“Exceptional Cincinnatians” Series Returns Featuring Nadine Waters

Written by Clarity Amrein, Community Content Coordinator, Genealogy & Local History, Downtown Main Library

Greater Cincinnati is the home to many impactful and influential people. Our Genealogy and Local History Department's oral history video series, Exceptional Cincinnatians, opens a new window, explores the lives of Cincinnati’s professionals, artists, activists, journalists, and the everyday citizens both past and present who have made a difference in our community. These "mini documentaries" feature face-to-face interviews, scanned images and artifacts from our collection, and present-day footage.

Cincinnati’s Forgotten Opera Singer

In the next installment of Exceptional Cincinnatians, CHPL details the life of Cincinnati’s “forgotten” soprano vocal artist, concert soloist, and recitalist Nadine Roberts Waters. Nadine Waters was an African American woman and a native of the Cincinnati neighborhood of Wyoming. In the 1920s, Nadine studied at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, performed around Paris in the 1930s, and sang at some of the biggest venues in Cincinnati such as Memorial Hall, Music Hall, and Emery Auditorium.

Though Nadine Waters achieved great successes in the U.S and abroad, she never quite received the recognition for her talents in Cincinnati that she deserved despite winning many contests singing in multiple languages, performing with the Pasdeloup Symphony Orchestra in Paris, before British and French dignitaries and royalty, and having support from the influential Schmidlapp and Longworth families.

Digital Preservation by the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library

Jennifer Sauers and Sherry Sheffield of the Wyoming Historical Society contacted CHPL’s Digital Services department to have a large scrapbook scanned, and Digital Services sprang into action to preserve it! Using an archival flatbed scanner, Nadine Water’s personal scrapbook full of letters, programs, playbills, photos, and posters was digitized. The images can be accessed anytime on our Digital Library, opens a new window.

After seeing Nadine’s scrapbook, which included programs from her recitals, photos, and letters from notable figures such as Louis B. Meyer, W.C. Handy, Josephine Baker, Nadia Boulanger, presidents, socialites, and more, the Genealogy & Local History Department knew there was a story to tell!

Connecting Cincinnati History to the Present

Thanks to the help of Jennifer Sauers, Thea Tjepkema from the Cincinnati Preservation Association and Friends of Music Hall, contemporary Cincinnati vocal artist Noël Walton, and Cincinnati’s Memorial Hall, Nadine’s story is told through not only artifacts from her scrapbook and interviews, but also through song and spirituality. See the full 60-minute video on the Library’s YouTube channel, opens a new window.

Read more about Nadine Roberts Waters’ life and history in the research conducted by historic preservationist and Cincinnati Music Hall historian Thea Tjepkema in her blog for the Friends of Music Hall, opens a new window. See the historic sites of Nadine’s accomplishments through the Cincinnati Preservation Association’s Black Sites and Stories interactive website, opens a new window.

Documentary Screening Event this March

View the documentary on our YouTube channel or experience it in person for a live screening event on Thursday, March 30 at the newly renovated Walnut Hills Branch Library from 6-8 p.m. CHPL will screen the one-hour documentary followed by a Q&A panel with the interviewees and experts on Nadine Waters and Cincinnati vocal arts history. No registration required. View more details about the event, opens a new window.

Celebrate a new Exceptional Cincinnatian every three months! Find Nadine Roberts Waters’ oral history episode and future videos on the Library's YouTube channel, opens a new window

Nominate an Exceptional Cincinnatian

Do you know an Exceptional Cincinnatian with a story to tell? Nominate them using this form!

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