Cincinnati Youth Choir founder to step down after 31 years

Cincinnati Youth Choir’s founding artistic director is stepping down from overseeing day-to-day operations after more than 31 years at the helm.

Following the conclusion of CYC’s 2024-2025 season, Robyn Lana will become director emerita and will continue to lead and engage the alumni choir and its network.

Robyn Lana
Robyn Lana

“The Cincinnati Youth Choir has been an integral part of my life and my family,” said Lana, who formed the organization in 1993. She called it “the joy of a lifetime to share so many years with the finest people.”

“Considering the best steps for a succession plan for the organization I have loved so deeply has been a priority over the past three years,” she said. “I know the search committee will find the best in the nation to lead the program into the future.”

Small group to nationally recognized powerhouse

Recognized as one of the leading children’s and youth choir conductors in the United States, Lana has worked with choruses ranging from children to adult for more than 40 years.

When she started CYC more than three decades ago, it was just a small, 35-voice ensemble. However, under her guidance and tireless efforts, it has grown into one of the most revered youth choral programs in the country, currently serving nearly 1,000 singers each year.

While it started as an independent program, Lana joined forces with Earl Rivers in 2001 to bring CYC into the fold of the University of Cincinnati’s celebrated College-Conservatory of Music. Today, CYC is the resident children’s choir for all of CCM’s choral, orchestral and operatic works. The longstanding partnership also creates internship and assistantship opportunities for choral and music education students.

A professor emeritus of conducting at CCM, Rivers praised Lana for developing CYC into a “world-class organization” responsible for nurturing hundreds of Greater Cincinnati children and youth singers and helping them develop their “musical, intellectual and social skills.”

Rivers described the CYC/CCM relationship as “nationally unique.” He referred to the “ensemble-in-residence” program as the “gold standard role model” for other youth choir organizations. 

“It has allowed several generations of CCM choral, music education, and voice students to develop their skills by engaging with the CYC as conductors, assistant conductors, accompanists, mentors and administrators,” Rivers said. “Robyn’s legacy will have left Cincinnati with a crown jewel in the pantheon of Cincinnati’s outstanding musical organizations.”

Much more than music education

CYC is an education-focused organization for young singers in first grade through high school. However, the quality of the vocal performances of Lana’s ensembles are considered second-to-none.

Over the years, CYC’s Bel Canto Choir has been a featured ensemble in China, Japan, Italy, England, Wales, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Costa Rica and across the United States. The organization’s choirs have performed in some of the world’s best concert venues – from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in New York City to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the World Expo in Milan, Italy.

Locally, the youth choir has become a staple with a variety of established music companies including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Cincinnati Opera and the May Festival.

CYC has commissioned over 80 works for treble voices under Lana.

Craig Hella Johnson

“[Lana] is a rare and special artist-teacher whose work has made an indelible mark on this arts community and on the lives of thousands of young musicians,” said Craig Hella Johnson, outgoing artistic director of Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble

Hella Johnson spoke highly of Lana’s “regional and national contributions, her artistry, and her inspired teaching.” He had the “tremendous opportunity” to work with her on some projects CYC and Vocal arts Ensemble as well as in her current role on the national board for Chorus America

Lana has previously served as American Choral Directors Association’s national chair of children’s and community youth choirs from 2007-2013. She was ACDA’s standing committee chair for advocacy and collaboration for five years after that.

“To say she will be greatly missed is an understatement,” Hella Johnson said. “But what she has built will continue long into the future and will carry on from her legacy.”

Next steps for Lana, CYC

Following her retirement from CYC, Lana plans to continue to teach in the Miami University’s music department. Prior to her time in Oxford, she taught choral music education and women’s choir at Xavier University and for a semester at her alma mater, CCM, for a semester in 2017. 

Lana earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education with a cognate in voice and a concentration in choral conducting from CCM.

“I feel certain that Robyn did not foresee the amazing organization that would become CYC when she began this program 32 years ago. Through her vision, dedication and leadership, CYC has become a model for choirs across the country and around the globe,” said David Sherrard, president of the CYC board of directors.

“Our CYC family will miss her,” Sherrard said of Lana. But he noted he’s not going very far. Lana voiced a desire to stay involved with CYC in the coming years, including playing a role in the selection of her successor. CYC is in the process of assembling a search committee.

Replacing Lana won’t be easy, Sherrard said, but he expressed confidence that Lana positioned the organization well for future success.

As for Lana, she’s ready for whatever comes next, for herself and CYC.

“I am excited for the choir program and very excited to announce the first phase of succession planning staffing very soon,” she said.

Cincinnati Youth Choir

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