Cincinnati Boychoir, May Festival form strategic partnership

The Cincinnati Boychoir and Cincinnati May Festival are combining resources as part of a new strategic alliance aimed at increasing performance and educational opportunities for young singers across the region.

Starting July 1, the youth choirs for both organizations will begin operating under the May Festival organizational structure. Leading the youth ensembles will be Jason Alexander Holmes, the Boychoir’s artistic director who announced in March he was joining the May Festival.

Despite a few structural alignments, both companies stressed a desire to preserve the legacy of the Cincinnati Boychoir, which dates back to 1965. As such, the Boychoir will retain its identity, brand and programming, and will continue to operate as an independent nonprofit under its own board.

Another major change is participation in the Boychoir will become tuition-free. That will begin in September.

The May Festival Youth Chorus

“This strategic alliance is rooted in our shared commitment to advancing the arts and fostering creativity within our community,” Katy Sheehan and Emily Reinhold, co-board chairs of the Cincinnati Boychoir, wrote in a statement.

“By joining forces, the Cincinnati Boychoir will be more accessible than ever before and will be able to continue our mission to enhance and deepen every boy’s creative expression, community engagement and cultural appreciation for generations to come,” they continued. “We look forward to amplifying our collective impact alongside the May Festival.”

Building on 60 years of collaboration

Collaboration between these two historic choral organizations is nothing new, according to Steven Sunderman, the May Festival’s outgoing executive director. He noted the partnership dates back six decades, to when the Cincinnati Boychoir made its debut with the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for a presentation of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem.”

The relationship has continued throughout the past 60 years. As part of the May Festival’s 150th anniversary activities last year, for example, the Boychoir joined the May Festival Chorus and Youth Chorus for the world premiere of James Lee’s “Breaths of Universal Longings” and performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” the latter as part of a massive ensemble of singers from choruses across Ohio. 

The Boychoir also participated in the May Festival’s 25 for 25 commissioning project and collaborated on Youth Voices United, a multi-chorus festival for local middle and high school students.

This increased frequency of collaborations has allowed both the May Festival and the Boychoir to better understand and visualize 360-degree benefits to not only the organizations but the young performers they serve, Sunderman said.

“We are excited to come together and create an even more vibrant future for choral music here in Cincinnati,” he added.

Education through song, opportunity

While creating enhanced collaborations and new artistic opportunities are a major part of this new partnership, at its heart, it’s rooted in expanding educational opportunities for talented young singers across Greater Cincinnati.

Recent years have seen the Cincinnati Boychoir increasing access to its programs through scholarships, financial aid and targeted community engagement. Similarly, the May Festival has been assessing current programming and services to various ages of participants in order to ensure the long-term health of the May Festival and the region’s singing community.

When combined, the education and performance programs of both organizations will complement one another and create an unbroken pipeline of singing opportunities for singers from preschool through adulthood.

Jason Alexander Holmes
Jason Alexander Holmes

Programs include May Festival MiNiS for ages 0-12; Cincinnati Choral Academy for grades 3-6; Cincinnati Boychoir Apprentices Program for unchanged voices in grades 3-6; Cincinnati Boychoir JourneyMen Program for unchanged voices in grades 4-7; Cincinnati Boychoir Ambassadors Program for unchanged and changed voices in grades 5-12; May Festival Youth Chorus for all voice types in grades 8-12; and the May Festival Chorus for adults of all voice types.

Beyond artistic leadership from Holmes, incoming associate director of May Festival choruses and director of the youth chorus, ensembles through both organizations will receive support from accompanists, directors and instructors.

“This partnership is exciting and practical for both the May Festival and Cincinnati Boychoir,” said Holmes. “I feel particularly blessed that this alliance allows me to continue working with colleagues at the Cincinnati Boychoir to build artistry, personal growth, community engagement, and cultural appreciation among our singers, their families, and our Greater Cincinnati community.”

Cincinnati May Festival

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