November 22, 2022

CIM students, graduates gain early professional footholds in culture-rich Northern Ohio

Cellist Gabriel Ramos performs in the cello section of the Akron Symphony Orchestra
CIM graduate Gabriel Ramos (MM ’22, Kraut), center, rehearses with the Akron Symphony Orchestra, where he was recently appointed to second chair in the cello section. (Photo courtesy of Paul Jarrett)

Not to be discounted among the many advantages of a CIM education: the ready availability of professional-level work in the region.  

Thanks to its location at the heart of culture-rich Northeast Ohio, CIM affords graduates and active students alike the chance to play in any number of orchestras, up to and including The Cleveland Orchestra.  

Even as they study with world-class faculty and enjoy all that CIM and Cleveland’s University Circle have to offer, students and graduates here are empowered to start their careers or gain invaluable experience and connections, all within a short drive.  

“Having so many orchestras in the area means that students have several paths and options as they build the foundations of their professional careers,” said Fred Peterbark, dean of enrollment and aid at CIM.  

“While teachers and financial aid often top the list [of student priorities], location matters, too, because it’s the community in which they’ll begin to build their brand and establish their first professional relationships.” 

On this front, among many others, CIM stands apart from its peers. CIM doesn’t just encourage students to engage in extra-curricular work. Realizing the educational value of professional experience, it does everything within reason to make it possible.  

That’s why, this year alone, no fewer than 18 students are working as members of regional orchestras. On top of that is a much larger number of students working as substitutes.  

“We try to be as supportive as we can,” said Donna Yoo, CIM’s dean of artistic administration and operations. “Students come here to win jobs, and many of them want to get into the orchestral world. What better way to dive into that world than while they’re still students?” 

The options for this kind of experience abound. Indeed, when it comes to professional orchestras, Cleveland and Northern Ohio enjoy something of an embarrassment of riches.  

The leader of the pack, of course, is The Cleveland Orchestra, CIM’s neighbor and official partner, 35 members of whom are on CIM’s faculty and one-third of whom graduated from CIM. Every year, many CIM students and alumni find themselves within that august ensemble, either as new members or as substitutes.  

Beyond Severance Music Center, the options expand exponentially to include the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Canton Symphony Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra, Playhouse Square and the Firelands Symphony Orchestra. Extend the radius a little further and one nets the orchestras of Erie, Toledo and Columbus.  

“It’s a draw for sure, to have so many possibilities so close by,” Yoo said.   

CIM students aren’t the only beneficiaries of this arrangement, either. No, it’s a give-and-take from which the orchestras themselves – and, by extension, their audiences – also end up winners. 

Paul Jarrett, executive director of the Akron Symphony, noted with pleasure that many current members of his orchestra are CIM students or alumni. He said their presence as “consummate professionals” inspires confidence in music director Christopher Wilkins to undertake any project he wishes.  

“We never have any qualms about programming challenging repertoire,” Jarrett said. “Our musicians are able to handle anything we put on their stands. We are blessed with a robust amount of musical talent, and Northeast Ohio is all the better for it.” 

Rachel Hagemeier, the incoming director of the Canton Symphony Orchestra, echoed that sentiment, but took it one step further. She said her ensemble is what it is, in part, because CIM operates just up the road.  

“We are so fortunate to have CIM in such close proximity to us,” Hagemeier said. “Our access to some of the top music students in the world is part of our artistic and organizational success.”  

CIM would say something similar. When students and graduates play in local orchestras, they’re doing more than gaining experience. They’re serving as ambassadors, living out the CIM standard and spreading the best kind of goodwill.  

“We love to see our students out there in the areas where they actually live,” Yoo said. “When they’re in those orchestras, they’re collaborating with our neighbors, and I think that, in the broadest sense, is part of how we engage with the community.”