Arts Bridge Cultural Divides



The 2016 Classical Roots program marked the CSO’s first ever collaboration with a hip-hop artist, Common. Tens of thousands of people have viewed the online performance video of “Glory” featuring Common and the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir. Common’s appearance attracted national media attention.

“It may have started out being primarily a black entrance to the symphony, but it has become a great blend of people and religious denominations. We all have come together to learn how to work together and learn together.” —Ron Logan, Choir Director at Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church and Classical Roots Community Mass Choir participant


—the highest ever achieved for this program

This year’s Classical Roots concert honored Cincinnati civil rights champion Marian Spencer.

 The Classical Roots Community Mass Choir included singers from dozens of area churches of a variety of denominations.

“Classical Roots has become an integral part of the fabric of this community. While we have many dedicated singers in the choir who volunteer year after year, we continue to attract new members who are affected by the historical message that is portrayed through songs of the past and present.” —Geneva Woode, Classical Roots Music Minister 



Louis Langrée with One City, One Symphony
narrator, actress Regina Taylor

This year’s One City, One Symphony project centered on the theme of freedom commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment and honoring the legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou.

Through neighborhood listening parties (see page 22), 25 community partnerships (particularly with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, NURFC), a poetry contest and performances, the CSO facilitated dialogue about this theme.

The Orchestra commissioned three composers—Jonathan Bailey Holland, Kristin Kuster and TJ Cole— to write short works based on poems by Dr. Angelou (“Equality,” “Forgive” and “Elegy,” respectively). Each composer brought his or her personal experiences, styles and methods to the composition process, from which emerged three unique pieces honoring the legacy of one of the most poignant voices of our time.

 “Freedom and music go handin- hand. From the spirituals sung by the enslaved before the end of the Civil War, to the melodic protests of the Civil Rights Movement—music has inspired generations of individuals to share experiences, express hardships and cry for freedom throughout history.” —Dr. Michael Battle, NURFC executive vice president and provost

CSO Board Member Dr. Alvin H. Crawford and Jean Crawford with One City, One Symphony narrator Regina Taylor and composers Kristin Kuster, Jonathan Bailey Holland and TJ Cole.

 “This community-wide initiative connects the music that moves us to the history of freedom. These community Listening Parties generated an awareness that the struggle for freedom continues and this theme is just as relevant today as it was 150 years ago.” —Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, NURFC president




After several years of work and planning, the CSO and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) announced five exceptionally talented students to be the inaugural class of Diversity Fellows. This collaborative new program is one of the country’s most important and comprehensive fellowships, leveraging the strengths of the CSO and CCM and earning major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 The members of the inaugural Diversity Fellowship class are (l-r with CSO Concertmaster Timothy Lees and CCM Dean Peter Landgren): Diana Flores (cello), Emilio Carlo (viola), Vijeta Sathyaraj (violin), Blake-Anthony Johnson (cello) and Maurice Todd (double bass)

 The Diversity Fellowship responds to a need among American orchestras and professional music conservatories, which face issues of underrepresentation, and is driven by the mutual desire of the CSO and CCM to foster a more inclusive environment in the orchestral industry.

“Working in close collaboration with our partners at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, we will prepare these Fellows for long and fruitful artistic careers, while challenging the status quo of our industry.” —CCM Dean Peter Landgren

Beginning in fall 2016, these fellows will participate in frequent performances with the CSO and receive focused mentorship by professional CSO musicians, while being simultaneously enrolled in a master’s or artist diploma degree program at CCM where they will be guided by CCM’s illustrious faculty.

“Being raised in the Bronx, I would’ve never thought my future would involve classical music. When I attend orchestra concerts, there aren’t many musicians of color seen on stage. In fact, it’s always an ‘aha’ moment when I see a Latino or African American musician playing in a symphony. I knew the Fellowship was my top choice as soon as I read their mission statement: ‘We want to change the face of the American symphony.’” —Incoming Fellow Emilio Carlo



Bravos Without Barriers

“We have a continuing responsibility to inspire these talented young people, and all young people who show promise. Pull them aside, share your experience. They need to know firsthand what it takes to overcome, and not defer a dream.” —CSO cellist Norman Johns

2015 Norman E. Johns Chair Award recipients are (l-r with Mr. Johns): Mahmoud Said, bass trombone; Haleigh Willingham, viola; Hannah Willingham, percussion; and Myles Yeazell, cello


• Established in 1995 in partnership with the CSO’s Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC)

• Named for CSO cellist Norman Johns

• Awarded annually to talented middle and high school African-American, Latino/Hispanic and Native American student musicians with the intention of encouraging their pursuit of orchestral music

• Students must first audition for and be accepted into the CSYO; they then audition for another panel of judges (which includes Mr. Johns and other CSO musicians) for consideration for the Award


The Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO) Nouveau Chamber Players nurtures young African American string players in grades 6-12, supports advancement in classical music, and prepares them for college. Through intensive weekly rehearsals with CSO musicians, the program feeds the classical music talent pipeline with 12 young musicians who are underrepresented in the field nationally.

An audition-based group, the Nouveau Chamber Players regularly performs diverse repertoire in the community in addition to an annual recital. Alumni of the program have been accepted to collegiate music programs and have received national recognition, including being selected as semifinalists in the Sphinx Competition, a national competition for African American and Latino string players. The program is tuition free and many students receive support through CSO scholarship programs. It is typical for members to advance into other CSYO performing ensembles during their time in the program.

 “Being a member of Nouveau has showed me that as an African American woman, I too can achieve greatness through effort, time, and dedication. Since I’ve been in Nouveau, I have realized how much I have grown as a musician, and also how the group has shaped me into the young woman I am now.” —2014-15 Nouveau Chamber Players musician