CAA Announces 2020 Overture Award Winners

CAA_Overture Awards$46,500 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 7, 2020 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 19 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: Sam Bowden, grade 12, Wyoming High School
HOMETOWN: Wyoming, OH – Sam is honored to return as an Overture Awards Finalist for the second year in a row. He serves as editor-in-chief for his high school’s literary magazine, has participated in writing workshops at Northwestern University and Kenyon College, and has won five Scholastic Writing Awards. He’ll be attending college in the fall, but that’s about all he knows right now. He is still working on a trilogy of novels.

DANCE: Ava Sine, grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts / Just Off Broadway
HOMETOWN: Anderson Township, OH – Ava is honored to be selected as an Overture Finalist. She has danced professionally as Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, and most recently, as Mary in Awaited (produced by Crossroads Church). Ava trains in all styles of dance and plans to pursue a career in dance.

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC: Kasey Shao, grade 11, Walnut Hills High School / Ran Dank
HOMETOWN: Pleasant Ridge, OH – At age twelve, Kasey made her concerto debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kasey was named the 2020 National YoungArts Gold Winner and has been recognized as a 2020 Chopin Scholar. She has won numerous national and international piano competitions, including first place in the Steinway Piano Competition, second place in the National 2018 MTNA competition, and first place at the Louisville Young Artist Concerto Competition.

THEATER: Jalaysia Bell, grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts
HOMETOWN: Westwood, OH – In third grade, Jalaysia’s love for the arts began. At SCPA, Jalaysia is also a stage manager and recently managed the show Almost, Maine. The person that inspires her is her mother, who passed away last March. In the future, Jalaysia would like to use her art to help people who are in difficult situations.

VISUAL ART: Halle West, grade 11, Kings High School
HOMETOWN: Landen, OH – Halle found a love for art after working with Merlene Schain as a part of Schain Studios. She plays bass for the Kings Orchestra and is a past member of the Kings Color Guard and Winter Guard. Halle plans to study art in college with a focus on concept design or illustration. She has received two silver keys and ten gold keys at the regional level from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

VOCAL MUSIC: Anna Gaddie, grade 12, Conner High School / Moss Performing Arts Academy
HOMETOWN: Hebron, KY – Anna began studying vocal music with Moss Performing Arts as a sophomore and discovered her love for classical voice. She has attended KY Governor’s School for the Arts, is an active member of her school’s choir and theatre programs, and plans to study music in the fall. She is incredibly grateful to her teachers and family for supporting her and is excited for this opportunity to perform in the finals!


Matt Eckerle, Notre Dame Academy
Discipline: Visual Art
Nominated by Kenzie Eberhart

The Overture Awards Regional Competitions were held on January 25 at the Immanuel School of Music, Northern Kentucky University, and Mount Saint Joseph University. The top twenty percent of competitors in each discipline advanced to the Semi-Finals, which were held at the Aronoff Center on February 6-8.

Now in its twenty-fourth year, The Overture Awards was launched in 1996 by the Cinergy Foundation (now Duke Energy) and Leadership Cincinnati (a program of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber). 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, Douglas Beal, Doreen Beatrice, Bonita Brockert, Brandon Etheridge, Maura Garuccio, Jozsef Parragh, Pebble Creek Group, Phoenix Rising Ballroom, Summerfair Cincinnati, Josh Tilford, Western & Southern Financial Fund, The William O. Purdy, Jr. Foundation

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

Printing Sponsor: Graphic Village 

Winners listed in bold.


  • Sam Bowden, grade 12, Wyoming High School
  • Clara Conover, grade 12, Mount Notre Dame High School
  • Sylvia Nica, grade 12, Cincinnati Country Day School
  • Deeya Prakash, grade 10, Sycamore High School


  • Alicia Gan, grade 10, The Seven Hills School / Just Off Broadway
  • Judi Hu, grade 12, Mason High School / Bing Yang Chinese Performing Arts Center
  • Trista Mullenix, grade 9, School for Creative & Performing Arts / Just Off Broadway
  • Ava Sine, grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts/ Just Off Broadway


  • Kathryn Guo, grade 10, The Seven Hills School / Won-Bin Yim
  • Meagan Hipsky, grade 12, Homeschool / Cincinnati Young Artists
  • Arun Kamath, grade 11, Sycamore High School / Van Dyke Piano Studio
  • Kasey Shao, grade 11, Walnut Hills High School / Ran Dank


  • Jalaysia Bell, grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts
  • Micah Day, grade 12, Turpin High School / Xan Jeffery
  • Payton Hines, grade 10, Sycamore High School / Karl Resnik
  • Jake Jervis, grade 11, Sycamore High School / McCready Voice Studio 


  • Gabrielle Grace P. Chiong, grade 12, Walnut Hills High School
  • Cailee Plunkett, grade 12, Oak Hills High School
  • Olivia Sheldon, grade 12, Indian Hill High School
  • Halle West, grade 11, Kings High School


  • Anna Gaddie, grade 12, Conner High School / Moss Performing Arts Academy
  • Annalyn Gauger, grade 12, School for Creative & Performing Arts / Angela Powell Walker Studio
  • Luke Randazzo, grade 10, School for Creative & Performing Arts / Kathy Cammett Studio
  • Grant Shields, grade 12, Kings High School / Kathy Cammett Studio
  • Mary Wilkens, grade 11, Ursuline Academy / Melody Wallace Studios

Winner listed in bold.

Matt Eckerle, Notre Dame Academy
Discipline: Visual Art
Nominated by Kenzie Eberhart

Trio Jeng,. CCM Prep
Discipline: Vocal Music
Nominated by Ishana Galgali

Melody Wallace, Private Teacher
Discipline: Vocal Music and Piano
Nominated by Ava Huelskamp

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 1.8 million students. 

CAA is proud to be a member of Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Greater Cincinnati Alliance for Arts Education, Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, and Performing Arts Center Consortium.

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