From the Artistic Director


On behalf of the staff, artists, board, and volunteers who work tirelessly to make our performances a reality, I am unbelievably excited to unveil Cincinnati Song Initiative's third season. It is our most ambitious and far-reaching lineup to date, and is sure to offer something for everyone through the variety of languages, styles, and artistic personalities offered.

Of note, we are excited to launch a massive three-season series called Alma de España, with the first concert kicking off our mainstage season this fall. Please head over to the project's educational page to learn more before attending the first performance in the series. We are also excited to be partnering with the Willis Music Steinway Gallery of Kenwood, Cincinnati Wagner Society, Lynx Project, and others, continuing in our tradition of collaboration with other organizations throughout the Queen City to maximize audience impact. The educational and experiential performances that come from these unique collaborations will go unmatched, so make sure you get your tickets to experience it all!

As always, a nonprofit organization of this nature relies on the generosity of its supporters and friends. Please consider a donation to help continue your access to art song performance at the highest levels of artistry and innovation at affordable rates. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.  And subscribe to our mailing list to stay in the loop regarding concerts and other news!

Warm regards,
Samuel Martin
Founder & Artistic Director

About CSI


Artistry.  Communication.  Collaboration.  Innovation.

What is CSI All About?

Cincinnati Song Initiative was founded to bring a concentrated and cohesive source of art song to the greater Cincinnati area. Dedicated to providing unique experiences through the power of poetry and music, each performance creates a sense of relevance and active engagement between performers and audiences. This is achieved not only through song, but also through spoken dialogue by the artists, which provides a context and historical background that connects audiences to the repertoire. Concerts take place at different venues throughout the Queen City in order to connect with its many vibrant communities and explore all it has to offer.

What Makes CSI Different?

At the core of CSI is its innovative programming model: large-scale thematic series that span the course of multiple concerts. Each concert features singers and pianists of national renown, providing an unparalleled level of artistry within the context of an intimate and accessible atmosphere. The CSI artist roster rotates seasonally, allowing for audiences to experience a fresh variety of voice types and artistic personalities. Furthermore, Cincinnati Song Initiative remains devoted to the innovation of art song, commissioning and premiering new works to help lead the genre into the twenty-first century and connect more closely with today's audiences.

You are warmly encouraged to join CSI in exploring the deep and sustaining power of song within the context of today's society.

What is art song?


What is art song?

An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one voice with piano accompaniment, and usually in the classical tradition. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the genre of such songs. An art song is most often a musical setting of an independent poem or text, intended for the concert repertory as part of a recital or other occasion.

Intriguing! Tell me more.

Art song comes from all corners of the earth, without there being a definitive country of origin. The modern art song began to develop during the mid- to late sixteenth century as concern for textual interpretation grew. In other words, performers began to place more importance on having an obvious emotional and musical reaction to the texts they were singing. The genre has never stopped developing since, and continues to be a living, breathing art form to this day.

We typically refer to art songs from specific countries by that country's native word for "song."  Below is a short list of examples:

  • Italian canzione
  • Spanish canción
  • German Lieder
  • French mélodie

What isn't art song?

Art song is separate from music for the theater, such as operas or musicals. Folk songs are a separate genre as well, although many composers arrange such songs with piano accompaniment for the concert stage. For example, Aaron Copland's Old American Songs, Benjamin Britten's Folk Song arrangements, and the Siete canciones populares españolas (Seven Spanish Folk Songs) by Manuel de Falla are all considered art songs because of their intended use for recital settings. Additionally, songs set to biblical or sacred texts intended for religious services are not art songs, but those written for the concert stage are. An example is Johannes Brahms' monumental cycle Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs), which is based on biblical texts and intended for the concert stage, thus deeming it art song.

In other words...

An art song strives to be the perfect combination of music and literature, based on four elements: poet, composer, singer and accompanist. The composer uses the full resources of the art form to embellish the poet’s text, sometimes even realizing potential interpretations that were not explicit in the poet’s words. In well-realized art song, the composer creates a duet between the accompanist and the vocalist. That is, the art song paints for us a picture of what the poet might have envisioned. The performance of an art song literally breathes life into this picture through a complementary, coordinated partnership among the four significant elements.
— Artsong Update

Give me an example!

"Animal Passion" is an American art song composed by Jake Heggie, set to poetry by Gini Savage.  Nicolle Foland sings in this recording, with the composer himself at the piano.  Do you think the music and the performers' interpretation matches the feisty nature of the poetry?

Now that you know us...