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

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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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

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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 Celebrates 2020 Faculty Retirements

As the 2019-20 academic year comes to a close, UC’s College-Conservatory of Music celebrates the careers of five retiring faculty members who have given nearly 124 years of combined service to the college. These members of the CCM family 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, 2009-20
  • Stephen Allee, professor of music, 2015-20

Please join us in saluting their years of service to the CCM community!


Earl Rivers conducts CCM’s 2018 performance of J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion” at Cincinnati’s Knox Presbyterian Church. Photo/Andrew Higley

Earl Rivers arrived at CCM as a DMA student in September 1970. During his first month at the college, he remembers joining other student conductors and the May Festival Chorus to welcome incoming Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Director Thomas Schippers with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem at Music Hall. He has since presented numerous choral masterworks with students at CCM and throughout Greater Cincinnati.

“My favorite memories at CCM include the staged productions we accomplished of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, and of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake — all staged by talented student directors in CCM’s Opera Stage Directing Artist Diploma Program,” Rivers says. “These productions prepared CCM’s student singers, instrumentalists, conductors, and technical theatre majors to become leaders in the next generation of performers in staged productions of concert works and oratorios.”


Dean Mogle displays his costume designs for CCM’s 2016 production of “Swan Lake.” Photo/Becky Butts

After 31 years at CCM with nearly 150 costume design graduates and more than 300 supervised staged productions, Dean Mogle has too many memories to single out only a few. “The richness of student talent over the years has elevated all of us to new heights in training,” he says.

“I am most proud as our students take their rightful places in this country’s most prestigious theatre, opera and dance organizations, as well as Broadway, motion pictures and television productions,” Mogle adds. “Over the years, the incredibly dedicated professional staff and faculty have mentored each student toward their full potential and guided them into their chosen areas of this profession. Whether designing, assisting, managing, making or dressing, our students are admired by the profession for their talents, skills and dedication — hallmarks of CCM.”


Alan Siebert and Bryan Crisp snap a selfie behind-the-scene of Crisp’s Music On Purpose podcast. Photo/Bryan Crisp

Alan Siebert’s favorite memories of are watching students succeed, whether at a recital, conference or on stage. Over the years, he has celebrated students’ accomplishments near and far — in performances in Cincinnati as well as all over the world including Bangkok, Thailand.  He remembers trying to livestream a broadcast of students performing at the National Trumpet Competition in Texas when he and his wife were driving home from one of his own concerts. They pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center, sat in their car and watched the performance on his phone so they could cheer them on from afar.

“I also love performing with my former students,” adds Siebert, who recently reunited with former student Bryan Crisp (MM, ’05) to talk about his career on Crisp’s Music On Purpose podcast. “Whether it’s in a recital, orchestra or chamber music setting. It is always gratifying to see them years later and marvel at how well they have done, knowing that you had a small part in that development. I have had great colleagues and students at CCM and also many wonderful opportunities because of CCM.”


Mark Williams coordinated the BOOM! lighting display at CCM’s 2020 Moveable Feast. Photo/Quinn Villarreal

Mark Williams is the instructor and coordinator behind CCM’s annual BOOM! lighting showcase, a dazzling stage lighting and technical production display by students in his Moving Light Programming course. The event inspired the “Light Their Way” theme at CCM’s 2020 Moveable Feast fundraiser.

Former student Oliver Littleton (BFA, ’19) remembers taking Williams’ Moving Light Programming course and how it challenged him to examine his design process and use lighting technology in new ways. “The training from Mark’s course is something I use all the time in my work now,” said Littleton, who began working as a lighting design intern at Walt Disney World during his final year at CCM.


CCM faculty members Kim Pensyl, Stephen Allee, Craig Bailey and Scott Belck in Brazil during CCM’s residency with JALCO. Photo/Stephen Allee

A pianist, composer and arranger, Stephen Allee has spent more than 35 years working primarily as a jazz instructor as well as writing and performing for syndicated radio programs, network TV and motion pictures. Over the summer, he traveled with the CCM Jazz Orchestra to São Paulo, Brazil for an international residency with Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. CCM’s Department of Jazz Studies was named Jazz at Lincoln Center‘s inaugural College Affiliate, a distinction reserved for the country’s top-ranked jazz programs.

More recently, Allee worked with fellow CCM faculty member Rusty Burge and musicians Steve Houghton, Rob Dixon and Jeremy Allen to release BAHAD in January 2020. Allee wrote the title track of the record, which is available to stream online.

“My experience in the Jazz Studies Department at CCM has been nothing short of amazing,” Allee says. “Our students have grown by leaps and bounds, nurtured by the encouraging atmosphere in our department.”

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Playbill Streams Broadway’s ‘Bandstand’ Musical Film on April 10

Playbill will stream the 2017 Broadway musical Bandstand, written by CCM Acting alumnus Richard Oberacker (BFA, ’93) and Robert Taylor, beginning tonight, April 10, 2020. The Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of World War II veteran Donny Novitski, who forms a band with fellow veterans and enters a national contest to become America’s newest musical sensation.

Richard Oberacker with CCM Acting Professor Richard Hess at a preview performance of “Bandstand” on Broadway.

The first Playbill Playback, a new series in which old and recent favorite musicals can be streamed on Playbill.com, Bandstand will be streamed for the first time on April 10 and will be available through April 17. A portion of the proceeds raised with the stream will go to The Actors Fund.

The Bandstand stream will also feature an interview with co-stars Laura Osnes, Corey Cott and Beth Leavel as well as director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and co-creators Oberacker and Taylor.

In addition to Oberacker, alumni from across CCM are involved in this award-winning musical. Geoff Packard (BFA Musical Theatre, ’04) plays Wayne Wright, a trombonist in the veteran band; Max Clayton (BFA Musical Theatre, ’14) is in the ensemble; Greg Anthony Rassen (MM Orchestral Conducting, ’03) is the co-orchestrator, music supervisor and music arranger; and David Kreppel (BFA Musical Theatre, ’92) is the vocal music arranger.

Bandstand was the first theatrical production in history to be certified authentic by Got Your 6, an organization that advocates for authentic portrayal of the military across entertainment.

Learn more about the Bandstand stream on Playbill.

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