Why We Give, Part I

by Tyler M. Secor

From full concerts at Music Hall to small pop-up performances in local neighborhoods and everything in between, our generous and dedicated donors, sponsors and concertgoers make it all possible. Over the next several issues, we will share the special stories behind why our donors give to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops. As you will read, each reason is different, but their passion for this Orchestra is a constant. Our donors and their inspiring stories will ensure that the unique sound of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops will always resound.

You can join our family of donors online at cincinnatisymphony.org/donate or by contacting the Philanthropy Department at 513.744.3271.


“Should we tell him the story of our first date?” asks Kathy as we spoke via Zoom in early November.

“Sure, go ahead,” consented Mike.

Well, that first date story is quite remarkable, but let’s first set the scene.

Michael and Kathy Rademacher, March 2022. Credit: Claudia Hershner

Mike and Kathy met while working on their undergraduate degrees at Miami University (Oxford, OH). Kathy’s family had a long history of attending Miami University and participating in the Miami University Men’s Glee Club. “My dad, his three brothers, Mike, and our nephew, Kyle, all sang in the Glee Club, so we like to consider that three generations of our family in the Glee Club,” said Kathy. As a lifelong Cincinnatian, Mike remembers going to Music Hall for the Young People’s Concerts when he was a young boy, and his parents had Pops tickets for over 35 years.

Kathy learned to play piano at a young age and still plays today. “Music has been a constant in my life,” reflected Kathy.

With such deep connections to music, perhaps the story of their first date is not so surprising.

“Well, on our first date in May 1982, Mike took me to a May Festival concert with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at Music Hall,” reminisced Kathy. “I was sold from that moment forward.”

They celebrate 39 years of marriage this year so, needless to say, the first date was a success. But, that first date at Music Hall forever cemented music as an integral part of their lives and relationship.

“The arts in Cincinnati is one of the best things about this city,” said Mike. “Every weekend Kathy and I are either at Music Hall or at another arts event in the city. We feel it is our social obligation to give to the Orchestra because it has given us so much.”

“The musicians give their heart and soul and are passionate about their work,” said Kathy. “It is an absolute pleasure to give to the Orchestra. We give what we can because we love the music and we want the music to be around for everyone to love, too. Cincinnati is blessed to have so much talent.”

What keeps Mike and Kathy coming back year after year and concert after concert?

For Kathy it is the depth of the music. “When the music starts, it is like I am transported to another plane. The beauty of the music and the comfortable and welcoming environment allow me to sink into the music.”

For Mike it is the ritual of the concert experience, the social experience, and the wonder that is Music Hall. “I know when we come to the CSO it is going to be a great concert. I like to be there early, listen to the pre-concert talk, see the people, and be part of the history and energy of Music Hall.”


“In 1979, when I was 22 years old, I attended an outdoor parks concert in Norwood,” remembered Kathy as we met at Music Hall following an open Pops rehearsal. “A buffet had been arranged after the concert and that is where I met Robert Howes, who played viola in the Orchestra.” This meeting sparked a lifelong friendship between Kathy and Robert.

Part of Robert and Kathy’s friendship was that “Robert brought me to concerts and I fell in love with the music and the Orchestra,” declared Kathy. Pretty soon, Kathy became a subscriber, but still frequently attended concerts with Robert. Kathy also started to become friends with other Orchestra members as Robert brought her backstage. Her love for all things CSO grew.

Kathy Grote, John Morris Russell and Thea Tjepkema, March 2019. Credit: Claudia Hershner

“In 1995, I was reading about the new assistant conductor the Orchestra had hired,” recalled Kathy. Shortly thereafter a new couple moved in across the street from Kathy. “I saw a guy walking to his car in the neighborhood and thought to myself ‘isn’t that the new assistant conductor?’” As it turns out John Morris Russell (JMR) and his wife Thea Tjepkema were Kathy’s new neighbors.

John was the guest celebrity at a Cincinnati Zoo event that Kathy attended. “I walked over and introduced myself,” said Kathy. “I told them all about my experiences with the Orchestra and how I was looking forward to seeing them at Music Hall.” A chance meeting with a member of the Orchestra family began another lifelong friendship for Kathy.

Kathy and Thea’s friendship extended beyond the walls of Music Hall. “Thea and I would often ride the bus home together from work,” recalled Kathy. It wasn’t long until a deep and meaningful relationship developed between the two.

What keeps Kathy coming back year after year and concert after concert?

With Kathy’s friendships extending to the musicians and artistic leaders on stage, she feels “like I am a huge part of the symphony and its community,” said Kathy. “I cannot imagine my life without the CSO.”

Kathy has donated what she could throughout her life, but she was particularly grateful to be able to underwrite one of the solo fanfares the Orchestra commissioned at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Georgia Stitt’s Fanfare for the Ups and Downs was made possible by Kathy’s generosity. Principal Clarinet Christopher Pell played Stitt’s fanfare for the July 4, 2020 livestream, the first livestream presented by the Pops after the 2020 pandemic shutdown.

“There is something special about knowing that you helped to bring a piece of music into existence,” remarked Kathy. “I was delighted to see this fanfare as part of the Pops livestream.”

As we spoke, you could see on Kathy’s face and hear in her voice the love and admiration she has for the Orchestra and the musicians. “I love classical music,” Kathy remarked, “and for me, Cincinnati has the best orchestra in the world.”