About Us

Craig Hella Johnson, Music Director | Artists | Mission | Trustees


VAE: Cincinnati's Vocal Arts Ensemble, a chamber choir of professional singers, was founded in 1979 and enters its 35th Season in 2014-15. Led by Elmer Thomas, Founding Director, from 1979–1988, Earl Rivers, Director Emeritus, from 1988–2008, Donald Nally from 2009-2013, and starting in January 2014, Craig Hella Johnson, VAE offers an annual subscription series of distinguished choral programs in notable architectural and acoustic venues throughout Greater Cincinnati. In addition, VAE produces outreach programs for children, youth and seniors, as well as recordings for local and national broadcasts. Our achievements over 30 seasons include two ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Awards for "Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music," broadcasts on 220 National Public Radio stations through "The First Art," performances before conventions of the American Choral Directors Association in San Antonio and Chicago, and appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival.

VAE has served 15 Tri-state communities with programming. Collaborations with local arts organizations have resulted in unique and exciting events with concert:nova, Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra; Cincinnati Opera Education Ensemble; Starling Chamber Orchestra; May Festival Youth Chorus; Ensemble Theater; The Canterbury Brass Quintet, high schools choirs from Anderson, Indian Hill, New Richmond, School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Walnut Hills and Winton Woods High Schools; Cincinnati Boychoir; Lexington Children’s Choir; and CCM's Brass Choir, Chamber Players, Children’s Choir, Dance Department, Percussion Group and Wind Symphony. VAE has introduced internationally known guest conductors, including Stephen Cleobury of King’s College, Cambridge, George Guest of St. John’s College, Cambridge, Jon Washburn of the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Dale Warland of the Dale Warland Singers, the late Richard Westenburg of New York City's Musica Sacra, and Sir David Willcocks of the London Bach Choir.

Internationally known composers have been hosted at VAE performances in “Meet the Composer” sessions in conjunction with premieres. Recent seasons featured Alice Parker, Donald McCullough, William Hawley, Libby Larsen, Paul Alan Levi, Shafer Mahoney, Robert Moran, Ron Nelson, Stephen Paulus, Jeffrey Van and Janike Vandervelde. Director Emeritus, Earl Rivers served the VAE as Music Director for 20 years. He received Choral America’s “Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Choral Art,” honoring a lifetime of significant contributions to the choral art, and a Special Post-Corbett Award for artistic achievement with VAE.

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