The History of CYC

The Cincinnati Youth Choir is a non-profit organization celebrating its 27th anniversary season serving young singers from Southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana. Each year, over 900 Greater Cincinnati children & youth in grades one through twelve benefit from this educational venue focusing on performance as a result of the singers education. Presently, the program involves members in seven resident choirs, ChoralQuest and Cincinnati Choral Academy outreach programs, the Sing-A-Bration Choral Camp, Queen City Festival choir, and the Cincinnati Public School Honor Choir.

The Cincinnati Youth Choir became Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in August 2001 under the name Cincinnati Children’s Choir, and changed it’s name several times over the last 27 years to better represent our member base. CCM is recognized as one the world’s finest conservatories. With the residency, the choir regularly collaborates with the CCM Music Education Division, the CCM Opera Department, and the CCM Division of Ensembles and Conducting and continued to build upon the rich history of the former CCM Children’s Choir, founded in 1983 by Dr. Karen Wolff.

CYC’s Bel Canto Choir was a featured ensemble at Carnegie Hall in March 2013.  Regionally, CYC has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Cincinnati Pops, Vocal Arts Ensemble, May Festival Chorus, Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Choral Society, and CCM ensembles. Collaborative repertoire has included Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Philip Glass’ Symphony No.5 (a student premiere), John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls and El Niño, Shore’s Lord of the Rings Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Symphony No. 8, Bernstein’s Kaddish and Mass, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Menotti’s Death of the Bishop of Brindisi, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Rutter’s Mass of the Children, Britten’s St. Nicholas Cantata, War Requiem and Spring Symphony, Penderecki’s Credo, Puccini’s Turandot and Belioz’ Damnation of Faust and Te Deum. In addition, CYC has recorded with the Pops for two nationally released compact discs; Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Nutcracker, the latter reaching number two on Billboard’s Classical Chart.  In addition, 140 CYC members performed under Maestro James Conlon in the Cincinnati May Festival (May 2014), CYC also collaborated with CSO, May Festival Chorus and Louis Langrée performing Orff’s Carmina Burana in January 2015.  CYC was also honored to perform as part of the Holiday Pops in December 2014 under John Morris Russell.

CYC was featured in the China Children’s Choir Festival performing in the Forbidden City Concert Hall and sharing the stage with The China Children’s Choir under the co-direction of Professor Yang Hongnian and CYC’s own artistic director, Robyn Lana.  CYC has performed for the American Choral Directors Association’s (ACDA) Central Division Conference and in the Champions Category of the World Choir Games where they earned a gold medal (under the name of Cincinnati Children’s Choir) and came in first in their category in the United States.  In addition, CYC has performed at the Ohio Music Educators Association (OMEA), Music Educator’s National Conference (MENC) Regional Convention, the Ohio Choral Directors Association (OCDA), and the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA) National Convention. Selected by audition, the advanced choir participated in the Llangollen International Music Eistedfodd in Wales, July 2008, representing Cincinnati and the USA in the Senior Children’s Choir Division. In addition, choir members have auditioned for and represented the choir in ACDA Divisional and National Honor Choirs.

The advanced choirs have toured Austria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Wales, and the United States performing alone, with children’s choirs, and in international festivals. In July 2015, members of Bel Canto toured to Italy and sang mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.  In addition, CYC  earned the great honor of being invited to represent the United States of America at the World Expo in Milan, performing in the USA Pavilion under the America flag.  CYC maintains its own concert series performing from September through July often hosting guest artists and choirs. Ensembles in the program regularly collaborate with children’s choirs from around the United States.   WORLDSONG®, an international children’s choir festival founded by CYC in 2000, has taken place twice. WORLDSONG® is conducted by CYC Founder Robyn Lana, and has been co-conducted by Henry Leck (2000) and Barbara Tagg (2005).  Future WORLDSONG® festivals are being planned.

Beginning in 2009, CYC hosted the inaugural Queen City Children’s Choir Festival, a national event for treble choirs focusing on musical artistry, creating music, and connecting with others from across the country.  Participating choirs have come from Africa, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Milwaukee, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Canada.  The festival is conducted by Robyn Lana and composer-in-residence Jim Papoulis.

Artistic and Educational staff members recognize and value opportunities for CYC members to sing under the direction of a variety of educators and conductors. The singers have performed under the renowned batons of John Adams, Erich Kunzel, John Morris Russell, James Conlon, Louis Langrée, Yang Hongnian, Henry Leck, Shirley McRae, Kenneth Phillips, David Flood, Jean Ashworth Bartle, Earl Rivers, Stephen Coker, Eric Whitacre, Murkus Huber, Angela Broeker, Jim Papoulis, Mark Gibson and Paavo Järvi.

Regularly commissioning composers, CYC values the opportunity to work directly with composers and on new music for performance. Commissions include the work of Dominick DiOrio, Francisco J. Nunez, Dan Forrest, Joan Szymko, Gary Fry, Rollo Dilworth, Andrea Ramsey, Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory, Paul Carey, Bob Chilcott, Malcolm Dalglish, Cynthia Gray, David Kisor, Alan Naplan, Shirley McRae, Nick Page, Jim Papoulis, and Jason Webb. In addition, the choir is pleased to be a member of Chorus America’s Commission Consortium in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. CYC was honored to receive the dedication of Shirley McRae’s arrangement of ‘Goin’ to Boston.’ In 2007, CYC premiered the Cincinnati Youth Choir Composition Competition, a national contest for emerging composers. The competition is an annual event.

CYC performed Gabriel Faure’s Messe Basse with Oxford, England’s highly acclaimed organist, Clive Driskill-Smith, as part of the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Organ Series. In addition to collaborating with the Cincinnati Opera in 2009, CYC has provided the children’s chorus for the CCM Mainstage Opera program in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2017.  Members representing all levels of the CYC program served as the ‘Dream Choir’ for a two week run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Broadway Tour in February 2006. The production starred Patrick Cassidy and Amy Adams of American Idol fame. The children’s performance met with excellent reviews. Of note is the choir’s participation as a Lab Choir performing Carmina Burana with CCM forces for Chorus America’s Conducting Workshop held in Cincinnati, May 2005.

In 2014, CYC and CCM hosted the Chorus America Conducting Masterclass with Duane Wolf and Rollo Dilworth serving as lead faculty and Glenda Crawford, Robert Ward, Christine Jordanoff, James Bagwell, Eva Floyd and Robyn Lana serving as podium coaches.  In 2010, CYC hosted the first biennial ACDA Children’s and Community Youth Conductor’s Retreat.

In addition to regularly recording CYC concerts, the choir has twice been a participating ensemble in Amani Celebration, a CD offering the artistry of ‘North America’s Finest Children’s Choirs’ organized by the Amani Children’s Foundation with assistance from Henry Leck and the Indianapolis Children’s Choir (ICC). Proceeds from the 2006 and 2009 national releases benefit children of Africa who were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The choir collaborated on a similar project with the Ceilidh Group, a local non-profit organization. The collaborative work of Cincinnati artists benefited three Greater Cincinnati children’s charities representing the following three focus areas; medical science, literature, and music. In 2014, CYC was honored to collaborate with and support WGUC.  Bel Canto is featured on WGUC’s fundraiser CD, Bach to Cincinnati, which has helped public radio earn over $25,000. CYC is also a regularly featured artist on the Santa Barbara Music Publishing website.

CYC has a history of collaborating with specific cultural populations within the Cincinnati community. Knowing the inclusive nature of youth in the program, the choir was highlighted in Sounds of the Seasons, a project spotlighting Cincinnati’s Indian community and featuring Middle Eastern instrumentation and ragas, collaborated twice with the Taiwanese community for WORLDSONG®, was an integral part of the Israel @ 50 celebrations, and currently hosts the Cincinnati Public School Honor Choir and created the Cincinnati Choral Academy in 2015.

The choir received national acclaim for their performance of Jason Webb’s arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner at the Kentucky Speedway in spring 2012.  CYC was honored to be asked three times to perform during the 2013-14 season live on WKRC’s Local 12 News Sunday with Liz Bonis, and looks forward to several appearances this season.  The program and Bel Canto were the focus of CET’s 30 minute show, Showcase with Barbara Kellar, in 2014.  The summer of 2012, the program was highlighted several times for their success and efforts during the World Choir Games.  During the 2009-10 season, CCC was featured on CET’s Cincinnati Highnotes and on the CBS Morning Show in New York City.  During the 2007-08 season, the program received special media opportunities to share their artistic abilities and philosophies. The organization was highlighted on the local NBC affiliate WLWT Channel 5 where viewers were introduced to the singers, philosophies of the staff, and interviews with the choir stating what the program has meant to them, how CYC has changed their lives. In December 2007, CBS Sports filmed the choir singing from Cincinnati’s historic Fountain Square and broadcast the singers nationally during a final regular-season NFL game.

1983 – CCM Children’s Choir founded, Dr. Karen Wolff

1984 – CCM Mini-Singers founded, Shirley Raut

1987 – Shirley Raut becomes Conductor of the CCM Children’s Choir program

1989 – Lourin Plant becomes Conductor of the CCM Children’s Choir program

1990 – Anne Marie Koukios becomes Conductor of CCM Children’s Choir program

1990 – Robyn Lana serves as Conductor of CCM Mini-Singers

1993 – Cincinnati Children’s Choir (CCC) founded, Robyn Lana.  Laura Holland serves as Assistant Director and Jason Webb serves as Accompanist

1993 – CCC begins a partnership with Musical Arts Center (MAC)

1994 – Preparatory Choir founded, Laura Holland

1994 – CCC begins the annual summer festival at Xavier University

1995 – CCC outgrows MAC and moves rehearsals to Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church

1997 – CCC becomes a non-profit organization

1998 – Christa Joy Chase serves as assistant for the CCM Children’s Choir

1999 – Christa Joy Chase conducts CCM Mini-Singers

2000 – Thomas Juneau becomes conductor of the CCM Children’s Choir

2000 – CCC hosts the WORLDSONG® at Xavier University

2001 – CCC becomes Ensemble-in-Residence at CCM

2001 – CCM Children’s Choir dissolves.

2001 – Christa Joy Chase becomes Assistant Director of Cincinnati Children’s Choir

2002 – Summer Festival moves to CCM facilities

2003 – CCC Celebrates Tenth Anniversary and recognizes the founding of CCM Children’s Choir’s Twentieth Anniversary

2003 – Alejandro Rivas founds Beavercreek Children’s Choir, a CCC Outreach Program

2003 – Kathleen Maguire (Lushman) becomes Assistant Director of Cincinnati Children’s Choir and conducts Jubilate Choir

2004 – Gina Forbes becomes Assistant Office Manager

2005 – CCC hosts the second WORLDSONG®: introducing international choirs to their University of Cincinnati home

2005 – Kelly Korpusik conducts the Jubilate and Preparatory Choirs

2005 – Lisa Houser becomes Executive Director

2006 – KellyAnn (Westgate) Nelson conducts Preparatory and Girl Choirs

2007 – Craig Matherne begins Young Men’s Chorus. Patty Corfmann joins the administrative staff as Business Manager. The satellite program begins under the direction of Ken Holdt.

2008 – Shannon Rego joins the choir as Development Associate. Sandra Bosher Thornton conducts Jubilate Choir. Tim Unger conducts Young Men’s Chorus. KellyAnn Nelson Westgate continues her conducting responsibilities and expands her role with CCC as Outreach Coordinator.  KellyAnn also takes over Mason Satellite Choir, Leslie Hicks leads a satellite choir on the North side and Jan Corrothers begins Kentucky Satellite Choir. Glenda Crawford serves as Assistant Conductor of Bel Canto and Lyric Choirs.

2009 – Kara Shibiya serves CCC for a brief period as Development Director. Soon, CCC welcomes Mary Kay Koehler into the position of Development Associate.  Rob Himmler joins the program serving as Accountant. Mr. Stacy Wm. Haney conducts Young Men’s Chorus.  Glenda Crawford also takes over the leadership of Girl Choir while Sandra Thornton adds Jubilate Choir to her duties.  Chris Shortt becomes Assistant Director.  Later in the season, Mary Kay Koehler is named Development Director.  Composer/educator Cynthia Gray joins the CCC staff as Mason Satellite Conductor.

2010 – Celebrating 10 years in residence at CCM, the program welcomes Dr. Eva Floyd as Assistant Director working with Robyn Lana in Bel Canto and Lyric Choirs.  Chris Shortt becomes Associate Director taking over the Young Men’s Chorus.  CCC also expands the satellite program into Cincinnati’s west side.  With much pleasure, the staff welcomes back Laura Holland as conductor of that satellite choir.  CCC also expanded the satellite program into Clermont County under the leadership of Trio Jeng.  Celebrating 10 years in residence at CCM, in December of the 2010-11 season, Mary Kay Koehler becomes Executive Director.

2011 – CCC welcomes Jim Waddle as Operations and Outreach Manager.  Under his administrative leadership, the program is expanding to include ensembles in Blue Ash, Miami University, Clermont County, Northern Kentucky, Northeast (Mason), and West (Bridgetown).  Satellite program is led artistically by Cynthia Gray with Jan Corrothers, Chelsey Kurtz, Sarah Grogan, John Crandall, and Robyn Lana serving as conductors.  Dr Eva Floyd begins her tenure as Associate Director conducting the Girl Choir.  CPS Honor Choir, co-conducted by Rollo Dilworth and Robyn Lana, gets inaugural concert as part of the World Choir Games at the Aronoff Center to close the season (June 2012).

2012 – Rachel Breeden becomes Operations and Marketing Associate.  Kelly Watson becomes Development Associate. Jason McKee becomes Associate Director leading the growing Cincinnati Young Men’s Choir.  The program dramatically reorganizes all resident choirs now offering Bel Canto, Con Brio, Vivace, Piccolo Coro, Cincinnati Girl Choir and Cincinnati Young Men’s Choir at on the CCM campus. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Accounting Department now collaborates with the choir handling all of CCC’s accounting needs.  Rollo Dilworth returns to co-conduct CPS Honor Choir (May 2013) in CCM’s Corbett Auditorium

2013 – Chelsey Kurtz Sweatman chosen to conduct Piccolo Coro.  Allegro (new ensemble) and Vivace are led by Sandra Thornton.  The Satellite Choir Program expands to 11 locations:  Blue Ash and West, Chelsey Sweatman; Clermont County, John Crandall; Fairfield, Dawn Bruestle; Mason and Otterbein, Cynthia Gray; Miami University, Robyn Lana; Northminster Presbyterian, Jeremy David; Northern Kentucky, St. James, Alex Gartner; Claire Miller; and Wilmington College, Joe Beal.  CPS Honor Choir returns under the direction of Rollo Dilworth and Robyn Lana (May 2014).

2014 – Sandra Thornton appointed Director of Education.  Satellite Choir programs expand to St Thomas Episcopal in Terrace park under the direction of Carlton Monroe and Jennifer Koenemann leads Northminster Satellite.  Sandra Thornton takes over as  Artistic Director of the Satellite Choir Program.  Rollo Dilworth continues as co-conductor of the CPS Honor Choir. Sandra Thornton named CCC Assistant Artistic Director and becomes conductor of the Cincinnati Girl Choir.

2015- Lauren Hess joins CCC as the new Executive Director. Sarah Grogan appointed Director of the newly created Cincinnati Choral Academy.

2016 – Jillian Dicks joins CCC as the new Richard W. Wesp Assistant Director

2018 – CCC updates name to Cincinnati Youth Choir in efforts to better represent the age range of the members. Under direction of Sandra Thornton, CYC created the ChoralQuest after school program.

2019 – Gregory Miller named new Richard W. Wesp Assistant Director. Jim Waddle retired from his position of Operations Manager.

2020 – Rachel Breeden is promoted to Director of Programs and Kayla Vogel is added to the team as the Programs Associate. Daniel Parsley joins the CYC team as the new conductor of Voci Sonore.