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Music & Theatre Alumni Spotlight: Camila Mennitte Pereyra, BM-Applied Instrumental

Mennitte Pereyra is a freelance drummer and composer based in Chicago, far from where she was born and raised in Argentina. She attended UW-Eau Claire on a full scholarship to study music.

Mennitte Pereyra faced tremendous culture shock when she arrived on campus, trying to overcome a language barrier and adjust to the U.S. collegiate academic system, which was much different than in Argentina. She had studied music for several years before her arrival at UW-Eau Claire and was well rounded in popular and folkloric art forms such as jazz and blues, but was not necessarily taught in academic settings.

To succeed at UW-Eau Claire, Mennitte Pereyra had to quickly learn how to play in a concert band and orchestra while taking classes in a secondary language she still was learning.

“Cami prospered by pulling out her endless work ethic and unstoppable attitude,” says Robert Baca, UW-Eau Claire’s director of jazz studies.

Mennitte Pereyra was the drummer in UW-Eau Claire’s Jazz Ensemble I, the top jazz band, when the ensemble won back-to-back DownBeat magazine awards in 2017 and 2018. Baca says that “no question, she had a lot to do with it.”

At UW-Eau Claire, she was awarded two research grants, including one under the direction of Lee Anna Rasar, professor of music education, to study South American music from the African diaspora and its potential therapeutic benefits for juvenile detainees. Her second grant was with Dr. Ryan Jones, professor of music history, who mentored her in studying primary sources in the pre-feminist music era.

“Teaching under professor Rasar’s tutelage and to juvenile detainees was, and will be, one of the greatest highlights of my career,” Mennitte Pereyra says.

After her UW-Eau Claire graduation, Mennitte Pereyra received a master’s degree in jazz studies at Indiana University. Now living in Chicago, she performs extensively in local jazz clubs. Her most recent performance highlight was playing at the Chicago Jazz Fest in August.

Mennitte Pereyra’s recent accomplishments include being the recipient of the Jazz Links Fellowship granted by the Jazz Institute of Chicago in 2021 and being a finalist for the Luminarts Jazz Fellowship Competition in 2022.