Chorus Member Profile


Dawn Bruestle

26 Elementary Students Create and Perform Original Opera

One might find that several of our May Festival Chorus members have spent some time as music educators; however, not all of them can claim to have produced an original opera written and performed by 4th graders. Dawn Bruestle can.

Dawn taught elementary music for a solid 28 years, mostly in the Fairfield City School District, but she only tried the original opera project once. Through collaborations with Opera America and the Cincinnati Opera, Dawn and her fellow teacher Wendy New introduced their shared class of 4th graders to the art form and shepherded them through, writing, composition, design, rehearsal, and performance. After seven long months of work on their grand new oeuvre, The Friendship – based on Elizabeth George Speare’s novel The Sign of the Beaver -- was performed not only for the rest of the student body at Fairfield South Elementary, but also on stage at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

This year, Dawn is celebrating her 15th year of performing with the May Festival, though her first four seasons with May Festival happened from 1980-1984. Dawn spent a number of years singing with the Vocal Arts Ensemble, but she began to miss performing the larger choral works with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. When Dawn returned to the May Festival rehearsal room one evening in 2009, she received a grand welcome back from her friends, and she has been singing with them ever since.

"In a live performance of a piece of music, there is a unique and magical connection that develops - a connection amongst those who are performing, along with those who are listening in the audience at that moment in time. The May Festival has always beautifully provided these special experiences for me, and for our community.”

Dawn has retired from teaching, but her heart remains in helping those around her. Nowadays, you can find Dawn serving lunch at the Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesdays for their free concert program, “Music Live @ Lunch.” Otherwise, she is likely babysitting her two darling grandchildren Bryson and Georgia in Liberty Township.

Check out some of Dawn’s favorite pieces performed with the May Festival on our Spotify Playlist, including Mahler’s 2nd Symphony and Leonard Bernstein’s Mass.