Leo De La Cruz

CCM student oboist wins NFMC’s prestigious Carolyn Nelson Double Reed Award

Leo De La Cruz

CCM graduate student Leo De La Cruz turned heads in a variety of competitions during the 2019-20 season. Most recently, he won the National Federation of Music Clubs’ Carolyn Nelson Double Reed Award, which includes a $1,250 cash prize.

Leo De La Cruz rehearsing with CCM Chamber Winds. Photo/Provided.

Leo De La Cruz rehearsing with CCM Chamber Winds. Photo/Provided.

De La Cruz also won the CCM Wind Studies concerto competition, which culminated in a performance of Weber’s Concertino for Oboe and Wind Band with the CCM Chamber Winds on February 9, and he achieved an honorable mention at the 2020 Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition.

To apply for the Carolyn Nelson Double Reed Award, De La Cruz submitted a 15-minute performance video, including the Weber Concertino he performed in February. His other selections were Dutilleux’s Oboe Sonata and Robert Schumann’s Three Romances, which he performed in chamber music recitals at CCM.

“I think the part that I’m most proud of about those recordings isn’t necessarily my own playing, but rather the back and forth between my partners and me,” De La Cruz says. “Both of them were fantastic collaborators and musicians, and I’m positive that my own playing improved drastically just through the work we did together.”

Before coming to CCM, De La Cruz attended high school in Spring, Texas (a suburb of Houston) and earned bachelor’s degrees in oboe performance and music theory from Furman University.

“I gravitated toward the oboe because it was unique; I was the only one in my middle school band who played it,” he remembers. “I never really planned on making music for a living, so I didn’t really take it very seriously until the end of high school, when I took a music theory class and really fell in love with the orchestral repertoire.”

De La Cruz is also working on two degrees at CCM — master’s degrees in oboe performance and music theory. In his oboe studies, he receives guidance from both of CCM’s oboe faculty, Professor of Oboe Mark Ostoich and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Oboe Dwight Parry, principal oboe at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

“I’m not quite sure what I want to do in the future quite honestly, because both of my interests bring me so much satisfaction,” De La Cruz says. “I can’t get enough of making music with other people, so if I could find a way to incorporate both chamber music and music theory into a career, I’d be happy.”


Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

Featured Image at top: Leo De La Cruz. Photo/Provided.

CCM News Student Salutes

CCM Students, Alumni Unite in Virtual Performance of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’

Alumnus Harrison Sheckler organized 300 musicians from around the world for the special concert

CCM alumnus Harrison Sheckler (BM Piano, ’19) united 300 musicians from 15 countries for a virtual performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from CarouselThe performance is available to watch online.

Now a student at the Conservatory of Music of Brooklyn College, Sheckler spent over 200 hours promoting, organizing submissions and video editing the project. He collected tracks from countries all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Vietnam, Israel, Australia, South Africa and more.

The video features 30 CCM students and alumni representing multiple areas of the college including musical theatre, composition, music education, violin, violoncello, double bass, oboe, flute, piano, tuba, horn and more. It was produced by CCM Commercial Music Production alumni Josh Meyer and Grant Bayer, who are audio engineers at Cincinnati’s Zated Records. CCM students and alumni involved in the performance include:

  • Jenny Mollet (BFA Musical Theatre, ’19)
  • Giselle Haas (BM Music Education, ’19)
  • Kanako Shimasaki – current DMA Violin student
  • Maciej Latawiec (Matthew) – current DMA Violin student
  • Li-Han Eliza Tseng (DMA Violoncello, ’19)
  • Maksym Mahlay – current BM Composition and Piano student
  • Carolyn Regula – former DMA Violoncello student
  • Isabel Dimoff (BM Violoncello, ’18)
  • Jonathan Lin (BM Violoncello, ’18)
  • Micah Donar (BM Violoncello, ’17; MM Violoncello, ‘19)
  • Peter Ryan (MM Violoncello, ’19) – current DMA Violoncello current
  • Kimber Elayne Sprawl (BFA Musical Theatre, ’14)
  • Natalie Orth (BM Violin, ’20)
  • Taiga Benito – current BM Double Bass student
  • Dan Qiao (MM Violin, ’17) – current DMA Violin student
  • Taylor Overholt (BM Clarinet, ’19)
  • Collin Goff – current BM Music Education and Clarinet
  • Katie Riley – current BM Flute student
  • Ray Haim (BM Music Education, ’18)
  • Sarah Minneman – current DMA Oboe student
  • Bryan Lyons (BM Oboe, ’97) – current DMA Oboe student
  • Patrick Grimone (BM Oboe, ’19)
  • Eliza Edge (BM Horn, ’19)
  • Griffin Botts (BM Horn, ’17) – current MM Horn student
  • Ryan Penshorn – former BM Horn student
  • Phillip Palmore (BM Horn, ’20)
  • Evan Sacks-Wilner – current BM Tuba student
  • Harrison Sheckler (BM Piano, ’19)
  • Josh Meyer (BM Commercial Music Production, ’18)
  • Grant Bayer (BM Commercial Music Production, ’18)

The performance has garnered media attention from Broadway World and Musical America Worldwide.

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Donor Spotlight: Dr. Alvin and Jean Crawford

The Crawfords have a deep, lifelong love of music and the arts that led them to connect with CCM

Dr. Alvin Crawford, retired Chief of Orthopedics and founding director of the Spine Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has had a distinguished, internationally renowned career as an orthopedic surgeon. In his honor, the Spine Center was renamed the Crawford Spine Center.

But his first love was music.

He started playing trumpet in seventh grade, eventually switching to clarinet. He started college as a music major and wanted a career as a studio musician. In his sophomore year of college, he made a decision that changed the lives of thousands of children across the world: he decided to become a physician.

Dr. Alvin and Jean Crawford stand in the corridor of CCM's Mary Emery Hall. Photo/Joseph Rubino

Dr. Alvin and Jean Crawford stand in the corridor of CCM’s Mary Emery Hall. Photo/Joseph Rubino

Dr. Crawford attended Meharry Medical College in 1960, a time when most if not all southern schools were segregated. He applied for admission to the University of Tennessee and became the first African-American to enroll in this southern medical school. He could not transfer because the University of Tennessee did not consider Meharry Medical College an accredited medical school.

“I became an academic orthopedist, but continued to play,” he says. “I was hired by UC to head the Pediatric Orthopaedic service. Once my wife and I found out what CCM was all about, we decided to get involved. After I retired at Cincinnati Children’s, I was able to attend the jazz improvisation course for freshmen and we started coming to performances. Last year I took jazz history.”

Continuing to live out his love of music, Dr. Crawford helped form a group called “The Wannabes,” which plays for nonprofits and has played an opera gala. From there he joined the Queen City Concert band, a community band in Cincinnati.

Jean Crawford’s interest in music stretches back to the piano lessons she took as a child. She was a teacher and high school counselor and sang in choruses through college.

“I always encouraged my students to get involved and take any type of arts as electives,” she says. “When I served on the Cincinnati Opera board, I saw that most of our singers in the chorus were from CCM. When we attended CCM’s Moveable Feast, we realized the caliber of musicianship here and were hooked on CCM.”

Mrs. Crawford talks about the opportunity she did not have, but that she wants all children to have. “I lived in the segregated south and the opportunities to attend and participate in the arts were limited,” she says. “So my goal is to make sure that the performing arts are available to all communities. In this area, school districts have limited support for funding the arts. Through the prep schools, CCM provides arts exposure to them. Also, students from CCM go to public schools to give the children more exposure. I think that’s important. And to do that you need money.“

“I think they’re doing something [at CCM] that’s really important,” Dr. Crawford adds. “I became involved in the CCM Dean’s Advisory Council and I can see that the people here care. They care, and they want to put out a good product. And once I became involved with CCMpower, I was able to meet the kids and see what they’re doing.”


Who will you empower NEXT?

In order to recruit and retain top talent, CCM must be able to offer competitive scholarship and grant opportunities to our students. CCMpower raises funds through membership and special events in order to provide the resources that attract the best and brightest students. Learn more about how you can empower the next generation of CCM stars.


Story by Joseph Rubino

Featured image at top Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Dena Cranley, Barbara Gould, Jean Crawford and Dr. Alvin Crawford at CCM’s 2020 Moveable Feast. Photo/Andrew Higley

CCM News Student Salutes

CCM Celebrates Class of 2020

CCM is so proud of our graduates and of the faculty and staff who helped guide their success

After investing countless hours in classrooms, practice rooms, studios, workshops and rehearsal halls, the Class of 2020 is graduating from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. Congratulations!

Photo of CCM Village as the cover for the Graduation Convocation program.

Click the image to download CCM’s 2020 Graduation Convocation program. Design by Mikki Graff.

The CCM community is inspired by the Class of 2020’s resilience during this unprecedented crisis and is proud to welcome this year’s graduates to our global network of alumni. Graduates join a network of thousands of UC alumni including artists, entrepreneurs, researchers, leaders and professionals around the world.

“I wish we could gather in Corbett Auditorium to recognize and celebrate all you’ve achieved,” CCM Dean Stanley E. Romanstein says. “I’d like nothing more than to shake your hand, to look you in the eye and say, on behalf of CCM’s faculty and staff, ‘Congratulations! Well done!’ Unfortunately, COVID-19 has relegated us to a virtual celebration.”

“Please know how proud we are of you and of what you’ve done,” Romanstein adds. “CCM’s reputation as a nationally ranked and internationally renowned institution rests with you. The faculty and I look forward to following your journey, wherever it may take you.”

In addition to CCM’s degree recipients, we also acknowledge this year’s student and faculty award recipients:

  • Outstanding Undergraduate Student Achievement Award: Melinda Hunt
  • Sigma Alpha Iota Scholastic Award for Outstanding Achievement: Adelaide Young
  • Ernest N. Glover Award for Outstanding Teaching: Tricia Sundbeck

CCM also celebrates five retiring faculty members who have dedicated themselves to continuing the college’s legacy as a leading training center for the performing and media arts:

  • Earl Rivers, professor of music and director of choral studies, 1973-2020
  • Dean Mogle, professor and head of costume design and technology, 1989-2020
  • Alan Siebert, professor of trumpet, 1990-2020
  • Mark Williams, professor of lighting design and technology, 2009-2020
  • Stephen Allee, professor of music, 2015-2020

We look forward to a time in which we can all come together again to mark these momentous milestones in person. Until then, please accept our digital congratulations on behalf of CCM’s faculty, staff, friends and alumni.

Congratulations to CCM’s Class of 2020!

View the list of CCM’s 2020 graduates.

You can also download the online version of the Graduation Convocation program booklet.


#UCGrad2020

UC President Neville G. Pinto invites the university community to participate in a two-day virtual graduation celebration on May 1-2, 2020. To mark this important milestone, UC Student Affairs and its Commencement Office has planned the following digital activities, which will be based in their Twitter account @StuAffUC and use the hashtag #UCGrad20.

A Day of GRAD-itude

Every hour from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, May 1, Student Affairs will share a sampling of thank you messages from graduates as they show their GRAD-itude to those who have been a part of their journey to graduation.

Celebration Saturday

Commemorate your achievement by taking a walk down memory lane. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 2, Student Affairs will tweet every half hour to celebrate the day with you. Follow along for fun flashbacks, interactive polls, lots of great GIFs and a chance to tell us about your memorable moments at UC. If you happen to be online at 4:30 p.m., you’ll catch a message from President Pinto and then finish the festivities at 5 p.m. with a virtual cap toss.

Until we can see one another again in person, please stay in touch and and stay connected at alumni.uc.edu


Featured images of CCM’s 2019 Graduation Convocation by Jay Yocis 

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Musical Family Gives Living Room Performance of Beethoven String Quartet

A family of musicians stuck at home during the pandemic found a perfect venue for a chamber music performance — their living room. The four string players, including two UC College-Conservatory of Music students, performed the first movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3 and shared it online for music lovers everywhere to enjoy.

The home concert features Cleveland Orchestra violinist Kathleen Collins and her children: Daniel Fields, a student violinist at CCM; Matthew Fields, a student cellist at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University; and Maya Fields, a student violist at CCM.

The performance received rave reviews from the family’s live-audience member, Cleo the dog. Tune into the performance on CCM’s YouTube channel.


Video provided by Maya Fields

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CCM's Dieterle Vocal Arts Center on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

CCM Announces the Winners of Its 2020 Opera Scholarship Competition

NOTE: Winners List Updated on April 15, 2020

Twenty-six current and incoming students competed for five coveted full-tuition scholarships and $65,500 in additional awards during the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s 2020 Opera Scholarship Competition.

Since its inauguration in 1976, this annual competition welcomes current and incoming CCM voice students to compete for scholarships and cash prizes. A panel of judges composed of opera industry professionals selects each year’s class of prizewinners.

Six students won awards in this year’s competition, which was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To maintain social distancing, each participating singer was asked to select two arias. Each singers’ assigned pianist then recorded a piano reduction of the chosen arias and provided audio files, which served as virtual accompaniment for the competing vocalists.

Singers were required to record their performance on their smart phones and submit their recordings back to CCM. These recordings were then shared with the competition’s panel of distinguished judges.

The Winners of CCM’s 2020 Opera Scholarship Competition

Michael Pandolfo, baritone, first-year Master of Music student from Fort Worth, Texas; studying at CCM with William McGraw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Corbett Award ($15,000)
The Corbett Award is supported by the Corbett Foundation in cooperation with CCM.


Teresa Perrotta, soprano, first-year Artist Diploma student from Orlando, Florida; studying at CCM with Gwendolyn Coleman
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Italo Tajo Memorial Award ($15,000)
This award is supported by the Italo Tajo Memorial Scholarship Fund (established by Mr. Tajo’s wife Inelda Tajo) in cooperation with CCM.


Amber Monroe, soprano, first-year Artist Diploma student from Youngstown, Ohio; studying at CCM with William McGraw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Andrew White Memorial Award ($12,500)
This award is supported by the Andrew White Memorial Scholarship Fund in cooperation with CCM.


Brittany Logan, soprano, second-year Master of Music student and incoming Artist Diploma student from Garden Grove, California; studying at CCM with Gwendolyn Coleman
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Seybold-Russell Award ($10,000)
This award is supported by the Seybold-Russell Scholarship Fund in cooperation with CCM.


Amanda Olea, soprano, first-year Doctor of Musical Arts student from Mexico City, Mexico; studying at CCM with Gwendolyn Coleman
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the John Alexander Memorial Award ($10,000)
This award is supported by the John Alexander Memorial Scholarship Fund in cooperation with CCM.


Christina Hazen, mezzo-soprano, second-year Master of Music student from Loveland, Colorado; studying at CCM with Gwendolyn Coleman
Prize: Norman Treigle Award ($3,000)
This award is supported by the Norman Treigle Opera Scholarship Competition Award Fund in cooperation with CCM.


The judges panel for CCM’s 2020 Opera Scholarship Competition included:

About CCM Opera

The Department of Opera at CCM boasts one of the most comprehensive training programs for opera singers, coaches and directors in the United States. Students at CCM work with some of the most renowned teachers and artists active in opera today.

CCM students frequently advance to the final rounds of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which is widely considered to be the nation’s most prestigious vocal competition. In 2019, soprano Elena Villalón (BM Voice, ’19) was named a Grand Finals Winner at the competition while she was still finishing her undergraduate degree at CCM. CCM’s other recent Grand Finals Winners include Jessica Faselt (MM Voice, ’16) in 2018, Amanda Woodbury (MM Voice, ’12) and Yi Li (AD Opera, ’13) in 2014 and Thomas Richards (MM Voice, ’13) in 2013. At least two CCM singers advanced to the Upper Midwest Regional Auditions in this year’s Met National Council Auditions: artist diploma students Amber Monroe and Teresa Perrotta.

CCM singers also recently won awards in other prestigious national competitions. Jessica Faselt won a $10,000 award and Alisa Jordheim (DMA Voice, ’15; MM Voice,’ 10) won a $1,000 Encouragement award at the 2020 George London Foundation Awards Competition for young American and Canadian opera singers. Jasmine Habersham (AD Opera, 2015; MM Voice, 2013) won the silver medal in the 2020 American Traditions Vocal Competition. Edward Nelson (BM Voice, 2011; MM Voice, 2013) won first prize at the 2020 Glyndebourne Opera Cup. Perrotta also advanced to the finals of the 2020 Lotte Lenya Competition.

In addition, CCM Opera productions have received some of the National Opera Association Production Competition’s highest honors throughout the years, taking home six of the 18 non-professional prizes awarded in 2010 and four prizes in 2011.

CCM Opera graduates have performed on the stages of the world’s greatest opera companies, including Cincinnati Opera, Metropolitan Opera (New York), Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera (London), La Scala (Italy) and more.

CCM Opera is also part of Opera Fusion: New Works, a dynamic partnership with Cincinnati Opera that offers composer/librettist teams the opportunity to workshop an opera during a 10-day residency in Cincinnati.

Created in 2011 to foster the development of new American operas and generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Opera Fusion: New Works has grown into a nationally recognized collaboration which is not only advancing the repertoire, but also serving as an inspiring example of a successful joint venture between an educational institution and a professional performing arts organization.

For more information about CCM, please visit us online at ccm.uc.edu.

CCM News Student Salutes

CCM Acting Class of 2020 Presents Virtual Senior Showcase

Watch a collection of five scenes showcasing the talents of CCM Acting’s Class of 2020

The Acting Department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM Acting) proudly presents its first Virtual Senior Showcase. Although the COVID-19 novel coronavirus prevented CCM Acting from holding its customary Senior Showcases for agents and casting directors in New York and Los Angeles this spring, the program’s new Virtual Senior Showcase allows industry insiders and the general public to see this year’s seniors in action.

The video showcase includes five scenes showcasing the talents of CCM Acting’s Class of 2020. Directed by Professor D’Arcy Smith, the A.B., Dolly, Ralph and Julia Cohen Chair in Acting at CCM, the showcase features students performing excerpts from TV programs, films and plays including “227,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Pysch” and “Embers” along with an excerpt of “My So-Called Gay Life” written by CCM Acting student Abby Palen. A collaboration with CCM’s Electronic Media program, the CCM Acting Virtual Senior Showcase features the work of E-Media majors Caleb Smiley and Carlos Herriott II. Viewer discretion is advised; this video features strong language and mature content.

“Although we’ve transitioned to remote operations, we remain committed to our ongoing academic and artistic missions,” says Smith. “Our senior Acting students have put in countless hours preparing for their industry debuts in this year’s Senior Showcase and they deserve to have their time in the spotlight. They should be very proud of everything that they have accomplished, and we are happy to present this video snapshot of their talent for the entire world to enjoy.”

Get to know the graduating seniors by reading their professional summaries!

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CCM Voice Student Advances to Lotte Lenya Competition finals

CCM is delighted to announce that first-year artist diploma student Teresa Perrotta (MM Voice, ’19) reached the finals of the Lotte Lenya Competition, one of the most prestigious vocal competitions for young artists.

Composer John Corigliano and Teresa Perrotta at the French premiere of “The Ghosts of Versailles.” Photo/Gail Luna

A rising soprano, Perrotta won the Seybold-Russell Award at CCM’s 2019 Opera Scholarship Competition and advanced to the Upper Midwest Regional Auditions in this year’s Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In December 2019, she made her international debut as Marie Antoinette in the French premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles at the Château de Versailles Royal Opera. She studies with CCM Voice Professor Gwendolyn Coleman.

Perrotta is one of 12 finalists in the 2020 Lotte Lenya Competition. These finalists were selected out of 282 applicants from 24 states after a preliminary video round and a semi-finals round in New York City. The finals were initially scheduled for May 2 at the Eastman School of Music, but the Kurt Weill Foundation, which holds the competition, is exploring other options in light of the current global health crisis.

Teresa Perrotta. Photo/Caitlin and Kevin Photography

Teresa Perrotta. Photo/Caitlin and Kevin Photography

CCM is often well-represented at the Lotte Lenya Competition. In 2017, Paulina Villarreal (DMA Voice, ‘18; MM Voice, ’15) won third prize, while Jasmin Habersham (AD Opera, ‘15; MM Voice, ‘13) and Lisa Marie Rogali (MM Voice, ’18) each received prizes of $3000. Talya Lieberman (AD Opera, ‘16) took Third Prize in the 2016 installment of this prestigious international theatre singing contest, while Lauren Roesner (BFA Musical Theatre, ‘13) won Third Prize in 2013 and alumna Caitlin Mathes (AD Opera, ’10, MM Voice, ‘09) won First Prize in 2011.

About the Lotte Lenya Competition

More than a vocal competition, the Lotte Lenya Competition recognizes talented young singer/actors who are dramatically and musically convincing in repertoire ranging from opera/operetta to contemporary Broadway scores, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill. Since its inception in 1998, the Lotte Lenya Competition has grown into an internationally recognized leader in identifying and nurturing the next generation of “total-package performers” (Opera News) and rising stars in both the opera and musical theater worlds. The roster of prizewinners has likewise grown to over 100, many of whom have gone on to major performing careers. Visit kwf.org for more information about the Kurt Weill Foundation or the Lotte Lenya Competition.


Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

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CCM Named ‘Best of Cincinnati’ by CityBeat Readers and Staff

Three productions with CCM connections were voted “Best of Cincinnati” by CityBeat readers and staff. CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati 2020 issue is available online now!

CCMONSTAGE Play Series presented “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in October 2019. Photo/Richard Hess

CCM’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won “Best Play (Student/Community)” in the magazine’s readers poll. Directed by CCM Acting Professor Richard E. Hess, the play was presented in October as part of the CCMONSTAGE Play Series.

Blind Injustice, CCM’s co-production with Cincinnati Opera and UC College of Law’s Ohio Innocence Project, received a special Best of Cincinnati staff pick award as “Best World Premiere Opera to Open Your Eyes.” Directed by CCM Opera Professor Robin Guarino, the opera featured stories of six wrongly incarcerated people who were aided by the OIP.

Blind Injustice, CCM’s co-production with Cincinnati Opera and the Ohio Innocence Project, was presented in July 2019 at Music Hall’s Wilks Studio. Photo/Philip Groshong

CityBeat staff wrote: “Robin Guarino’s terrific staging of the sold-out series of shows in the Wilks Studio in Music Hall in July 2019 drew excellent performances from a gifted cast that included members of Cincinnati’s Young Professionals Choral Collaborative. The five performances sold out months in advance, as did a free presentation at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Bond Hill. Blind Injustice is proof positive that opera can bear powerful witness to the social issues of our time, as well as to the strength of the human spirit in the face of mindless injustice. May it be seen again and again and again, here and throughout the country.”

CCM students self-produced “The Flick” at Clifton’s Esquire movie theater in July 2019. Photo/Ella Eggold

CityBeat staff also recognized CCM students who produced and acted in a unique presentation of The Flick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Annie Baker, at Clifton’s Esquire movie theater. The production was dubbed “Best Play Held in an Unconventional Setting.” CCM Acting alumni and current students Ella Eggold, Gabriella DiVincenzo, Graham Rogers, Leonard Peterson and Kristina Steinmetz acted and produced the play, which was stage managed by CCM Theatre Design and Production student Jennelle John-Lewis. CityBeat staff praised the production team’s efforts as “spectacular” and “outstanding.”

Congratulations to all of our friends and partners also featured in this special issue of CityBeat! Read more on CityBeat’s website or view a digital version of the issue.


Featured image at top: Best of Cincinnati graphic by Taylor Speed/CityBeat

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New York Times: WVXU and CCM Revive Rare Rod Serling Baseball Comedy

Rod Serling’s comedy about confusion between Russians and the Cincinnati Reds airs at 8 p.m. on March 25 on WVXU 91.7.

CCM and Cincinnati Public Radio station 91.7 WVXU have co-produced a long-lost baseball comedy by The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. Recently featured by the New York Times, the radio play titled O’Toole From Moscow airs on 91.7 WVXU at 8 p.m. this Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The New York Times describes the comedy as “a screwball romp, with a side of whimsy.” Read the full article.

O’Toole From Moscow is about confusion between Russians and the Cincinnati Reds at the height of the “Red Scare” over possible Communist infiltration of American institutions during the Cold War. Serling originally wrote the one-hour television play for NBC Matinee Theatre and it was only broadcast once on Dec. 12, 1955. The performance was not filmed or recorded.

O’Toole From Moscow was adapted for radio and produced by WVXU’s John Kiesewetter, who tracked down the original script with the help of Serling historians. He also met with Serling’s daughter, Anne, who is the program host and narrator on the radio play. CCM Acting students recorded the comedy, which was directed by CCM Professor Richard Hess, at Cincinnati Public Radio’s studio. Sammi Grant, a visiting master’s student from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, tutored the cast so they would sound authentically Russian.

Hess hand-picked his lineup of eight student cast members for the radio play: Chandler Bates, Austin James Cleri, Matt Fox, Dustin Parsons, Jack Steiner, Frankie Chuter, Cameron Nalley and Lucas Prizant. The team also recruited Cincinnati Reds organist John Schutte, who provided the ballpark organ music for the broadcast. Read more about the making of this radio play on WVXU.

The “O’Toole From Moscow” team, from left: WVXU engineer Josh Elstro, Frankie Chuter, Matt Fox, Chandler Bates, director Richard Hess, Cameron Nalley, Jack Steiner, Austin James Cleri, Dustin Parsons, Sammi Grant and Lucas Prizant. Photo/John Kiesewetter

Long-time baseball fans will enjoy Serling’s script and hear references to some of baseball’s biggest stars of the 1950s including: Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berri, Stan Musial and Ted Kluszewski.

In O’Toole From Moscow a Russian consulate staffer named Mushnick is being sent back from New York to Moscow for re-education because of his high absences due to attending Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. So Mushnick and a muscular Russian security officer named Joseph Bishofsky hop a train and go as far west as their money will take them — to Cincinnati. Bishofsky panics in Cincinnati and goes to the Reds office to turn himself in, mistaking the baseball team for his Russian comrades. Mushnick bursts in to explain that Joseph – whom he calls “Joseph O’Toole” – is an outfielder wanting a tryout. The Reds give O’Toole a shot, and he ends up being a better slugger than Kluszewski – until the Russians find him.

Tune in to hear the O’Toole From Moscow broadcast on 91.7 WVXU at 8 p.m. this Wednesday, March 25. A live stream of the broadcast will also be available on the WVXU website.
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