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2008 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio

Community Development And Participation

Dr. Catherine Roma, MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, Umoja Men’s Chorus and Voices of Freedom, Cincinati Dr. Catherine Roma, MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, Umoja Men’s Chorus and Voices of Freedom, Cincinnati

Nominated By: MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir

For 25 years, Dr. Catherine Roma has been creating vibrant choral communities in southwestern Ohio that reach across barriers of race, religion, class, sexual orientation and age. She works to translate the values of social justice and inclusion into fundamental experiences of community for both audience and singers. She does this through music that spans a wide variety of styles and cultures and through strategic efforts to develop membership and audiences that reflect the rich diversity of the Greater Cincinnati area. Now celebrating its 25th season under her leadership, MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir is comprised of more than 60 singers and serves as a beacon of diversity in the Cincinnati community. Through her work as a Professor of Music at Wilmington College, she founded and still directs Umoja Men’s Chorus at the Warren Correctional Institution (WCI). Umoja (Swahili word for “unity’’) is a choral community that reaches across lines of race and religion behind prison walls. A dedicated and enthusiastic group of incarcerated men—African-American and white, Christian and Muslim—gather each week to rehearse and sing together. Much of the music is composed and arranged by the inmates themselves. Earlier this year, Roma received the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation “Gold Star Award for Service” for her work at WCI. In 1989 Roma co-founded the Voices of Freedom Choir, formerly the Martin Luther King Coalition Chorale. The Voices of Freedom Choir consists of more than 100 singers from all over the city, from churches, synagogues, mosques and temples and of diverse races, ages, religions and national origins. Dr. Catherine Roma’s work in the Greater Cincinnati area serves as a model for bringing the choral arts to a wide community, a community where differences are celebrated and men and women of many colors, ages, cultures and lifestyles come together in harmony.

Dr. Catherine Roma video tribute (7:37 minutes)