During its 16-year history, Classical Roots has grown from a small concert series in African American churches into a diverse city-wide community of music lovers coming together to celebrate African American musical traditions with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Classical Roots community connects people of different backgrounds through a wildly popular spring concert, often joined by notable guests who embody the African American musical experience. Last year’s special guest was hip-hop artist, Common. At the center of Classical Roots is the all-volunteer Classical Roots Community Mass Choir (CRCMC), led by Conductor William H. Caldwell. The 150-member choir consists of members representing over 50 churches with support from volunteer choral music leaders, clergy leadership and partners. The program also enables churches to raise funds for their programs. This year’s Classical Roots Concert will take place at Crossroads Community Church on Friday, May 5.

E. Selean Holmes was recently hired for the seasonal position of Classical Roots Coordinator. Reporting to Charmaine Moore, Manager of Community Engagement & Diversity, Holmes is responsible for assisting with the management of CRCMC and the entire CSO production team while maintaining the schedule and communications, rehearsal venue set-up and music distribution. She will also use her archival skills to serve as the music librarian. In the 1990’s Holmes was a guest on the classical music radio station, WGUC 90.9 FM and also appeared in their newsletter. “I’m elated to return to the arts,” said Holmes whose background includes holding the titles of Chief Curator, Director, Manager, Visual Artist and Consultant in museums and other institutions.

Since 1985, her work has centered on helping others appreciate the rich history, art and culture of African Americans, including musical history. Holmes’ creative energies were manifested at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center (Ohio), Smith College Mwangi Cultural Center (New England), Cincinnati Museum Center, Nat’l Underground Railroad Freedom Center, DuSable Museum (Chicago), Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies, Arts & Exhibitions International and Tavis Smiley’s America I AM Project (Los Angeles). Her extensive travel experience for work and leisure led to visiting several West African countries, Italy, British Columbia and multiple trips to Bermuda, where she assisted with the founding of its first Black Heritage Museum. As a curator she traveled extensively across America collecting artifacts and delivering presentations. Citing Yale University as her most memorable educational summer experience, she also attended Knoxville College and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. Holmes is the recipient of numerous awards for her work in cultural education and currently spends her time tutoring youth at the Envision Children program while also managing various consulting projects, and is a member of Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church.

“Working for the fifth oldest symphony in the U.S. with 3 regional awards for outstanding work in diversity under their belt, is an honor.” Holmes commented.For more information on the program visit Cincinnatisymphony.org/classicalroots17.

Photo caption: E. Selean Holmes, CSO Classical Roots Coordinator

By John A. Reese

The Cincinnati Herald

“Beautifully Shot and Acted”. “A Three-Minute Storm of Emotion”.  “A Poetic Masterpiece”. These are just a few of the praises that “The Opera Singer” is receiving. This short film by Los Angeles filmmaker Steve Kahn is being screened at Cincinnati’s RiverReel Film Festival.  The premise of the film is about a woman (Rena DuShey) who is haunted by unfulfilled dreams.  “The Opera Singer” is an emotional film that will have audiences shedding a tear for the main character. The most amazing aspect about the film is that it is only three minutes, yet it conveys so many feelings of pain, regret, and loss within its short running time.

Kahn used to do theatre as a child and went the actor route in his later years. However, he eventually wanted to do more just the typical Hollywood fare. “I love being able to tell stories, and stories that really mean something,” said Kahn.  He added that, “short films are like poems, and poems should have feelings that make you feel emotional.”

Kahn is basically a one-man crew. In addition to writing and directing, he takes on the duties of being the cinematographer, editor, and does his own visual effects on all his short films. What is more impressive is that Kahn didn’t even go to film school. He went to school for physics and enjoyed it for a while. Nevertheless, he eventually found his niche in making short films.

All the accolades that “The Opera Singer” is receiving are certainly amazing as this film is getting the best reaction of Kahn’s career so far. Probably the biggest accolade comes from Paul Haggis, the Academy Award winning filmmaker of “Crash”, who said “The Opera Singer” is “Beautiful and Truly Moving”. Kahn has submitted the film to multiple film festivals, and he said that the film has really resonated with people in the Midwest, Mid-South, and Canada.

The main draw of the picture is the voice over performance by Shannon Elizabeth. The actress is best known for her role in the “American Pie” film series. Kahn has a connection with the actress and sent numerous scripts to her, but according to Kahn, “she hated everything he sent to her.” One day, Kahn sent the completed film to her with him already doing the voice over. Surprisingly, Elizabeth loved the film. “She really connected with the film”, said Kahn, and that is when Elizabeth did the voice over for “The Opera Singer”.

What makes this film so special is that it was written for lead actress Rena DuShey in mind. Kahn told me that “Rena is a theatre actress, and she was injured so I went to visit her at the hospital. I wrote the story on the spot. She was looking forward to do it.”

Even though the film ends on a bittersweet note, the main message that Kahn is trying to portray is that “it doesn’t matter how old you, you should follow your dreams and to never let age tell you that you can’t follow your passion.”

For more information about “The Opera Singer”, visit: https://www.facebook.com/TheOperaSinger/

In addition, if you want to see Steve Kahn’s previous film, visit: https://vimeo.com/stevekahn.


Critically acclaimed short film comes to RiverReel Film Festival