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Cover Story: Voicing Power

Catherine Roma gives voice to the struggle

By Donica Harris · May 9th, 2002 · Cover Story
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  Twenty-six years later, Catherine Roma is still teaching Cincinnati to sing.
Wendy Uhlman

Twenty-six years later, Catherine Roma is still teaching Cincinnati to sing.



Risk-taker, outspoken and courageous. They are fully loaded words used by Catherine Roma to describe the characteristics of a powerful person.

And when taken in context, Roma herself is powerful.

She's the founder of MUSE Cincinnati Women's Choir, now in its 26th year.

She also founded the Anna Crusis Women's Choir in Philadelphia, celebrating more than 25 years in the choral women's movement as well.

MUSE is a harmonious hodgepodge of women from disparate ethnicities, races and sexual orientations. In a sense, it sounds like a microcosm of what Cincinnati could aspire to.

"I think music is one of the most powerful essences in our culture," Roma says. "Voice matters. When we raise our voices, it changes the air in our environment."

Roma, an associate professor of music at Wilmington College and recipient of last year's Cincinnati Leading Woman Award, doesn't feel the power. She isn't some kind of goddess, and neither does she possess a secret weapon like Wonder Woman or Batgirl.

Like many women responding to their life's work, she's really unaware of her wide-reaching influence.

"I don't know how I see myself," Roma says. "But I have mentors, people whom I look up to."

Roma feels most at home in the presence of a choir, listening to a blending of voices.

"When people come together to sing, that's where I feel like I belong," she says. "I feel like power, for me, personally ... that word power is so fraught with imbalance, with Dick Cheney and people like that."

It gets deeper when Roma is asked what the world would be like if women were in charge.

"It depends on the woman," she says. "We're not talking about male and female roles here. There would be a real impact if certain women were ruling. That's the possibility I hold out for this strong womanly presence."

And she uses hers to empower other women with music.

"When people gather together to sing it's powerful," she says, "because voice is powerful."

 
 
 
 

 

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