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University of Cincinnati Alumni Association

Two CCM Alumni Honored by UC

With more than 270,000 living alumni around the world today, the University of Cincinnati is alma mater to a vibrant and vast community of distinguished former Bearcats. Each year, UC’s Alumni Association selects five of these outstanding alumni based on their body of work and community-driven contributions and honors them in an awards ceremony.

We are delighted to report that CCM alumna Catherine Roma (DMA, 1989) is the 2014 recipient of the UC Alumni Association Mosaic Award and Brian J. Leitten (BFA, 2001) is a 2014 recipient of UC's Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award!

The UC Distinguished Alumni Selection Committee, which includes former award recipients and alumni, selected the recipients from a pool of nearly 50 nominees.

Catherine Roma, Recipient of the 2014 UC Alumni Association Mosaic Award

The Mosaic Award is presented to an alumnus/alumna whose leadership enhances our shared community through cultivating collaboration, fostering inclusiveness, championing the cause of the underrepresented, and promoting equity and opportunity for all.

CCM alumna Catherine Roma

They say music is the universal language. If so, that would make Dr. Catherine Roma one of the world’s most fluent speakers of the language, considering the people she has united, the causes she has championed and the impact she has had through her career in choral music. She has come to both honor and reflect her community’s rich diversity by using music as a means of inclusion and understanding.

When Dr. Roma began the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir in her native Philadelphia in 1975, she became one of the founding mothers of the women’s choral movement on a global basis. Upon coming to CCM to pursue graduate work in the 1980s, she started MUSE, which became Cincinnati’s premier women’s choir. Then as now, MUSE reflected a wish for a world where differences are celebrated and women of many colors, ages, cultures and lifestyles would coalesce in harmony.

This mission to combine the beauty of music and diversity/inclusion has been a common thread through all of Dr. Roma’s work. In 1989 she co-founded the Martin Luther King Coalition Chorale, consisting of more than 100 singers — diverse races, ages and national origins coming from churches, synagogues, mosques and temples across the region — performing to advance important social justice issues. Her work as a tenured professor of music at Wilmington College led Dr. Roma to create and direct the Umoja (Swahili for “unity”) Men’s Chorus at the Warren Correctional Institute, where the same principles bring together male inmates to rehearse and sing. Much of the group’s music is composed and arranged by the inmates themselves.

In 2012, Dr. Roma co-chaired the Music Advisory Committee for the World Choir Games in Cincinnati and directed three choirs in the competition (MUSE, the King Chorale and Umoja Men’s Chorus), each of which earned gold medals. As part of her World Choir Games work, she co-edited the book A City That Sings: Cincinnati’s Choral Traditions, 1800-2012.

Dr. Roma has commissioned over 100 works for her choirs, made many presentations about her field and her work, conducted a variety of choruses and received countless awards and honors in gratitude for her contributions.

Brian J. Leitten, Recipient of the 2014 Jeffrey Hurwitz Young Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award

This award is given to a UC graduate, 35 years of age or younger, on the basis of significant professional achievement in his or her field of endeavor, and continued service and involvement with the university and community. This award is in honor and memory of Jeffrey Hurwitz, BBA ’72, MBA ’73, former president of the UC Alumni Association’s Board of Governors.

CCM alumnus Brian J. Leitten

A UC education can take you anywhere and everywhere, doing things you never imagined. Brian Leitten’s young career proves the power and real-world application of the UC experience, and demonstrates how alumni can integrate the next generation of creative minds into the journey.

An accomplished graduate of CCM's Division of Electronic Media, Leitten began his entertainment career with a five-year stint in the Music and Talent Department at MTV in New York working on music programming, development and events such as the VMAs, New Year’s Eve and the Movie Awards. From there he moved to producing and directing the MTV program MADE, ultimately winning an Emmy for his work. Many other projects followed, including establishing his own production company, Hyperion XIII, in 2011, and later becoming the Director of Productions for Vevo, the world’s leading all-premium music video and entertainment platform. He has also produced for Comedy Central and Fuse TV.

Leitten is the executive producer and director of a multi-award winning documentary called The Last Wild Race about an international expedition race in Chile. Expedition racing typically involves teams of four people competing in adventure sport disciplines including navigation, trekking, mountain biking, paddling and climbing to cover diverse outdoor terrain over a week or more. That experience led Leitten to propose to his college a groundbreaking video project about a similar event in California. 

When the work was green-lit, 33 students from CCM E-Media, DAAP’s Graphic Communication Design and McMicken College of Arts & Sciences’ Communications and Anthropology programs teamed up with Leitten in the field and in the studio to help create the Gold Rush Expedition Race Documentary Series. The project received the support of UC Forward, an initiative in which students, faculty and sometimes alumni engage in interdisciplinary projects to enhance the learning experience in ways that typical classroom and lab work cannot. The 2012 Gold Rush documentary was recently awarded Best of Festival in the Faculty Video Competition at the 2014 Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts.

During that same semester, Leitten also helped secure professional guest lecturers from across the film and TV industries to speak with E-Media students, either on location or via web conferencing, about the current state of art in the entertainment industry. And his contribution to UC hasn’t been limited to the Gold Rush Expedition Race project itself; Leitten has helped many of the participating students find jobs in the industry in New York and Los Angeles upon graduation.

In all, Leitten combines a stellar record of achievement in his field, an ongoing and active role in mentoring and guiding UC students who are following in his footsteps and the ability and desire to leverage his innovative passion and perspective to advance his craft and his university.

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The honorees will be recognized in the 2014 UC Distinguished Alumni Celebration at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Cincinnati on Thursday, June 12.

Tickets can be purchased for $125 (general) or $75 (young professional) at uc.edu/alumni/dac. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

Learn more about all five of UC's 2014 distinguished alumni honorees by visiting uc.edu/profiles/profile.asp?id=19654.

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