The Vocal Arts Ensemble (VAE) is Greater Cincinnati’s premier professional vocal ensemble dedicated to presenting passionate and innovative performances of choral music that raise and nurture the public’s appreciation of the life enriching qualities of the choral arts.

About: VAE fills a unique niche in our region as a professional chamber choir. Earning a reputation for artistic excellence, VAE presents rich, passionate performances of a broad variety of choral works with precision and unparalleled virtuosity. VAE has enjoyed artistic leadership by some of the nation’s leaders in choral conducting: Grammy Award-winner/seven-time nominee Craig Hella Johnson currently leads the ensemble. Considered one of the finest choral conductors in the U.S., Johnson is praised for his visionary approach and brings depth of knowledge, artistic sensitivity, and rich imagination to the organization.


1979: Founded/led by Elmer Thomas as a program of UC-CCM

1993 & 1997: Chorus America Award “Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music”

2002 & 2004: Released two independent CDs of contemporary American choral music

2004: 2nd Music Director, Earl Rivers receives Chorus America’s “Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Choral Art”

2015: 4th Music Director, Craig Hella Johnson wins a Grammy Award, receives Chorus America’s “Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Choral Art”

2016: VAE gives the World Premiere of Kile Smith’s Canticle; Craig Hella Johnson receives 7th Grammy nomination; VAE gives the opening night performance at the Chorus America Conference

2017: VAE begins residency in Memorial Hall and sets new revenue and attendance records

2018: VAE records Canticle for global release and receives glowing critical reviews

2020: VAE celebrates its 40th Anniversary

2021: VAE secures the first composer in a multi-season commission series in Moira Smiley.

At VAE, we believe music enriches life; to this end, we strive to be both artistically excellent but also to create performances that engage everyone. These are not concerts simply to be heard, they are a complete organic experience!