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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Features Local Music Resource Center Student During Summermusik 2018

This month the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra (CCO) lives up to its stated mission to “create intimate experiences that connect the musically curious” through “partner collaborations” when it presents a moving tribute to heroes during Summermusik 2018. According to the promotion of The Hero Within, to be performed  Saturday, August 25, “Whether an everyday hero or a veteran who bravely served our country, heroism, sacrifice and commitment will be honored in an evening of storytelling world premiere music.”

Participating in this tribute will be four students - Jacob Strom of Hyde Park, Chaya Jones, Grace Mouch and Roberto Parker - who have shown great promise as musicians and songwriters during their years at the Music Resource Center- Cincinnati (MRC) in East Walnut Hills.  

Scot Woolley with Jacob Strom at the MRC
Ann Stewart (Mt. Lookout), CCO communications manager, provides background of the project. “In the spring of 2017, general manager LeAnne Anklan and music director Eckart Preu met with executive director Karen D'Agostino and studio manager Kyle Cadena from Music Resource Center to plant the seeds for this groundbreaking project. MRC is a multifaceted teen program that uses recording and performing arts, as well as life skills mentoring, to create a sense of empowerment and accomplishment in the urban community. 

“Because of the incredible musicianship and talent of the studio members at MRC, Eckart outlined a vision to work with members of the program to tell stories of personal or national heroes through their own musical styles, ranging from hip hop to R&B to indie.”

Jacob Strom
Jacob Strom, a 2018 graduate of Walnut Hills High School, is about to embark on his college career at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Before he leaves, he will take the stage at the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) as part of the CCO Heroes concert.  

Each of the MRC musicians selected either a person in their lives whom they admired or a military veteran coming from the CCO’s longstanding partnership with the Armed Forces Ticketing Association.  Jacob met and collaborated with veteran U.S. Army Sergeant Michael Mather, whose story provided the inspiration for Jacob’s musical composition.

“I wanted to know his life story,” explains Jacob.  “He told me all his life he wanted to be in the military, as were his father and brother.  He served 14 years all over the world, seven with the Air Force and seven on land.

“I asked him for the most personal story he could tell.  He told me the last position he held was as a Forward Observer.  You’ve heard of ‘scouts’ - well, his job was to go ahead of them to get the lay of the land.  During one mission he got shot in the neck.  He said he didn’t even realize it had happened, but it was so serious the doctors weren’t sure if he would survive.  They didn’t want him to call his wife, but he did and told her, ‘I’m going to make it’.”  Sgt. Mather did make it, and Jacob has had the honor of immortalizing the story Mather shared with his original piece, Forward Mission.

“One of the main ideas behind the piece was to raise awareness of what really goes on in war and how it affects people,” says Jacob.  “It’s all about people’s lives, and it could be anyone.”

Expressing himself as a musician and songwriter started early for Jacob.  “I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of music.  I started classical piano at age five, then listened to rock and branched into jazz piano.”

In fifth grade he took up guitar and started a rock band, Beyond Certain, with friends.  It was then he began writing songs.  

“The band’s singer and I were the main songwriters,” he recalls. “I heard about the Music Resource Center, and over the summer I went with my friends to learn about songwriting and recording.  We recorded an original song and two covers.

“The band lasted until 10th grade, when everyone went to different high schools.  I joined a new band, The Black Ties, with friends from Walnut Hills High School and have been playing at places such as private parties and high school events.  It got me to listen to pop music, which I’ve learned to appreciate. I like learning and playing different genres of music.”

Eckart Preu. CCO Music Director (Photo by Mikki Schaffner)
Jacob - and all MRC-Cincinnati students - receive great support and encouragement from the center staff.  Karen D’Agostino and Kyle Cadena provided a tour of the facility, which offers progressive “tracks” to teens in grades 7-12 “using recording and performing arts, as well as life skills mentoring, to create a sense of empowerment and accomplishment in the urban community.  The mission of the Music Resource Center–Cincinnati is to inspire teenagers in a culturally diverse and musically focused setting to elevate lifetime and academic achievement.” ( 

“Kids from all over Greater Cincinnati, but mostly from schools closer to us, come to the center, which is not just for low income students,” Kyle explains.  “In our ‘track system’ kids work their way up from Fun to Silver, Gold and Platinum,” at each level showing their genuine commitment to learning and maturity in handling the increasing complexity of the lessons and equipment. As students progress through the tracks, they move through a series of studio rooms with evermore sophisticated instruments, equipment and technology procured thanks to generous donors and grants.  
Students learn how to play different instruments, music composition, song writing, recording and broadcasting on the MRC radio station (  They become experienced in both solo and collaborative efforts. In addition, they have performance opportunities in the MRC venue (set up like a jazz club) as well as real life experience (for example, a grant from the Country Music Association allows for a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools; students are writing scores for Madcap Puppet shows; and - now - the CCO Heroes concert).

“In any given year, we have about 200 kids with over 600 studio hours,” shares Karen, who started the MRC-Cincinnati nine years ago after seeing a similar program in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The steady growth and breadth of the center has been gratifying to her.  “We have a great staff, enabling us to do so much more.  We have many community partners who provide resources and opportunities for our students.

“Respect is important here.  We have a Member Council with kids involved who decided they want to meet with new members to explain what respect means at the MRC.  They take their opportunities here very seriously.”

Jacob Strom is among those who have made the most of their MRC-Cincinnati experience.  “I can see Jacob arranging and writing scores - he has that kind of mind,” suggests Kyle.

Jacob says he plans to study songwriting and business at Berklee. His attitude toward learning and growth is positive.  Scot Woolley, renowned Broadway veteran and professional orchestrator, provided input as the MRC students finalized their songs and is arranging the world premiere of their works.  “Mr. Woolley asked me if I would mind if the CCO musicians made changes to my piece they felt would make it better.  I told him I would be open to professional musicians’ interpretation of my music.”
Eckart Preu with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra

Jacob played Forward Mission for Sgt. Mather, who was extremely moved by it.   The mood set by the young artist’s emotional singing and piano accompaniment captures the poignancy of the wartime experience Mather described to him.

You can listen for yourself to Jacob, the other talented MRC students and the expert musicianship of the CCO at The Hero Within, conducted by Eckart Preu, on Saturday, August 25, 7:30 p.m. at SCPA Corbett Theater. Prelude Talk is 6:45 p.m. at SCPA Mayerson Theater.  This Summermusik 2018 season finale also includes Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings; Dmitri Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra in C minor, Op. 35; and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”).  Please visit for ticket information and details on the entire Summermusik 2018 season - 11 diverse and creative concert events in eight different venues around greater Cincinnati.

The Music Resource Center-Cincinnati is located at 3032 Woodburn Avenue. For information please call 513- 834-8304 or visit

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