Chorus Member Profile


Jean Graves

 Jean Graves finds fame at West Price Hill UDF


Jean Graves has been involved with music for as long as she can remember, singing in church choirs and playing various instruments, but in spite of her hard work, she never considered herself talented. Her nerves often got the best of her, and in high school, she found herself nearly unable to play her bassoon due to her trembling. As a result, she decided to pursue voice lessons to help her focus on her breathing and posture, which helped her develop a unique vocal range that made her a fit for parts for sopranos through low altos, with an occasional cameo in the tenor section. Ever since, Jean has sung in high profile choirs from Kalamazoo, to Boston, to Cleveland, but it wasn’t until she joined the May Festival that she felt “famous.”

Jean often spoke with her mother about the May Festival’s unique sense of community in comparison to other choral communities in which she had participated over the years. In Cincinnati, she felt welcomed, a part of a family, and embraced and celebrated by the larger community. Her mother remained skeptical that Cincinnati’s May Festival was so different from other choruses, until one fateful night at the West Price Hill United Dairy Farmers (UDF).

After that evening’s performance, Jean and her mother decided to stop for UDF ice cream on the way home. Jean was still dressed in her May Festival uniform when a customer recognized her long champagne pink dress.

“Are you in the May Festival?!” he asked, apparently star-struck. He enthusiastically complemented the Chorus on their incredible talent and many gifts to Cincinnati, and thanked Jean for sharing her voice.

That’s when Jean’s mother finally understood. The May Festival is truly special.

“Singing in May Festival is about making meaning together. Music can be entertainment, a diversion from daily life, but it's more than that. It helps us understand our feelings and experiences, things that can't always be expressed in words. I think it does that for the musicians as well as the audience. That said, few people have a ‘hobby’ that gets them applause! That's nice, too.”—Jean

This year, Jean is celebrating her 10th complete year with the Chorus, though her first year with the Chorus occurred in 2004. (She took a six-year hiatus to work on her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Art Education at Indiana University in Bloomington.) When she is not busy defending her dissertation, teaching remotely, or tutoring protégés, Jean can be found caring for her rescue greyhound Miya, who recently retired from her racing job in Florida. Join us in congratulating Jean on her milestone year!

Read more about the May Festival’s important role in Cincinnati on our website.

Listen to some of Jean’s favorite choral works on the May Festival Spotify channel.