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Famous alumni vocalists and opera singers from UC

Tennessee Ernie Ford

Tennessee Ernie Ford, att. CCM '39-40

Known as Ernest Ford as a student, this Grammy-winning singer, composer and televison host recorded 83 singles and more than 100 albums of country-western, pop and gospel music; was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, posthumously, in 1994; received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan in 1984; appeared on more than 100 TV programs; and received an Emmy nomination for Most Outstanding New Personality in '55. He also has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one each for recording, television and radio). Plus, his biggest hit, "Sixteen Tons," has been credited for kicking off the Rock and Roll era of the 1950s.


Jane Froman's record "Yours Alone"

Jane Froman, att. CCM late ‘20s

Jane Froman was a popular radio singing star, a Ziegfield Follies performer, an opera singer, a nightclub headliner and a TV guest star who was plagued by a stutter that would handicap her screen roles and suffered from chronic injuries from a near-fatal plane crash. Fortunately, her stutter did not affect her singing. A ’52 movie was made of her life, starring Susan Hayward, and Froman provided the vocal tracks for the soundtrack.


Contemporary vocalists

Cortez Mitchell, MM (CCM) '06

Cortez Mitchell is a countertenor who originally sang opera, but joined the internationally acclaimed men's a cappella group Chanticleer in 2008. The multiple Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble comprises 12 singers from across the country and gives approximately 100 concerts annually. Previously, Mitchell was Minnesota Opera's first resident artist countertenor and had been a featured solo performer with several symphony orchestras. He has also received awards from the National Opera Association, The Washington International competition and the Houston Grand Opera Elleanor McCollum competition.


  • Cortez Mitchell's biography on the Chanticleer website.
  • Watch Chanticleer perform on this video. (He's dead front.)
  • Watch Chanticleer's hilarious tribute to Jay Leno's spoof of the group. (Corez is front row center.)

Corwyn Hodge

Corwyn Hodge, CCM '94

Corwyn Hodge, tenor, is a member of the five-man a cappella group Mo5aic (aka Mosaic). Based in Las Vegas, the group has frequently opened for Jay Lenno and various comedians. Besides performing on the red carpet for the Grammys and Oscars, they have worked alongside and/or collaborated with Prince, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Cee-lo Greene, Chris Rock and Tony Bennet, who said they were “absolutely the best vocal group I've ever heard." Hodge has worked with Patti Labelle and can be heard on soundtracks starring Samuel L. Jackson, Gina Davis and Jamie Foxx.


Jason Graae

Jason Graae, CCM ’80

An actor, singer and dancer whose career has spanned Broadway, opera, television and film. Graae has performed on and off-Broadway, He was a guest soloist at the Metropolitan Opera House twice and with Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, He also appeared at the Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Orleans Opera, Washington National Opera and the Hollywood Bowl. In Los Angeles, he has swept through awards, garnering two L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Ovation Award and Artistic Director's Achievement Award. In addition, he has recorded more than 40 CDs. The New York Sun said he "steals so many shows he should be arrested!"



Catherine Roma directing.

Catherine Roma, D (CCM) '89

Catherine Roma is the founding artistic director of MUSE, Cincinnati’s premier women’s choir, which began in 1984. Previously, she had helped found the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir in her native Philadelphia in 1975. In 1989, she co-founded the Martin Luther King Coalition Chorale, more than 100 singers of diverse races, ages and national origins, coming from churches, synagogues, mosques and temples across the region. After that, she created and directd the Umoja (Swahili for “unity”) Men’s Chorus at the Warren Correctional Institute, where male inmates rehearse, sing and even compose and arrange their music. The group participated in the World Choir Games in 2012, where she directed three choirs and helped organize the event. In general terms, her actions have always been ones that reflected a mission of unity, diversity and inclusion.

Scott Coulter

Scott Coulter, CCM '93

Scott Coulter is an award-winning cabaret singer in New York City who teaches classes on musical storytelling. He is co-founder/owner of Spot-On Entertainment and has performed in musical theater productions around the country and on tour. In '11, he performed in Lady Gaga’s duet with Tony Bennett for her Thanksgiving TV special on ABC.

LINK: Watch him perform at the CCM '11 showcase.

Opera singers

Kathleen Battle, CCM '70, MM '71, HonDoc '83

Kathleen Battle, soprano, was named "the best lyric coloratura soprano in the world" by Time Magazine. Performed at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and English National, all in London; as well as the opera houses of Paris; Japan; Vienna, Austria; Salzburg and Berlin, Germany; Zurich and Geneva, Switzerland; and Athens, Greece. In this country, she has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Hollywood Bowl, the Spoleto Festival in S.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Ravinia in Ill., and the White House — most recently in 2008, singing the Lord's Prayer in honor of Pope Benedict XVI. In 1985, she had also song for Pope John Paul II.

She has performed with Al Jarreau, Grover Washington Jr., Christian McBride, Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Bobby McFerrin and Herbie Hancock; made numerous recordings and won five Grammy Awards. She also won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Classical Program on Television in the USA, for her appearance on the PBS broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's 1991 season opening.


David Daniels, CCM '90

David Daniels, countertenor, performed at Carnegie Hall, Frankfurt, Finland, Paris, Belgrade, Berlin, London, Munich, San Francisco, Metropolitan Opera. Gramophone magazine named him one of the Top Ten Trailblazers in classical music. The New York Times said, “To say that he is the most acclaimed countertenor of the day, perhaps the best ever, is to understate his achievement. He is simply a great singer.” Numerous recordings. In a production opening on New Year's Eve 2011, he stars as Prospero in the Met's new Baroque pastiche opera, The Enchanted Island, based on The Tempest.  An HD broadcast in January is planned.

LINK: Watch him sing.

Stanford Olsen, MM '94

Stanford Olsen, tenor, was winner of the Naumburg award and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Performed at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Australian Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Salzburg and Montreal. This Grammy nominee has numerous recordings.

LINK: Watch one of his performances.

Deborah Poe Polaski, CCM ’75, HonDoc '10

Deborah Poe Polaski, soprano, has become renowned for performing the title role in “Elektra” more than 184 times throughout the world. She has performed at the New York Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London and the Sydney Festival. She has also appeared in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bonn, Chicago, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dresden, Duisburg, Florence, Frankfurt, Geneva, Genoa, Hamburg, London, Lucerne, Mannheim, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tokyo, Vienna, Yokohama and Zurich. She has made numerous recordings and DVDs.


Barbara Daniels, MM '71, HonDoc ’93

Barbara Daniels, soprano, performed at Innsbruck, Cologne, Hamburg, Covent Garden, San Francisco and Metropolitan operas. She resides in Innsbruck, Austria, and has made numerous recordings.


Headshot of David Malis, sporting a neatly trimmed beard.

David Malis

David Malis, MM '83

David Malis, baritone, was the first American to win the prestigious Cardiff Singer of the World  Competition and a leading baritone at the Metropolitan Opera for twelve seasons, Performed at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Teatro Colòn, the San Francisco Opera, Welsh National Opera, Carnegie Hall,the Thêàtre des Champs-Elysées, Los Angeles and Stockholm. Numerous recordings.

LINK: Watch video of him singing.

Michael Maniaci, CCM '99

Michael Maniaci, male soprano, was called “one of the greatest singers of his generation” by the Toronto Globe and Mail. He has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Vancouver Early Music Festival, Tafelmusik Toronto, Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, Opéra Atelier in Toronto, Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Juilliard Opera Center, Wolf Trap Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera North in Leeds, England, and New Holland Baroque Society in Concertgebowe, Amsterdam.

LINK: Watch video of an interview and a clip him singing.  

Richard Zeller, MM '88

Richard Zeller, baritone, spent 12 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Gave a command performance for Prince Rainier and Prince Albert of Monaco at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and for the Spanish royal family in Madrid. Also performed at Edinburgh Festival, Vienna Festival, London, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Leipzig, Prague, Tokyo, Czech Republic, Korea, Norway, Chicago, San Diego and Minnesota. Numerous recordings.

Sylvia Cooper, Ed ’62, CCM ’63, MM ’76

Sylvia Cooper won Metropolitan Opera regional auditions in 1967 and sang with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco, the MeadowBrook Festival and the Grant Park Festival. She was also a soloist with Duke Ellington in 15 performances, a soloist in a Concert for Peace at Constitution Hall, the only opera singer ever to perform at the Fillmore East, and Mary Magdalene in the 1971 U.S. premiere tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Numerous recordings, including the title track of renowned jazz artist Yusef Lateef’s “So Peace,” which he wrote especially for her.

LINK: See the Life magazine article about her in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Anna Christy, MM '00

Anna Christy, soprano, has performed with the San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, English National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Washington Concert Opera, L’Opera National de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera and the Ravinia Festival.

Mark Oswald, CCM '89

Mark Oswald, baritone, spent 13 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Performed at Vienna, Hamburg,  Venice,  Spain (Tenerife),  France (L’ Orange Festival). Numerous recordings.

LINK: Hear him sing by clicking audio symbol.

Andrew Garland, MM '02, AD (CCM) '04

Andrew Garland, baritone, has performed at Carnegie Hall, Opera New Jersey, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Company of North America and Seattle Opera. Saluted by The New York Times for having a "distinctively American presence," he  has won the Washington International Music Competition, American Traditions Competition, William Byrd Competition, Opera Columbus Competition and NATS New England competition, as well as taking third prize in the Montreal International Music Competition.

LINK: See videos of Andres Garland performing.

Audrey Luna, MM ’03, AD ’05

Audrey Luna, soprano, is spotlighted in the April 2012 issue of Opera News. She has performed at the Metropolitan Opera; Carnegie Hall; Bartók Festival in Imola, Italy; L’Opéra Festival de Québec; Spoleto Festival; Tanglewood Music Festival; and Santa Fe Opera, as well as with Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Italy, and Los Angeles Philharmonic.


Jose Maria Condemi

Jose Maria Condemi

Opera directors

Jose Maria Condemi, MFA (CCM) '01

Jose Maria Condemi, won the 2000 USA National Opera Association competition, then went on to direct operas in San Francisco, San Jose, Canada, Lucca, Tokyo, Seattle, Chicago, Cincinnati, Portland, Minnesota, Austin, Houston and Grand Rapids. He also has theater directing credits. In 2011, he was is the artistic director of Opera Santa Barbara and executive director of West Coast Opera Workshop, a training program for young singers in the Bay Area.

Chía Patino, CCM '03

Chía Patino is a stage director and composer with an emerging international reputation. She has assisted in many of the leading opera houses around the world, including the Washington National Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Portland Opera and Palm Beach Opera, the Teatro Municipal de Santiago in Chile and Opera Theatre of Lucca in Italy. She has also composed two operas, the latests one a commission from the Teatro Nacional Sucre.

Choral music

Kanniks Kannikeswaran, M (Eng) '86, M (Bus) '88

UC adjunct instructor Kanniks Kannikeswaran is a musician, CCM music educator and writer with several recordings, productions and scores to his credit. Considered a pioneer of a growing Indian American choral movement, Kanniks has created a large repertoire of music based on “raagas,” defined as traditional Hindu music with conventional patterns of melody and rhythm — each expressing an aspect of religious feeling. In September 2014, his original composition, “Mahavakya,” was performed by his daughter, Vidita Kanniks, for the newly elected Indian prime minister at Madison Square Garden. Kanniks founded the Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir, which won two silver medals in the World Choir Games in 2012. He helped create similar choruses in five U.S. states, Canada and in The Hague (Netherlands). His music was featured on an NPR segment in 2013.


Makeup and wig design in opera, theater

Martha Ruskai, CCM '83, MFA (CCM) '86

Martha Ruskai, the first MFA makeup and wig design graduate of CCM, is the first vice commissioner for hair, makeup and wigs for the Costume Design and Technology Commission of the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology. She is the co-author of "Wig Making and Styling: A Complete Guide for Theatre & Film," which is quickly becoming a standard resource in her field. She has designed more than 200 productions at more than 25 companies encompassing every area of the performing arts, including opera, theater, fashion runway work, the movie  “Sleeping with the Enemy,” TV and print ads.


John Alexander (1923-1990), CCM '49, tenor, took part in 379 performances of the Metropolitan Opera over 25 years and was a CCM professor of opera and voice. The Washington Post called him the “the first American-born tenor to establish a reputation for interpretation of 19th century bel canto roles, a style of singing that is characterized by brilliant vocal display and purity of tone and most often associated with Italian artists.” He also performed with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera at Covent Garden, Berlin State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera Company of Boston, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Grand Opera Company, New York City Opera and Cincinnati Opera. In December 1990, at age 67, he passed away from a heart attack after performing his favorite aria, “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot,” at a gala benefit for a 100-year-old opera house in his hometown of Meridian, Miss., where he wanted to be buried.




Note: UC's Opera/Voice program at the College-Conservatory of Music has been ranked 3rd in the nation by UC News & World Report in 2011-14. (See national rankings of music and arts graduate programs.)


All Famous Alumni categories …

-- page compiled by Deborah Rieselman / updated 10-14