We continue our backstage journey with the Cincinnati Community Orchestra. I’d like to introduce you to four of our members who exemplify both the talent and commitment you find in all our members.

First, let me introduce to you the youngest member of our orchestra.

Peter McCutcheon, 16
Double Bassist

Many of us have taken different paths to this orchestra. How did you wind up here and also being the youngest musician on stage?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story of my membership within the orchestra! For the past 4 years, this orchestra has been such a blessing in growing as a bassist and as a young man. I was 12 at the time. My eighth grade of school was also my first year in Dr. Doan’s Cincinnati Junior Strings–believe it or not, I failed my first CJS audition the year before. Anyways, as I was unpacking my instrument before rehearsal, the Doctor approaches me holding a black folder. “Hey squirt, want to play Mahler’s 1st Symphony?” How could I say no to that? So from the next Monday for the next year, I would see Dr. Doan on Sundays for CJS and Monday nights in the Community Orchestra.

You must be a very busy young man. What keeps you motivated to add another commitment to your hectic schedule?

I’m not sure how intentional this is, but Dr. Doan has a way of selecting certain pieces of music that are popular audition pieces on double bass. Holst’s Planets, Tchaikovsky’s 4th and 6th Symphonies, etc., all challenge me throughout the years. It’s unthinkable to think that I’ve played full length performances at such a young age, and all I can say is that I’ve been really blessed. I’m motivated to perform at the level that Dr. Doan expects from me, and to perform as well as everyone else in the Community Orchestra. I’m blessed to be a member.

So if you were not at CCO rehearsals on Monday nights, what would you be doing?

Being a high schooler comes with the homework. Without the orchestra, I would almost certainly be sitting at home, burning the candle on both ends finishing homework. There’s really not much to it other than that. Jazz Ensemble and other school-extra-curricular groups meet on Monday nights, but homework would most certainly hold priority if not for the Community Orchestra.


Now, I’d like you to meet one of our older musicians in the orchestra. However, please note that with age comes experience. And experienced we are. About 35% of the orchestra is over 50 and that adds up to a lot of years of experience!

Judy Martin

Many of us have taken different paths to this orchestra. How did you end up here?

Actually, I have come full circle BACK to the CCO! When I first came to Cincinnati as a viola major at CCM, my teacher Eric Kahlson was CCO’s conductor, so I was recruited right away. Then my dream since 6th grade came true when I won an audition with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and I played there 34 years. On my first day, my stand-partner was my future husband of 44 years, Allen. After retiring from the CSO, I switched to playing violin (a better size for me), and it was the natural thing to rejoin the CCO. After all, I’ve been playing in orchestras since I was 10 years old. But playing violin now makes it new and challenging!

So if you were not at CCO rehearsals on Monday nights, what would you be doing?

You might find me participating in my church activities, walking, natural foods cooking, teaching violin, getting together with my family and friends (just attended my youngest nephew’s graduation from the Marine Corps Basic Training in San Diego), and English Country Dancing.


What makes an exceptional arts organization is exceptional leadership. We have both with Dr. Gerald Doan, our director and Eric Bruestle our board of trustees president.

Eric Bruestle
French Horn

So many of us have ties with the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.  Share with us how that intersects with your path to the CCO:

My dream was to make my living as an orchestral musician. As a Freshman at CCM, I was one of 25 horn majors (9 of whom were grad students) vying for 10 orchestra spots. Tough odds. If I was going to gain experience with a full-sized orchestra that year, I had to look off campus. I was so fortunate that year to be invited by a guest conductor, Herb Tiemeyer (former CSO member), to play in CCO. With only 2 or 3 exceptions, I have played in every CCO concert for the last 43 years. What a joy and a privilege. Although my career plans changed, my involvement with CCO has allowed me to keep live music as a very important part of my life.

What keeps you motivated to play in the CCO?

I have remained a member because it is such a rare and rewarding opportunity. Across the country, there aren’t many amateur orchestras of this size and caliber. We can handle a broad range of some of the best orchestral literature ever composed. To have a chance to experience this music first-hand, learn it in depth through the outstanding direction of Gerry Doan, then perform it with such a great group of friends before enthusiastic audiences- well, it just doesn’t get much better than that.

And where would we find you on Monday nights if you weren’t at rehearsals?

If I wasn’t devoting my time to CCO, I would probably spend more time with my family, especially my beautiful granddaughters aged 1, 2 & 3. As they grow older, I hope they will find something to enrich their lives as much as CCO has mine.


And finally, Dr. Doan’s right (left?) hand musician who has a most important role in our orchestra, is our concertmaster Rachel Bierkan.

Rachel Bierkan

Many of us have taken different paths to this orchestra. Rachel, what’s your story?

I started playing in CCO my senior year at CCM.  I was a music education major and Dr. Doan was one of my professors.  While I student taught, I was not playing in an orchestra at CCM.  I missed orchestra and I wanted to keep learning new music so it did not take a lot for Dr. Doan to convince me to join his adult orchestra.  After graduating from CCM I was hired to be the string teacher/orchestra director for Loveland Schools (I was actually hired to start a string program for Loveland) so I stayed in Cincinnati and continued to play in CCO.  It just became a part of every Monday night.

What keeps you motivated to play in the CCO?

I enjoy playing my violin and CCO is the best, most consistent way to keep me playing good music.  It is fun to learn new pieces – symphonies and concertos, overtures and all.  We do pieces from the standard orchestral repertoire but we also find a few of those undiscovered gems.  I love that I can listen to WGUC and then tell Gerry what I’ve heard and see what he thinks about our playing it.  I think that Dr. Doan does a good job balancing the literature giving us old/new/standards/not-so-standards and keeping us growing in our technique and musicianship.  Playing in CCO has made me a better violinist than I was when I graduated from CCM and playing in CCO helps me to be a better teacher.

If you were not in the CCO, what would you be doing with your Monday nights?

When not at CCO on Mondays, I am busy hanging out with my husband, Matt, and our son, Joel.  We like to be cooking, doing house projects, or sometimes even playing violin!  I would probably be planning more trips for Cincinnati Junior Strings or my Loveland High School orchestras…but, actually I’ll be doing that even with my Monday nights booked at CCO 🙂  We like to travel and spend time with family and friends.

Join Peter, Judy, Eric, Rachel and the rest of our dynamite musicians for a great evening of music on Saturday, December 5th at 7:30 p.m. Free admission, parking, convenient location, refreshments and concerts of the highest quality of music performed enthusiastically and at a level beyond most community groups – that’s what you’ll experience at a CCO concert.