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Cincinnati acquires Jazz Hall of Fame

For those who appreciate music, recognizing the great artists who work so hard to create it is quite important. Musicians devote their lives to composing passion into impacting melodies that serve to move the soul. To recognize the artist for their work is to let them know we appreciate their gift, and thank them for sharing it. There are many award organizations that exist for this reason, such as the Grammys and Hard Rock, but those only begin to touch on the number of musicians who deserve our gratitude. 

Exceptional music also exists at a local level, which is why cities establish a music hall of fame. Such organizations support the prosperity of music in the area by encouraging those in the industry. To commemorate the greats of local jazz music, and promote jazz in the city, Kay Casey, and a ten-member Board, are founding the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame (CJHoF). Casey, a retired human resources director, has long appreciated jazz music and its specific community in Cincinnati. Casey got the idea for the CJHoF from widely-known drummer, John Von Ohlen, who played with Stan Kenton. 

"John came to me and said 'I just had the most wonderful experience being inducted into Indianapolis' Jazz Hall of Fame, wouldn't it be great to start one in Cincinnati?" said Casey. With this in mind, she contacted Gene Markiewicz of the Indianapolis Jazz Hall of Fame for guidance in establishing the organization. 

Casey found there were hundreds of steps to establishing a Hall of Fame, such as designating a place to hold inductions, meetings and ceremonies; establishing a credible board; and obtaining a 501C3. Step by step Casey fulfilled the requirements and has put together a board consisting of nine members and seven advisors.


The board members are as follows: 

Kay Casey representing Jazz Friends; 

John Von Ohlen accredited jazz drummer; 

Judie Wittlin founding member of the Cincinnati Classical Music Hall of Fame; 

Phil DeGreg accredited jazz pianist and professor at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM); 

Mike Harmon formerly with Xavier Jazz Series; 

Brian W. Hogg a Jazz Director at Northern Kentucky University (NKU); 

George Zahn representing WMKV radio; 

Joe Gaudio representing the Musicians' Union Board; 

and Laura Gentry the President of Jazz Alive. 


Those acting as advisors to the board are as follows: 

Gene Markiewicz; 

John Kiesewetter a former reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer; 

Paul Frankenfeld, President of the Cincinnati Musicians Union; 

Rodd Barr who was formerly with Xavier Jazz Series; 

Scott Belck a Jazz Director at CCM; 

Vanessa Keeton a webmaster; 

and Lee Hay representing WVXU. 


Through months of planning and preparation, the Board has finally begun to get the organization up and running, and had its introductory meeting on February 12th. The next step is to raise the money needed to present inductees with awards, reach out and put its mark on the jazz community, and pay the fees that come with operating such an organization. 

Casey has great plans for the CJHoF, such as providing scholarships for aspiring musicians, and creating outlets for musical talents to grow. But, all of this requires money. By collaborating with her sources, she believes that the most effective way to support the group is to sell memberships. The plan, which has yet to be finalized, is to sell multiple annual memberships ranging in price. 

Even though there are still many logistics to be figured out, the first induction ceremony into the CJHoF has already been set. Northern Kentucky University, which had already planned a concert for May 8th featuring a performance by Cincinnati-born jazz pianist Fred Hersch, invited the CJHoF to host the inductions during the event. Casey then contacted Nick Clooney, who accepted the offer to act as emcee. Tickets to the event are free to the public.  

The criteria for determining the list of CJHoF inductees has not yet been decided. Casey said it will consist of jazz artists, venues, and other contributors and supporters of jazz.

Casey has been a great influence in the jazz community for years now. She has cultivated relationships with many jazz artists, venues and organizations around the city, which has led her to create an e-mail list to which she sends out news of jazz events. 

"I want to make sure it is known that jazz is very much alive in Cincinnati," said Casey. To sign up for jazz event e-mails, contact Casey at


Editor's Note: Full-time jazz programming can be heard on Cincinnati Public Radio's WGUC HD 2 radio channel.