CAA 2018 Overture Award Winners Announced

CAA_Overture Awards logo

$45,500 Awarded for Excellence in the Arts
Arts Educator Award Winner Also Announced    

CINCINNATI, OH – The Cincinnati Arts Association is pleased to announce the winners of its Overture Awards Competition, held on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater, and the winner of its Arts Educator Award for Excellence in Arts Instruction. The competition awarded $4,000 to six area students for education and training, with 18 runners-up each winning $1,000, while the Arts Educator Award winner received $2,500 and two finalists were awarded $500 each.

The Overture Awards recognizes, encourages and rewards excellence in the arts among Tri-state students in grades 9-12 and is the area’s largest solo arts competition. Students are nominated by their schools and/or private studios to compete in one of six disciplines: Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Vocal Music. There are three levels of competition: Regional, Semi-Final, and Final.

The Arts Educator Award promotes and rewards excellence in arts instruction throughout Greater Cincinnati. An educator who teaches any of the following arts disciplines may be nominated: Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Vocal Music. They can be a high school arts specialist, teaching artist working with high school students, or an arts professional or educator providing private lessons or instruction. Nominations for the award must come from students between the ages of 14-19 who are currently enrolled in high school. The Arts Educator Award finalists and winner are selected by a panel of judges who are arts professionals.


CREATIVE WRITING:  Frances Timberlake – grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts
HOMETOWN: Clifton, OH – Frances studies Creative Writing at SCPA, where writing became an outgrowth of her love for theater and storytelling. Most recently, Frances was named a National YoungArts Finalist and nominated as a U.S. Presidential Scholar of the Arts, in addition to earning recognition through the National Scholastic Writing Awards.

DANCE:  Drake Phouasavanh – grade 12, Conner High School
HOMETOWN: Florence, KY – Drake is a competitive dancer with the Expressions Dance Theatre Sundancer team and a past Overture Awards Finalist. He trains in all dance genres, attended the 2017 Cincinnati Ballet Summer Intensive on a scholarship, and has performed in multiple musical theatre productions.

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC:  Kash Sewell – grade 12, Beechwood High School
HOMETOWN: Fort Mitchell, KY – Kash has participated in the Cincinnati Youth Wind Ensemble, Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, and Kentucky All-State Bands. He is a well-rounded young man with diverse interests. He practices his saxophone devotedly, not from any sense of obligation, but because of the sheer joy he derives from playing and performing.

THEATER:  Ellie O’Hara – grade 11, Notre Dame Academy High School/Marilyn Zelcer Studio
HOMETOWN: Park Hills, KY  – Since third grade, Ellie has kept true to her dream of becoming a Broadway actress. She studies with both Marilyn Zelcer at Musical Arts Center and Moss Dance Academy. She has played many roles throughout her career, her favorite being Belle in Beauty and the Beast this past summer. Her ambitions are to pursue musical theatre in college and head to the bright lights of New York.

VISUAL ART:  Anne Knellinger – grade 12, Walnut Hills High School
HOMETOWN: Pleasant Ridge, OH – Anne began pursuing her artistic interests at a very young age, and started taking AP Art courses in tenth grade. She has won Gold Keys in the National Scholastic competition. She enjoys volunteering, running cross country, and playing ultimate frisbee with her friends. She plans to pursue a career in design.

VOCAL MUSIC:  Natalie Choo – grade 12, Seven Hills School/Karl Resnik Studio
HOMETOWN: Montgomery, OH – Natalie studies voice with Karl Resnik at the Musical Arts Center and participates in the Young Artists Preparatory Program, directed by Lincoln Chapman. She has attended summer programs at the Curtis Institute of Music and CCM. She was a Finalist at the Schmidt Vocal Competition, Finalist for the 2018 YoungArts National Arts Competition, and recently named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.


Ka-Ron Lehman, University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music
Discipline: Dance
Nominated by Ndaya Hoskins


The Overture Awards Regional Competitions were held on January 20 at the Northern Kentucky School of Music at Immanuel UMC, Northern Kentucky University, and Mount Saint Joseph University. The top 20percent of competitors in each discipline advanced to the Semi-Finals, which were held at the Aronoff Center on February 2- 3.

Now in its twenty-second year, The Overture Awards was launched in 1996 by the Cinergy Foundation (now Duke Energy) and Leadership Cincinnati (a program of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce). The Overture Awards is funded and administered by the Cincinnati Arts Association, which operates and manages the Aronoff Center and Music Hall. The Overture Awards also relies on hundreds of volunteers from the community who help raise funds, adjudicate and manage the competitions, and nurture the program.


Overture Awards Presenting Sponsors:  TriHealth; The Eleanora C.U. Alms Trust, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee; Fort Washington Investment Advisors, Inc.; Otto M. Budig Family Foundation; Summerfair Cincinnati

Scholarship Sponsors:  Arthur Murray – Cincinnati, Doreen Beatrice, Douglas Beal, Bonita Brockert, Cincinnati Ballroom Company, Jozsef Parragh, Pebble Creek Group, Phoenix Rising Ballroom, Summerfair Cincinnati, Josh Tilford, Western & Southern Financial Fund, The William O. Purdy, Jr. Foundation

Competition Sponsors:  Northern Kentucky School of Music at Immanuel UMC, Northern Kentucky University, Mount Saint Joseph University

Printing Sponsor:  Graphic Village 

Winners listed in bold.


  • Jenna Bao – grade 12, Sycamore High School
  • Hope Neyer – grade 11, Mount Notre Dame High School
  • Frances Timberlake – grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts
  • Lauren Timmins – grade 12, Loveland High School


  • Regan Lawler – grade 12, Erickson Academy of Irish Dance / Summit Country Day School
  • Drake Phouasavanh – grade 12, Conner High School
  • Ava Sine – grade 10, School for Creative & Performing Arts / Just Off Broadway
  • Ryan Sohmer – grade 10, The Studio for Dance / School for Creative & Performing Arts


  • Ione Sally – grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts
  • Kash Sewell – grade 12, Beechwood High School
  • Madeline Wolfe – grade 9, Leung Studio / Ursuline Academy
  • Andrew Yang – grade 9, Seven Hills School / University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music


  • Margot Grom-Mansencal – grade 12, McCready Voice Studio / Wyoming High School
  • Maxwell Metsch – grade 11, Lincoln Chapman Studio / School for Creative & Performing Arts
  • Ellie O’Hara – grade 11, Marilyn Zelcer Studio / Notre Dame Academy High School
  • Kat Sweeney – grade 10, St. Ursula Academy / Karl Resnik Studio


  • Geneva Huffman – grade 11, School for Creative & Performing Arts
  • Anne Knellinger – grade 12, Walnut Hills High School
  • Dominic Pham – grade 11, St. Xavier High School
  • Cynthia Zhang – grade 12, Indian Hill High School


  • Natalie Choo – grade 12, Karl Resnik Studio / Seven Hills School
  • Reed Gnepper – grade 11, School for Creative & Performing Arts/ University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory
  • Lauren Maynus – grade 11, Alison Acord / Ursuline Academy
  • Sarah Moser – grade 12, Keen Voice Studio / Campbell County High School

Winner listed in bold.

Susan Herrick, Voice of Indiana
Discipline: Vocal/Choral Performance
Nominated by Connie Walker

Ka-Ron Lehman, University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music
Discipline: Dance
Nominated by Ndaya Hoskins 

Kathy Louder, Mount Notre Dame High School
Discipline: Creative Writing
Nominated by Cara Wagner

2018 Arts Educator Award Honorable Mentions

Lara Koogler, Calvary Christian School
Discipline: Piano
Nominated by Mitchell Ward

Karl Resnik, The Musical Arts Center
Discipline: Vocal Music
Nominated by Natalie Choo

Bing Yang, Liao Ning Professional Performing Arts School
Discipline: Dance
Nominated by Judi Hu 

Founded in 1992, the Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA) is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the programming and management of two of the Tri-state’s finest performing arts venues – the Aronoff Center for the Arts and Music Hall – and is dedicated to supporting performing and visual arts. Each year, CAA presents a diverse schedule of events; serves upwards of 700,000 people in its venues; features the work of talented local, regional, and national artists in the Weston Art Gallery (located in the Aronoff Center); and supports the work of more than one dozen resident companies. Since the inception of its acclaimed arts education programs in 1995, CAA has reached more than 1.5 million students. 

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