It was January of 2022 when I stumbled upon the homepage of Harvard Business School’s Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP) while browsing a music industry leader’s LinkedIn page. At the time, with my background in music, non-profit management, and music therapy, I was under the impression that my skill set was not aligned with the demands of business school, let alone a highly-acclaimed institution like Harvard.

My undergraduate experience was predominantly made up of developing in-depth technical and lyrical proficiency on the clarinet, understanding how humans experience and respond to music on a physiological and psychological level, and applying such knowledge to harness the medicinal value of music for improvement of the human condition.

Despite my doubts, I found myself rather curious about the program. In the following weeks, I researched the Case Method, SVMP, and Harvard Business School in general to better grasp what the program would entail. During this process, I found a video that would change my life forever: the illustrious “Take A Seat in the Harvard MBA Classroom.” Witnessing students from a variety of backgrounds openly express their views on an assigned case while having Professor Neeley masterfully guide the discussion enticed me beyond words. The interplay of differing viewpoints was reminiscent of a conductor graciously rehearsing their orchestra, where each musician must carry out their unique part while also recognizing their role within the greater ensemble. The Case Method mirrored this concept and it was during this realization that I decided I wanted to experience this in person. My eyes were set on applying and bringing the most authentic version of myself to the table.

On May 11th, in disbelief and utter gratitude, I read the word “Congratulations!” on my screen. As a proud product of Cuban immigrants and a first-generation American, I have had the blessing of pursuing my creative dreams freely while honoring the culture, sacrifices, and aspirations of my family in all aspects of my life. My acceptance to SVMP marked the start of what would soon become one of the most life-changing experiences in my undergraduate career.

I arrived in Boston the first week of June and commenced SVMP with a robust cohort of 180 fellow students, representing excellence from a wide array of universities and disciplines across the nation. In hindsight, I don’t think any of us would have ever imagined just how meaningful our bonds were about to become. I shook hands with brilliant folks hailing from consulting, engineering, and finance fields - to name a few - who would soon turn out to be some of my closest colleagues and deepest sources of inspiration for months to come.

The Case Method manifested itself just as I had seen in Professor Neeley’s video months before. Each case, covering companies from Walt Disney Studios to Live Nation, developed its own musical identity in real time: some yielding perfect harmonies while others more discordant. Yet, none failed to crescendo into a grandiose finale once the final decision was announced and the last note rung. Being under the direction of some of the most brilliant business school professors throughout the week truly inspired me, and I found myself more confident as the week progressed with managing my individual part in the larger group dynamic.

With the program coming to a close, I committed to applying the Case Method’s principles as a framework for any and all situations of which I would find myself in. Empathizing, listening, and problem-solving are foundational to not only the business setting but life as well, whether it be in boardroom meetings with music industry executives or in personal catch-ups with loved ones over a shared meal.

After SVMP, I returned to New York City and continued my summer internship with the Jazz Foundation of America. I currently work for Universal Music Group’s internal creative solutions team as a Strategic Partnerships Representative and aspire to pursue a Master of Business Administration within the next few years with the long-term goal of pursuing entrepreneurship within the non-profit music sector. Had anyone told me a year ago that I would find myself in a business classroom, I would have laughed it off. Today, I can’t think of a day where I am not further developing my relationships and interest in business thanks to SVMP. For anyone considering applying from a “nontraditional” background, I urge you to give yourself a chance - and do it fiercely. Be your biggest advocate, value your experiences, and tell your story - you never know who you might be inspiring.