPF addresses a critical challenge impacting the field of classical music: the lack of musicians that fully represent the racial diversity of the communities classical institutions serve.

Joining Jamiyah, along with the current class of four fellows, are percussionist Alexa Clawson of Shaker Heights; vocalist Jackson Marshall of Cleveland Heights; and classical guitarist Daziel Pérez Pagán of Cleveland.

CIM launched the program in 2017 to develop and nurture talent at a young age, empowering student musicians of color to pursue high-level, comprehensive musical training that will prepare them for conservatory or competitive music school education – a step that is critical to transforming the face of classical music, says Paul W. Hogle, CIM president and CEO.

“The Musical Pathway Fellowship program is one way we are creating opportunities for talented young musicians of color,” Hogle said. “We recognize how essential it is to identify, recruit, prepare and graduate more of these gifted artists. Focusing attention and resources on Cleveland’s talented African American and Latinx musicians in the early stages of their musical development is one strong step toward creating a classical music future that is both inclusive and thriving.”

CIM has become a leading voice in the national conversation among conservatories and music schools by aggressively tackling the lack of diversity in American classical music –beginning with the classroom – by increasing by 235% the African American and Latinx student population at CIM over the last three years.

The fellows are immersed in the pre-college curriculum of the CIM Preparatory Department where they receive weekly one-on-one instruction from preparatory division faculty members, as well as study piano and participate in ensembles, music theory and Eurhythmics courses. Over the course of the year, the fellows will present public performances, attend master classes and workshops, and, with their families, meet regularly with mentors and program leaders to set goals and share feedback. The program provides ongoing, multiyear support to students, including comprehensive music instruction through high school. The fellows receive full scholarships covering all areas of study in the MPF program.

“Diverse voices and perspectives can only make classical music stronger both today and in the future,” said Johnnia Stigall, CIM’s manager of pre-college and pathway programs whose primary role is to guide CIM’s pre-college students and their families through the demands of an advanced classical music education. “MPF is an unprecedented national model, providing young artists with a roadmap to future success as well as showing a commitment to diversity and creating a welcoming environment for students throughout their studies.”

The new students join their MPF peers Mariana Castañeda, flute; Damian Goggans, classical guitar; Travis Phillips, double bass; and Hannah Rowland-Seymour, cello. 

ALEXA CLAWSON, percussion

Alexa Clawson is a junior at Shaker Heights High School and studies with preparatory faculty member Luke Rinderknecht. She has been playing instruments in the percussion family for more than five years, particularly the marimba. A member of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO), she says being able to play with her peers in Severance Hall “was very magical for me” and that concert “inspired me to work harder in music and to really set my career goal on music performance.” Her musical dream is to perform and record music in the Walt Disney Animation Studios.  


Jamiyah Dotson is a tenth grader at the Cleveland School of the Arts and has been playing the violin for 10 years. She studies with CIM alumnus and preparatory faculty member Stephen Sims (MM ’88), who she says “is the best private lesson teacher I’ve ever had.” Jamiyah has participated in the El Sistema@Rainey orchestra at Cleveland’s Rainey Institute. When she’s not relaxing at home, she’s either doing chores, doing her homework or, in her words, “most importantly,” practicing her violin.


Jackson Marshall, a junior at Cleveland Heights High School, says his dream is to be a successful singer and actor and that he has loved the feeling of performing ever since he was in the third grade. He believes his participation in the MPF program will help him acquire the necessary skills to pursue his dream of singing and acting. “There is a lot of talent in the world and I need help to grow and develop mine,” he said. Jackson studies with preparatory faculty member Jennifer Call.

DAZIEL PÉREZ PAGÁN, classical guitar   

Daziel Pérez Pagán got the chance to start learning classical guitar when he moved to Cleveland from Puerto Rico nearly two years ago. The 13-year-old says there has always been something special about the instrument and enjoys spending most of his time practicing and learning something new every day. Studying with CIM alumnus and guitar faculty member Erik Mann (MM ’02, Holmquist/Vieaux) and Andrew Poxon (MM ’18, Vieaux/Davin) Daziel says he is eager to learn all about classical guitar and “make beautiful music for the rest of my life.”