CCM Arts Administration Student wins Gena Branscombe Project Award

In its inaugural year, the Gena Branscombe Project has awarded its 2020 scholarships to four women, including UC College-Conservatory of Music Arts Administration student Sydney Pepper. The scholarships support the winners in their continuing pursuit of undergraduate and graduate studies and shine “a light on exceptional emerging, talented, women in music.”

CCM Arts Administration student Sydney Pepper. Photo/Provided.

CCM Arts Administration student Sydney Pepper. Photo/Provided.

Named after influential composer and advocate of contemporary American music Gena Branscombe (1881-1977), the Project awarded Pepper the 2020 Emerging Arts Administrator scholarship. It also awarded the 2020 Emerging Composer scholarship to Catherine Willingham, the 2020 Emerging Conductor scholarship to Genevieve Welch and gave a 2020 Emerging Conductor Honorable Mention award to Michaela Gleason. Read more about the award winners in the online announcement.

Pepper will begin her second year in CCM’s MA/MBA Arts Administration program in August. Her experience in Cincinnati spans from working in CCM Preparatory and Community Engagement to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. She was originally scheduled to serve as a development intern for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis this summer, but COVID-19 cancelled those plans. Instead, Pepper is doing development work for both the Portland Bach Experience in Maine and for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

“The [CCM] Arts Admin program has transformed and expanded my love of the field,” says Pepper, who previously attended Clark University to pursue a vocal performance degree. “A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined the amount of knowledge that I would have gained throughout this year, but I am so very grateful. Not only am I grateful for all of the learning opportunities, but I could never express enough my gratitude to Professors Jean Hamilton and Rebecca Bromels as well as my cohort, all of whom have made a year full of uncertainty and challenges so, so much easier.”

Pepper’s first experience as an arts administrator was with the Portland Bach Experience, where she began as an intern and worked her way to Festival Manager. In her senior year at Clark University, she served as the Marketing and Box Office Coordinator for Music Worcester, Inc. and as the President of the Clark University Choirs. Under her supervision, the Clark University Choirs performed a 21st century revival of lost composer Gena Branscombe’s Pilgrims of Destiny.

About the Gena Branscombe Project

The Gena Branscombe Project is dedicated to the revival and performance of the music of American composer and conductor Gena Branscombe. Founded by Branscombe experts and family members, the project seeks to continue the spirit of Branscombe’s lifelong example of inspiring women in music, by awarding three yearly scholarships in her honor. All proceeds of the revived music go to support the yearly scholarships. The project is run by Kathleen Shimeta, Daniel P. Ryan and Regan Siglin.

About Gena Branscombe

The legacy of Gena Branscombe (1881-1977) is that of composer, conductor and leader of women in music. Composing over 150 arts songs, chamber music, piano pieces and choral works, they were available from 23 different publishers. As a conductor she led MacDowell choruses, the Chicago Women’s Symphony, college choirs, women’s club choruses and her own Branscombe Choral. These groups under her direction performed music by American composers and in particular, American women composers. Holding national office Branscombe was a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, National League of American Pen Women, National Federation of Music Clubs, Society of American Women Composers, Altrusa International and more. At meetings on the state and local levels she encouraged women to be active in their communities’ music organizations and to perform at their own meetings. She organized and presented programs of American music for club members to use as guidelines for programming. Branscombe was a wife, mother of four, pianist, composer, conductor and leader of women whose legacy inspires the Gena Branscombe Project scholarships.

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A photo of the entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC's campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

CCM Alumna Karen Zhang Wins Prestigious MTNA Teacher Fellowship

CCM alumna Karen Zhang (BM Piano Performance, ’16; MM Piano Performance, ’18) is the 2020 recipient of the Music Teachers National Association’s MarySue Harris Studio Teacher Fellowship. This $3,000 grant, funded by the MarySue Harris Endowment Fund, is presented annually to a recently graduated independent studio music teacher who demonstrates commitment to the music teaching profession and outstanding studio development.

Karen ZhangDuring her time at CCM, Zhang studied with CCM Professor of Piano Eugene Pridonoff and Associate Professor of Piano Soyeon Kate Lee. Zhang was a winner of CCM’s Van Cliburn Scholarship Competition and the Glenn Miller Society Scholarship Competition, as well as the first-place winner of the $9,400 prize at Three Arts Scholarship Competition. She also participated in the 2017 Pianofest, held in Hampton, New York. As a CCM master’s degree student, she was a graduate assistant in secondary piano.

After graduation, Zhang and her husband Jaesung Kim founded their Cincinnati-based piano studio, Musical Moments. Her students have been winners of numerous competitions, including the University of Kentucky’s Nathaniel Patch Piano Competition, OhioMTA Auditions Festival and the 88 Tri-State Piano Concerto Competition. Many of her students have also been recognized with Distinction-level certificates from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Zhang has been invited to teach and perform in numerous pre-colleges and venues in Asia, including those in Seoul, Chengdu, Chongqing, Taishan and Beijing.

Zhang has also taught through the City Gospel Mission’s Whiz Kids Music Program, an after-school program that gives music classes and lessons to students in the Cincinnati area whose schools do not offer music classes. CCM Preparatory and Community Engagement connects collegiate students with teaching and mentoring opportunities through the CCM AfterSchool program, which has partnered with Whiz Kids, Cincinnati Public Schools and other education and community organizations.

About MTNA and MarySue Harris

MTNA is a nonprofit organization of some 20,000 independent and collegiate music teachers committed to furthering the art of music through teaching, performance, composition and scholarly research. Founded in 1876, MTNA is the oldest professional music teachers’ association in the United States.

MarySue Harris, a long-time MTNA member from Nebraska, has devoted her teaching career to nurturing young music students. Her commitment to pedagogy and the beginning music teacher led to her establishment of the MarySue Harris Endowment Fund.


Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

Featured image at top: Memorial Hall, which is part of the CCM Village on UC’s campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

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Watch CCM Wind Symphony’s Performance of Omar Thomas’ “A Mother of a Revolution”

In November 2019, the UC College-Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony presented a special concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Uprising. Exclusively featuring works by LGBTQ+ composers, the performance showcased Omar Thomas’ A Mother of a Revolutionwhich is available to watch online.

A Mother of a Revolution celebrates the bravery of trans women, particularly Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson, a pioneering leader of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and Stonewall Uprising. The Stonewall Uprising began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ+ bar and, today, a National Historic Landmark. This raid sparked a series of riots and protests that served as a significant catalyst for the country’s modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Pride Month, celebrated each year in the month of June, honors the Stonewall Uprising as well as the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history locally, nationally and internationally.

CCM Wind Symphony music director and conductor Kevin Michael Holzman looks to find relevant anniversaries of important events to share with students and the community, which inspired him to program the concert of all LGBTQ+ works. Other works featured in the concert included Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Higdon’s Mysterium, Clay Mettens’ Un-Masqued and Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man.

“The contributions to music (and all of the fine arts) from LGBTQ+ artists are truly incredible; despite this fact, they are so rarely recognized explicitly,” says Holzman, CCM Interim Division Head of Ensembles and Conducting. “Many of these artists suffered tremendously and were treated as outcasts socially and professionally, particularly in the years prior to the turn of the millennium. An equal or greater number never felt safe coming out due to discrimination.”

The LGBTQ+ rights movement has seen significant success in recent years. Major milestones include when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in 2015 and ruled that existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status in a landmark case on June 15, 2020. Despite these victories, hate and prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community remain prevalent in many parts of the U.S. and world.

CCM Wind Symphony’s performance was sponsored by the CCM Harmony Fund, which supports artistic works that fight hate and prejudice through the performing arts. This Fund was created based on the belief that the arts inspire imaginative thinking, encourage conversations, present contrasting attitudes and help us examine our own viewpoints. For the month of June, Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts in Newport, Kentucky, is selling pride cupcakes and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the CCM Harmony Fund.

Kevin Michael Holzman and Omar Thomas in front of CCM's booth at the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago in December 2019.

Kevin Michael Holzman and Omar Thomas in front of CCM’s booth at the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago in December 2019.

“I think it’s our job as music directors to recognize the powerful voice we have to amplify composers and musicians, particularly those who have been historically underrepresented,” Holzman says. “Our students at CCM represent so many diverse backgrounds and cultures, and it’s my responsibility to make sure they feel seen and heard. The first step, in my opinion, is to program works by composers with whom they identify. I also think it’s important that our audiences also feel seen and heard, and can relate to not only the music we perform but to the artists they see on stage and the composers on the program.”

Holzman has pledged that he will continue to program more works by female composers, Black composers and composers coming from other underrepresented populations in the future. Concert programming is just the start, though, and Holzman has formed a working group of graduate students to identify other ways to partner with the Black community and Cincinnati Public Schools.

Holzman first met A Mother of a Revolution composer Omar Thomas two years ago, when he programed Thomas’ Of Our New Day Begun on his first concert as Director of Wind Studies at CCM. Of Our New Day Begun honors the nine people who were murdered in a tragic mass shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (commonly referred to as “Mother Emanuel”) in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.

“I knew I had to get to know the composer who wrote the work to be able to do it justice, and it turned into a great friendship,” Holzman says. “I’ll be a champion of Omar’s music and voice forever.”

Read about UC and CCM’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and a just community.

About Omar Thomas

Described as “elegant, beautiful, sophisticated, intense and crystal clear in emotional intent,” the music of Omar Thomas continues to move listeners everywhere it is performed. Born to Guyanese parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1984, Thomas moved to Boston in 2006 to pursue a Master of Music in Jazz Composition at the New England Conservatory of Music after studying Music Education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is the protégé of lauded composers and educators Ken Schaphorst and Frank Carlberg, and has studied under multiple Grammy-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider.

Hailed by Herbie Hancock as showing “great promise as a new voice in the further development of jazz in the future,” educator, arranger and award-winning composer Thomas has created music extensively in the contemporary jazz ensemble idiom. It was while completing his Master of Music degree that he was appointed the position of Assistant Professor of Harmony at Berklee College of Music at the surprisingly young age of 23. He was awarded the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award in 2008, and invited by the ASCAP Association to perform his music in their highly exclusive JaZzCap Showcase, held in New York City. In 2012, Thomas was named the Boston Music Award’s “Jazz Artist of the Year.” Following his Berklee tenure, he served on faculty of the Music Theory department at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Texas at Austin.

Thomas’ music has been performed in concert halls the world over. He has been commissioned to create works in both jazz and classical styles. His work has been performed by such diverse groups as the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, the San Francisco and Boston Gay Mens’ Choruses, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, in addition to a number of the country’s top collegiate music ensembles. Thomas has had a number of celebrated singers perform over his arrangements, including Stephanie Mills, Yolanda Adams, Nona Hendryx, BeBe Winans, Kenny Lattimore, Marsha Ambrosius, Sheila E., Raul Midon, Leela James, Dionne Warwick and Chaka Khan. His work is featured on Dianne Reeves’s Grammy Award-winning album, “Beautiful Life.”

Thomas’ first album, “I AM,” debuted at No. 1 on iTunes Jazz Charts and peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Albums Chart. His second release, ” We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rights Piece in Four Movements,” has been hailed by Grammy Award-wining drummer, composer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington as being a “thought provoking, multi-layered masterpiece” which has “put him in the esteemed category of great artists.” “We Will Know” was awarded two OUTMusic Awards, including “Album of the Year.” For this work, Thomas was named the 2014 Lavender Rhino Award recipient by the History Project, acknowledging his work as an up-and-coming activist in the Boston LGBTQ community. Says Terri Lyne: “Omar Thomas will prove to be one of the more important composer/arrangers of his time.”

Learn more about Omar Thomas on his professional website.


Feature image at top: CCM Wind Symphony in rehearsal. Design/Mikki Graff. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services.

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Hope After Hate: E-Media Professor Shares Father’s Holocaust Experience

CCM E-Media Professor and Emmy Award-winning journalist Hagit Limor shares her father’s Holocaust survival story with lessons to inspire action against hatred and bigotry today

The spring 2020 edition of UC Magazine features a cover story about the ground-breaking “Hope After Hate” project launched by CCM E-Media Professor Hagit Limor. The story is available to read online.

Inspired by her father’s story of struggle and survival during the Holocaust, Limor set out to create “Hope After Hate: Moniek’s Legacy” to share his experience through immersive theatre and virtual reality. In October 2019, Limor’s Media Topics class of 15 students traveled to Poland and Germany to retrace her father’s journey. They will use the photos, videos and research collected during the trip to create an immersive play and virtual reality experience for the “Hope After Hate” project.

“Hope After Hate” will be an innovative, new kind of theatre — part play, part video and part virtual reality. Projections of historical settings will surround the audience during the immersive play, creating a virtual set in which they sit and interact with the actor portraying Moniek Limor. The “Hope After Hate” team is also creating a separate 15-minute virtual reality experience that will immerse users in Moniek’s story with goggles and hand sensors.

Viewers will be transported into the attic where he hid with his family as a child, into the Hasag-Pelcery labor camp where he was enslaved for more than a year as an adolescent, into the cattle-car train that transported him to the Buchenwald concentration camp when he was 14 and into the camp itself, where he was an inmate for four months. The project explores how people struggle to hold on to their humanity when surrounded by hate and fear. It also shares historical lessons in an effort to turn bystanders into upstanders who will speak out against hatred and bigotry today.

“Hope After Hate” unites students, faculty and staff from across UC, including undergraduate and graduate students majoring in E-Media, Acting, International Affairs, Political Science, Geography and History. CCM Acting Professor Susan Felder is adapting Limor’s memoir of her father’s experience into a script for the immersive play. Additionally, the “Hope After Hate” team is collaborating with CCM Lighting Design and Technology Professor Sharon Huizinga on how to create projections for the play. UC’s Center for Simulations and Virtual Environments Research (UCSIM) is building the VR experience with the 360-degree photos and videos that students captured while on the trip.

Read UC Magazine’s cover story on “Hope After Hate” to learn more about the project. Readers can also view photo galleries of images taken during the study abroad trip and watch a student-created documentary on the project.


“Hope After Hate” is sponsored by Cincinnati’s Holocaust and Humanity Center, and has already received support from private donors as well as Cincinnati’s Jewish Innovation Funds and the CCM Harmony Fund. This support offset travel expenses during the study abroad trip and funded some production expenses. However, the class is still actively collecting donations for projectors needed for the play and virtual reality equipment. Visit hopeafterhate.com for updates on the project and to learn how to get involved. 

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Long Beach Opera’s production of The Central Park Five. Photo credit: Long Beach Opera

CCM alumnus Leslie B. Dunner conducts Pulitzer Prize-winning opera ‘The Central Park Five’

Long Beach Opera’s production of The Central Park Five. Photo credit: Long Beach Opera

Anthony Davis’ opera won the prestigious prize after Dunner led the world premiere in June 2019

CCM graduate Leslie B. Dunner (DMA Orchestral Conducting, ’82) conducted the premiere of Anthony Davis’ The Central Park Five last June with California’s Long Beach Opera. In May, the opera won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Composed by Davis with a libretto by Richard Wesley, the opera was described by the jury of the prestigious award as, “a courageous operatic work, marked by powerful vocal writing and sensitive orchestration, that skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful.”

The Central Park Five’s musical style combines elements of jazz, hip-hop, blues and other historically African-American genres. The opera centers on the five African American and Latino teenagers who were unjustly convicted of a Central Park assault in the 1980s, but were exonerated through DNA evidence 13 years later.

CCM audiences may remember Dunner from his recent appearance on campus. In October 2019, Dunner returned to CCM to conduct the Philharmonia in its “CSI Halloween: Post-Mortem” performance. While on campus, Dunner connected with CCM conducting students over dinner and worked with them in studio class as well as in rehearsals to prepare for the performance.

An award-winning conductor with a glowing international reputation, Dunner is the Music Director of the South Shore Opera Company in Chicago and serves as the conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, the World Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Interlochen Arts Camp.

Dunner began rehearsals for The Central Park Five shortly after his teaching and conducting work at the Interlochen Arts Academy ended for the 2018-19 school year. In an interview for Interlochen’s website, Dunner commented on the importance of telling the stories and struggles of black Americans through the lens of opera.

“Anthony Davis said something very interesting,” Dunner tells Interlochen. “He had an interview where he was asked what he thought was relevant with opera. Because the interviewer said, ‘Opera was becoming a dead medium.’ And Anthony replied, ‘No. It’s not a dead medium. It’s a dead medium for your stories. It’s not a dead medium for our stories because our stories have not been told in opera.’”

For Dunner, the story of the Central Park Five is very personal. “I grew up in the area where all of this took place,” Dunner tells Interlochen. “I lived eight blocks away. I used to go to that part of Central Park as a kid. All of what went on during that time I have been through.”

From the Central Park Five to today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement, stories of cultural, racial and socio-economic injustices regularly make headlines across the country. “The cycle is still being perpetuated,” Dunner tells Interlochen. “What happened to them should not be happening anymore. Yet it is still happening. That is the relevance. That’s why this was important.”

One month after Dunner led the world premiere of The Central Park Five at Long Beach Opera, another opera focused on wrongful convictions premiered at Cincinnati Opera. The stories of six people who were wrongfully imprisoned and then freed were told in Blind Injustice, a collaboration with CCM, UC’s Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) and the Young Professionals Choral Collective. Based on casework by the OIP and the book “Blind Injustice” by UC law professor and OIP Director Mark Godsey, the highly acclaimed opera was directed by CCM Professor of Opera Robin Guarino and featured several current and former CCM students in the cast.

Efforts to share diverse stories through the performing arts is not limited to tales of wrongful convictions and struggle. In February, Dunner conducted the Toledo Symphony in a program that highlighted classical musicians of color. Selections included excerpts from Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, Duke Ellington’s The River Suite, André Previn’s Honey and Rue and William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1, among other pieces. As Music Director and Interim Artistic Director of Chicago’s South Shore Opera, Dunner furthers the company’s mission to provide greater opportunities for professional artists of color, especially local black artists, in performances of classic and contemporary operas.

“We are just now coming to the foreground,” Dunner tells Interlochen. “So we are using this medium to tell our stories, and we are modifying the medium so that it’s relevant to our population, and that’s what’s interesting, and that’s what’s exciting, and that’s what I want to be a part of.”

Read Dunner’s full interview on Interlochen’s website.

Learn more about Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, The Central Park Five.

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A photo of the entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC's campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

CCM Acting Faculty, Alumni and Students Embrace Local and National Digital Theatre

A photo of the entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC's campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

Cincinnati Playhouse and the One-Minute Play Festival share creative monologues and short-plays featuring CCM Acting faculty, alumni and students

The pandemic isn’t stopping theatre artists from connecting and sharing their work. Although they can’t gather on stage or perform in front of an in-person audience right now, actors and directors are creating digital spaces to share theatre online.

CCM Acting Professor Brant Russell recently participated in two digital theatre efforts through Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Monologues of Hope series and the national One-Minute Play Festival (1MPF).

“A bunch of us have refused to allow the lack of sanctioned or safe traditional theatre methods to hamper our practice. We can’t gather, we can’t even be near each other, but the need to make work still exists, and the audiences for it are there,” Russell says. “Zoom/digital theatre is a burgeoning practice, and I’m proud CCM is in the mix.”

The Playhouse’s series commissioned 10 local playwrights to write monologues on the theme of hope during the pandemic. Each monologue is performed by a local actor and shared on the Playhouse’s website and social media accounts. So far, the Monologues of Hope Series has shared nine new works, including Russell’s Play for Our Time and Hope Deconstructed by CCM Acting alumna Torie Wiggins (BFA, ’02).

In Play for Our Time, Russell travels back in time to the Yellow Fever outbreak of 1878 to get some advice from Cincinnati Chief Health Administrator Dr. Thomas C. Minor, portrayed by actor Barry Mulholland. The 19th-century doctor is a bit uncomfortable with Russell’s “rectangle device” (smart phone), but he manages to share some timely words of wisdom.

Wiggins’ Hope Deconstructed features actor Ernaisja Curry in a comedic monologue that examines how “we’ve been getting hope all wrong” by associating it with negativity. “Hope should be hopeful. It should sound hopeful; it should look hopeful. It should start in the eyes like smizing, then the rest of the face follows suit, then the tone of voice, then the positive words with a burst of energy,” the actor exclaims in the monologue.

Hope and creativity fuel these digital theatre projects and various online performances across the country. It is evident in the commitment of these teachers, students, actors, directors and theatre companies who are determined to stay connected and share their work in new ways.

“Theatre develops and strengthens community,” says CCM Acting student Anastasia Jacques. “Digital theatre and live performances over Zoom have made me feel so connected to people very far away.”

Jacques participated in the One Minute Play Festival’s (1MPF) Coronavirus Plays Project, which presented 625 plays via Zoom over 11 days. Russell directed 62 of the one-minute plays, which ranged in topic from “old married couples dealing with quarantine to pigeons deciding on whom they should poop,” he says.

Dominic D’Andrea is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of the 1MPF, which is the country’s largest and longest consistently running community-engaged theatre project. Russell directed 1MPF plays when it came to Chicago in 2011 and wrote/directed for the IMPF when it came to Cincinnati in 2015. He cast CCM students for the project and passed his directing duties to a CCM Acting student the next year. A CCM Acting student has been directing for the Cincinnati 1MPF each year ever since, and Russell continues to write plays for it.

“We produce about 1,000 plays a year in 15-20 cities and communities, in real life. We just moved what we do online, so it wasn’t that hard for us,” D’Andrea says of the 1MPF Coronavirus Plays Project. “In this case we did a partnership with The Dramatists Guild of America and, for the first time ever, did an open call. We had about 1,300 emails and 625 useable plays from that. We offered the work up to our partnering orgs and alumni directors to stage some of it. So we built a little online coalition.”

Brant Russell directs CCM Acting students, alumni and other actors through Zoom in the 1MPF's Coronavirus Plays Project. Photo/1MPF

Brant Russell directs CCM Acting students, alumni and other actors through Zoom in the 1MPF’s Coronavirus Plays Project. Photo/1MPF

Russell and D’Andrea have known each other for around 15 years, dating back to when they met at the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. When D’Andrea launched 1MPF’s Coronavirus Plays Project, he enlisted Russell to direct 62 of them.

D’Andrea estimates that a couple thousand audience members watched the plays through Zoom, and the project involved about 14 directors, 120 actors and 625 writers from 14 different countries.

Russell’s casts included Jacques as well as CCM Acting alumni Ella Eggold (BFA, ’19), Gabriella DiVincenzo (BFA, ’19) and Paige Jordan (BFA, ’20).

Jacques played various roles during the 1MPF project including a loving spouse, a poetic farmer and — her favorite — a doting New Jersey mother. This was the first digital theatre project she has worked on, but it won’t be the last. Jacques is planning to be a guest speaker on “Reliving Childhood,” a YouTube channel launched by CCM Acting students Carlee Coulehan, Sierra Coachman and Noah Buyak. “Reliving Childhood” centers around re-watching TV shows from the students’ youth, and the idea was brought to life when students were separated during quarantine.

“We are taught that live theatre is magical because the audience and the actors are in the same room breathing the same air, but I think it is important to recognize that storytelling is the best medicine — period,” Jacques says. “If we can’t breathe the same air at least we can see each other’s faces and see each other’s hearts.”


Featured image at top: The entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC’s campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

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CSO musicians on stage during the CSO's "Live from Music Hall" concert stream.

CCM faculty featured in CSO’s grand return to Music Hall

CSO musicians on stage during the CSO's "Live from Music Hall" concert stream.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s “Live from Music Hall” performance is available to stream online

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra mounted its first live performance in Music Hall since the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the remainder of its season. The Live from Music Hall performance, initially streamed on Saturday, May 16, is available to watch online.

The performance featured the launch of the CSO’s Fanfare Project, which commissions new music from more than a dozen composers to “inspire and uplift and to help us make sense of this moment in our shared history through the universal language of music.” CCM Professor and CSO Principal Oboe Dwight Parry gave the world premiere of the Fanfare Project’s first composition vitres (fragment…) by CSO Creative Partner Matthias Pintscher in the opening of the live-streamed concert.

CSO pianist and CCM Professor Michael Chertock with CSO principal cello and CCM Professor Ilya Finkelshteyn.

CSO pianist and CCM Professor Michael Chertock with CSO principal cello and CCM Professor Ilya Finkelshteyn.

Following the world premiere, four CSO musicians took the stage to perform Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor — while maintaining social distances and wearing face masks. The performance featured CCM professors Michael Chertock, piano, and Ilya Finkelshteyn, cello; as well as CSO concertmaster Stefani Matsuo and principal viola Christian Colberg.

“The event was one step forward to the time when theaters will reopen, and we won’t be afraid to share a live communal experience,” wrote arts reporter Janelle Gelfand in her review for the Cincinnati Business Courier. “It was a message of hope that eventually our arts and culture will re-emerge.”

Watch the full performance online.


Images captured from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s concert video.

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CCM Village at night

CCM E-Media professor and student help UC Emeriti Center launch new website

CCM Village at night

The University of Cincinnati Emeriti Association and Center, headed by College-Conservatory of Music E-Media Professor Peter DePietro, unveiled a new website in April that showcases the work of recent graduate Jonathan Kilberg (BFA E-Media, ’20). As the center’s multimedia intern, Kilberg’s work included web design/development, user experience design, videography and audio production — a grouping of disciplines that are unique to CCM’s E-Media program.

Assistant Professor of E-Media Peter DePietro.

Peter DePietro.

DePietro is the first non-interim executive director of the Emeriti Center, which advocates for the interests of emeriti, provides intellectual and social opportunities and strengthens ties between emeriti and the university, local, national and international communities. The new website includes videos from the Center’s YouTube channel as well as helpful resources for the university’s retired faculty members.

Since having a major role in the Center, DePietro has worked on creating connections between UC and community leaders as well as connecting deans from different colleges across campus. He is also focused on growth and expanding membership. At CCM he continues to educate his students through experience-based learning, which is why he recruited a student to help build the Center’s new website. DePietro enlisted the help of Kilberg because he believes that engaging students in practical learning is important.

“It was an amazing opportunity to be able to work for the Center,” Kilberg says. “I jumped at the opportunity. Every single member is supportive and kind and sociable. It was amazing to meet all these people from campus life and beyond campus life.”

Creating the UC Emeriti website was no small feat. The task required both Kilberg and DePietro to take classes and tests in order to train on the university’s web content management system and to meet the standards of UC’s Digital Communications office. In addition to the website, Kilberg and DePietro created a YouTube channel with original video content. The crown jewel of the YouTube channel is the EmeriTALKS series which Kilberg noted as one of the best parts of working on this project. The EmeriTALKS videos include a joint-venture between the Center and CCM, featuring the leadership of Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park, and another featuring former UC President Nancy Zimpher.

As an E-Media student at CCM, Kilberg has enjoyed multiple opportunities to participate in hands on learning experiences. In October 2019, Kilberg traveled to Germany and Poland with CCM E-Media Professor Hagit Limor’s multi-disciplinary Media Topics class. The group of 15 students set out to create “Hope After Hate,” an immersive play and virtual reality experience that shares Limor’s father’s experience during the Holocaust with lessons to inspire action against future acts of hatred.

CCM’s BFA E-Media program encompasses the integrated media arts of film and digital cinema, television and broadcast media news, audio production and new media design. Students are given the opportunity to study in the track of their choosing, including Broadcast and Media Production, Multimedia Production and Film and Television Production. Internships are a key part of the curriculum and take advantage of the professional resources in Cincinnati and other areas across the country. With its emphasis on experiential learning, students acquire the hands-on skills and a digital portfolio necessary to transition successfully into the professional world.

Kilberg plans on going into the film industry and feels that one of the biggest skills E-Media has taught him is how to effectively work with a team. “E-Media pushed me to work with other people, which is so necessary in the field that I want to go in. The program taught me the importance of working as a team.”

“The professors are talented and they work hard at creating community,” Kilberg says. “They also offer great resources and there is support from the alumni of E-Media. Going forward they are going to continue to do an amazing job preparing students.”


Story by CCM Graduate Student Kelly Barefield

Featured image at top: An aerial view of CCM Village. Photo/Jay Yocis

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Music at Home: Recent CCM graduates share senior recital performance video

The University of Cincinnati’s transition to remote learning put in-person public performances at the College-Conservatory of Music on pause, including senior recitals that graduating students typically present during the spring semester. However, harpist Anna Dunlap didn’t let that stop her from sharing a piece she planned to perform during her recital online.

Dunlap, who recently graduated with a Master of Music in Harp, planned to perform Marcel Tournier’s La lettre du Jardinier with fellow CCM student Sean McKay, who just graduated with a Master of Music in Trumpet. They were disappointed to lose the opportunity to perform the piece that they had already spent time practicing, so McKay suggested they present it digitally.

“Music, as it always does, provides comfort, joy and an escape from the more difficult times in life,“ says Anna Dunlap (MM Harp, ’20). “The arts are a vitally important part of everyone’s lives, so by sharing our music we are able to stay connected to our audiences, friends and colleagues.”

Dunlap, who studied with CCM Professor Gillian Benet Sella, is thankful that McKay was as excited about the performance video as she was. She was introduced to La lettre du Jardinier by her former teacher Kathleen Bride while she was an undergraduate student at Eastman School of Music.

“I never had the chance to program it there, so I was really happy about finding a friend to perform this piece with me here at CCM,” Dunlap says.

McKay, who studied with CCM Professor Alan Siebert, created the initial click track that the musicians used to record, then recorded the performances and edited the video. He says the recording part only took a couple of hours but that he probably spent around 4 hours editing the audio.

McKay is a self-taught video editor and used his experience as a performer, as well as the advice of experienced friends, for the audio recording and editing. He is using his free time during the pandemic to build a larger digital presence for himself as a freelance musician and educator.

“One of the biggest ‘silver linings’ that has come from this quarantine has been that I am moving in the right direction to expand my digital footprint, and that I have had a few opportunities to make music with friends,” McKay says. “I think that as musicians and students of music, we take for granted the simple and yet highly complex phenomena that is the experience of making music with other people.”

“I think that it is so very important for musicians to stay connected during this time, because each of us has a fire burning inside of us which drives our passion to make music; and when that fire is told to stay inside and stay healthy, that fire needs fuel to stay alive,“ says  Sean McKay (MM Trumpet, ’20). “These types of projects and collaborations with friends are what fuels our inner fire.”

Dunlap is using her time in quarantine to explore old hobbies like drawing and painting and she is staying connected with friends through video chats and virtual game nights. She is also working on new repertoire, updating her website and planning a virtual harp camp with a mentor.

She enjoys seeing the variety of creative ways musicians are continuing to perform and share music during this uncertain time. Dunlap is inspired by the orchestra videos, like the New York Philharmonic’s performance excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 “Adagietto and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Ravel’s “Le jardin féerique” (The Fairy Garden) from Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite).

From Broadway stars to prestigious professional orchestras to student musicians, performing artists across the world are determined to share their work in new ways. Recently on May 16, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra presented “Live from Music Hall,” which featured a performance of Mahler’s Piano Quartet and the world premiere of the first piece for The Fanfare Project by CSO Creative Partner Matthias Pintscher. The performance featured CCM professors Dwight Parry, oboe; Michael Chertock, piano; Ilya Finkelshteyn, cello; and CSO concertmaster Stefani Matsuo and principal viola Christian Colberg.

“Music is a beautiful thing. Music heals. Music sparks creativity and passion. Music helps people in so many ways. Music can change the outcome of a person’s whole day,” McKay says. “My favorite quote about music is from Aldous Huxley: ‘After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ When words fail, music speaks. When people are hurt, music is there to heal and soothe.“


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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.

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