A Letter from the President

March 2020

Dear Friends,

Cece Winans. Paul Shaffer. Hank Williams. Joan Tower. Sousa. Jennifer Higdon. James Brown. LeRoy Anderson. Louis Andriessen. Einojuhani Rautavaara. This is just a sampling of artists and composers reflecting the extraordinary variety of programming at Music Hall in March.

We begin with a Cincinnati staple of nearly two decades: Classical Roots, with CeCe Winans, the Orchestra, CSO Classical Roots Community Choir and exceptional Nouveau Program students. Pops Principal Guest Conductor Damon Gupton, our newest artistic team member, conducts.

John Morris Russell’s all-new American Originals spotlights the legacy of American music born in the recording booths at King Records and Herzog Studios—just a few blocks away. JMR, Paul Shaffer and special guests pay tribute to James Brown, the Isley Brothers, Hank Williams, Mamie Smith and the Stanley Brothers—whose styles and careers were nurtured right here in Cincinnati.

Jonathan Cohen, Thomas Dunford and Joélle Harvey are three of today’s foremost Baroque music interpreters, and our Rome-themed concert highlights their singular and collective virtuosity. Craig Hella Johnson and the Vocal Arts Ensemble present sacred music by Bach, Caroline Shaw, and a world premiere by Michael Ippolito at St. Rose Church.

The three offerings for our youngest audiences are conducted by CSO Assistant Conductor François López-Ferrer. Boldly Go features music inspired by notable historical figures. The Lollipops Family Series presents Peter and the Wolf with a special sensory-friendly rehearsal beforehand. Innovation and technology catalyze our Plugged In YPC, with the world premiere of A Spring Thaw on themes by this year’s Student Melody Contest winners.

Finally, we welcome our dear friends Emanuel Ax and Peter Oundjian. In addition to Mozart’s sublime Piano Concerto No. 20, Manny Ax and CSO musicians will perform an intimate Wilks Studio chamber music concert.

This wide-ranging lineup demonstrates not only the Orchestra’s incredible versatility and virtuosity but our belief that music is a pathway to deepening our curiosity, connecting us to our world and to each other. We are glad you are with us on that journey.


Jonathan Martin | CSO President


Jonathan Martin is President of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra since September 2017 and previously served the as President & CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from 2012-2017.

Past Letters

February 2020

Dear Friends,

Our concerts in February exemplify the wide range of performances that the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and the Cincinnati Pops offer.
From Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to Maurice Ravel’s masterpiece L’enfant et les sortilèges, and from Ledisi’s powerhouse R&B vocals to the extraordinary mega-performances of “Beethoven Akademie 1808,” there are few ensembles in America that consistently deliver the variety and quality of musical experiences like the CSO and Pops.

Leading us into the future, CSO Music Director Louis Langrée and Pops Conductor John Morris Russell are putting the finishing touches on the 2020–21 season programs, which we will announce this month. As I hope you will agree, our 126th season will be inspiring, innovative and inclusive.

The broader reach of the CSO in our community is also in ample evidence this February, as the Orchestra provides live musical accompaniment for the Cincinnati Ballet’s five performances of Swan Lake and supports the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra performance on Sunday, February 9. The continuing construction of the newly named Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Center at The Banks by our contemporary music partner, MEMI, also illustrates the CSO’s commitment to the arts here in our city.

We are able to serve the community in these ways because of our stunningly talented artists, fueled by your dedication and generosity.

Thank you so very much for being with us, both in Music Hall and on our journey forward.




January 2020

Dear Friends,

What’s in a birthday or anniversary? Why do we often gather with those who are close to us to celebrate these occasions?

For us as individuals, they often serve as milestones, a time to celebrate and reflect on one’s life so far, and to look forward. Such is the case for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, born 125 years ago this month.

Since 1895, our community has grown, evolved and reshaped itself through prosperity and recession, conflict, even upheaval. The CSO has evolved as well. From those modest beginnings, your Orchestra now stands as one of the leading ensembles in the United States, poised to move forward in a rapidly changing world.

Through these changes, the constant has been you and the uncounted hundreds of thousands who sat in these seats before you. Our community’s collective decision to create, build and sustain a strong orchestra has been built one choice at a time, by them, and by you.

So as we gather with you this month to celebrate the history and legacy of the CSO, we do so with gratitude. Gratitude that our orchestra happens to be in Cincinnati, Ohio—a city filled with people who valued, and value, what we do in service to our community.

Thank you for being with us in Music Hall and on our journey forward.




December 2019

Dear Friends,

As we prepare for the holidays, I wanted to offer some personal reflections on the first several months of our historic 125th anniversary.

Already, there have been extraordinary experiences of community connectivity and innovation, starting with our groundbreaking CSO Look Around in August, and the inauguration of our new concert experience, CSO Proof, in November.

We have had poignant moments of raw emotion with the premiere of a masterful Symphony No. 6, commissioned by the CSO from Christopher Rouse, who passed away only a month before the performance in October. To paraphrase Louis Langrée’s comments on the work, it sounded as though the music had always been in the wood and plaster of the 141-year old Music Hall.

I sat in awe at the stunning talent that is Renée Elise Goldsberry, singing with the Cincinnati Pops under the direction of John Morris Russell in September. I stood smiling on the front steps of Music Hall on a crisp sunny morning in October watching dozens of yellow school buses pouring out thousands of energized children into a Young People’s Concert—for many, their very first time hearing an orchestra.

Together, these and many other moments these past four months remind me of the unique power of live music to inspire, provoke, comfort, educate, entertain and elevate.

As we enter a season that we hope is filled with joy for you, I want to thank you for choosing to be with us.

Happy Holidays,


November 2019

Dear Friends,

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is unique among American orchestras: we are one of a small group of full-time orchestras, and we have thrived in a community that is smaller than those of our full-time peer orchestras. This is a testament to Cincinnati’s culture of generosity and its avid consumption of live music.

Beyond that, what distinguishes the CSO from the hundreds of other orchestras in America? We owe much of our stability and strength to an extraordinary group of musicians and artistic leaders, to ArtsWave and its thousands of donors, to the profound generosity of the Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund of the Greenacres Foundation, and, to our wholly owned subsidiary, Music and Event Management Inc., or MEMI for short.

Like the CSO, MEMI exists solely to serve the community through live music. MEMI operates Riverbend Music Center, PNC Pavilion, the Rose Music Center in Huber Heights, and the Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati. MEMI also books talent and assists with the annual Cincy Cinco event held each year in May and The Longworth-Anderson Series at Memorial Hall. All proceeds from MEMI’s operation are reinvested into the CSO and help keep us strong, stable and positioned for Cincinnati’s future.

You may already be aware of plans to construct a new MEMI-run music venue at The Banks in Cincinnati. Getting the necessary pieces in place has resulted in lots of media coverage over the past several years, and we are grateful for the efforts of all involved to find a path that allows us to move forward on this venue.

Unique in design and capacity, this new venue is designed from the ground up to attract a diverse array of touring artists and their audiences and enhance the vibrancy of The Banks neighborhood and our entire region. This project is good for Cincinnati, good for the Orchestra’s long-term sustainability, and affirms our values to be innovative, inspiring and inclusive. We look forward to welcoming music fans to this beautiful new space in 2020.

To be clear, Music Hall is and will remain the home of the CSO and Cincinnati Pops. With that as our anchor, we are enhancing our ability to serve a broader, more diverse community in ways that will help keep your Orchestra strong and vibrant for the next 125 years.

Enjoy the performance!


October 2019

Dear Friends,

Welcome to Autumn!

In The New York Times recent national preview of “Classical Concerts You Won’t Want to Miss,” our new CSO Proof series is called out. So what’s all the buzz about?

CSO Proof is a new way to experience the Orchestra. Artists and audience share the same space on a newly configured stage in Music Hall in shorter, casual, intermission-free performances, featuring elements that will often include theater, lighting, dance and video.

Each concert offers a fresh collaboration with different artists, who craft a theme that connects orchestral music to listeners in new ways.

The first CSO Proof performance is “American Perspective” on Friday, November 22, and is curated by composer and pianist Timo Andres. MusicNOW fans might remember Timo’s performance with the CSO as part of that festival in 2017.

From there, our next CSO Proof performance will be “Singulis et Simul” on January 29, curated by Frédéric Nauczyciel, where Baroque music meets vogue ballroom culture. Finally, “Surrealist el Tropical” on April 22, curated by Rosie Herrera. This program could be described as “Fellini stumbles down an alley in old Havana, and music washes over him like a primordial soup of neon and tropical heat.” Intriguing to say the least.

I’m excited about these programs, born out of our vision to be the most relevant orchestra in America. And, this is only the beginning of our journey.
We are grateful to the visionary sponsors making all of this possible.


September 2019

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 125th anniversary season!
We of course celebrate what’s come before, cherish this momentous season and most importantly look to the future.

The CSO’s newly articulated vision is to be the most relevant orchestra in America and, building on a foundation of increasing artistic excellence, we identified three values fundamental to this vision: to be inspiring, innovative and inclusive.

At its heart, music is inspiring and our organization certainly lives and breathes music. We have been inspiring audiences for 125 years, but how people listen to music and experience concerts is evolving. We are committed to be at the forefront of this evolution so we can continue to inspire audiences well into the 21st century and beyond. Being at the forefront of this evolution requires innovation that will impact how we present music, and a focus on inclusion will build future audiences and enable us to better reflect the community we serve.

Innovation, inclusion and inspiration were certainly at the heart of CSO Look Around in August, an immersive experience that kicked off this 125th anniversary season. This unique experience was inspired by the cultural tapestry that is Cincinnati, and involved more than 600 artists from 20 local ensembles, culminating in a massive performance with the CSO in Washington Park. Innovation, inclusion and inspiration continue through the season and with our launch of CSO Proof, a radically different kind of concert series.

We are grateful to have you on this journey with us.

Enjoy the performance!


Summer 2019

Dear Friends,

Wherever the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops perform, we are committed to our audiences having an enriching experience. Improvements to that experience are evident at Riverbend Music Center this summer, especially for audience members enjoying better sightlines from the lawn, thanks to structural modifications; and, certainly, since the re-opening of Music Hall in 2017 following an extensive renovation, audience members have experienced improved accessibility, more concessions and restrooms, and better seat comfort.

Security is a topic being addressed and improved by the Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA) in the coming season at Music Hall. For those unfamiliar, CAA is the organization responsible for managing Music Hall, and in collaboration with the Orchestra and the Hall’s other resident companies, new security measures are being implemented with your safety in mind. These improvements will impact how audience members enter the building, and they are consistent with best practices among performance venues throughout our region, across the country and around the world. We appreciate your patience and understanding as these new systems come online.

Best wishes for a terrific remainder of your summer and we look forward to welcoming you to Music Hall throughout the Orchestra’s 125th anniversary season.

Enjoy the concert!


May 2019

Dear Friends,

As our 2019–20 season at Music Hall concludes, I want to offer our gratitude on behalf of the Board of Directors, Louis Langrée, John Morris Russell, the musicians and dedicated staff, for making the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops a part of your lives, and a priority in a community that deeply values the arts.

The CSO is a year-round orchestra and we continue to serve the community through the rest of May and into the summer. The May Festival is a treasured tradition in Cincinnati, and the CSO performs as the official orchestra and is responsible for working with the Festival’s artistic leadership in Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena and Director of Choruses Robert Porco on the programming of eight unique concert experiences. This year’s Festival includes premieres, new collaborations, and a scintillating wall of sound that must be experienced live in concert. I invite you to find out more at mayfestival.com.

The CSO’s musicians also perform throughout June and July with Cincinnati Opera in five different productions. More information is available at cincinnatiopera.org.

The Orchestra plays as the Cincinnati Pops with John Morris Russell during the summer months, with a concert set to live fireworks following the Reds game on June 14 and, of course, our annual “Red, White and Boom” celebration on the Fourth of July at Riverbend with Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks. The Pops will also be out at Woodland Mound on July 24 for a free concert, thanks to the Great Parks of Hamilton County.

Finally this summer, CSO Look Around is a free event on Saturday, August 3, that will bring together 30 local ensembles with the Orchestra for an enveloping musical experience in Over-the-Rhine and Washington Park. There are more details coming at cincinnatisymphony.org/lookaround.

Best wishes for a great summer, and we look forward to seeing you for the opening of the CSO’s 125th anniversary season in September.

Enjoy the performance!


April 2019

Dear Friends,

There has been considerable attention in recent months regarding the future FC Cincinnati Stadium in the West End and how it will impact Music Hall and the surrounding neighborhood.

First, let me state that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that our customers’ experience at Music Hall remains superlative, and we will remain vigilant as the stadium is designed, constructed and operated.

Music Hall’s management and performing resident companies, which includes the CSO, entered into an agreement of cooperation and support with FC Cincinnati on February 13 regarding the construction and operation of the stadium.

The parties agreed to work together as good neighbors and in good faith on concerns related to noise, parking, traffic and scheduling. The collective goal is to minimize the number of occasions where performances at Music Hall occur at the same time as FC Cincinnati home games when the stadium opens in March of 2021, and to minimize the impact of the stadium’s noise on Music Hall on the occasions when there are simultaneous events.

Per an agreement with the City of Cincinnati, FC Cincinnati will manage the Town Center Garage only on game days starting in March of 2021. The team has committed to making a substantial amount of parking in that garage available to audience members attending performances at Music Hall when games overlap with performances. The team has also committed to working with us to make stadium parking available for Music Hall events when there is no overlap.


March 2019

Dear Friends,

To have an orchestra of this caliber in Cincinnati is thanks to the visionary united arts fund founded in 1927 by Charles and Anna Sinton Taft. This arts fund is, of course, known today as ArtsWave, and plays a critical role in Cincinnati’s vibrant arts scene thanks to tens of thousands of donors who contribute every year.

To understand the magnitude of this support, consider that in just the past decade ArtsWave has contributed over $26 million dollars to support the CSO. Simply put, the Orchestra’s impact would be significantly diminished without this funding support.

ArtsWave’s mission is to be a “leader and catalyst, advancing the vitality and vibrancy of our communities by mobilizing the creative energy of our region.” To create community through the arts, ArtsWave achieves the following:

• Amplifies the impact of the arts
• Provides funding, resources, and services to local arts organizations
• Promotes our arts and cultural assets as a defining characteristic of our region
• Connects arts organizations and nonprofits to each other and to the broader community

Please join me and everyone at the CSO in supporting ArtsWave’s 2019 Community Campaign, and take advantage of the free ArtsWave Days, including an Open House here at Music Hall on Saturday, April 6 from noon to 4 pm.

Make a contribution to the campaign at ArtsWave.org/Give.


February 2019

Dear Friends,

The 125th anniversary season for the CSO, just announced last month, will showcase our Orchestra’s scintillating sound and artistry. As important, its programs and performances reflect a commitment to propelling the art form forward and advancing our vision to more fully engage broader audiences and our wider community in the 21st century.

Next season introduces an entirely new concert format with the goal of reaching new audiences, the commissioning of new works, as well as experimentation with alternative performance elements and collaborations with acclaimed artists from around the world. With all of this bold programming comes our Promise to Cincinnati:

• We will inspire people through compelling musicmaking, drawing talent from our community and the world around us.
• We will innovate with boldness, evolving how we engage with our art form to reach more people than ever.
• We will include artists and welcome the broadest community, with backgrounds and perspectives that enrich everything we do.

Reflecting our community and the world at-large is one of our highest priorities moving forward, both as the CSO and the Cincinnati Pops at every level: on stage, around the office and in neighborhoods throughout the region.

We have seen this in action through a host of artistic and community engagement activities, including the groundbreaking CSO-CCM Diversity Fellowship and Nouveau Pre-Conservatory programs, both featured in the feature article this month, 'Opening Pathways'. 

This commitment to inclusion must and will be fundamental to who we are as an organization, and when the CSO turns 150 in 26 years, I am confident that the articulation and execution of this commitment today will be celebrated as an inflection point in the life of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Enjoy the performance!