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Choir Games’ Songs Have Ended but Positive Impact Endures

Professor looks back on his experience directing photography for the World Choir Games and how it will have continued benefits for the Journalism Department and his students.

Date: 9/20/2012
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Sean Hughes/
If you couldn’t catch the World Choir Games while they were in town, Sean Hughes can give you a glimpse back at what you missed. He coordinated a team of more than 50 photographers – including veteran professionals, random but eager amateurs and a handful of his own photojournalism students – that produced nearly 7,000 posted photographs in 10 days.
Kirk Franklin rehearses at U.S. Bank Arena on July 3. Artistic Coordinator for INTERKULTUR Kim Mann, Peace & Serenity Director Kenny Smith and a mass choir join Franklin to perform his song "I Can," the official song of the 2012 World Choir Games.

Through this massive catalog of vivid images and tales of unforgettable intercultural experiences, Hughes also can give other students a look ahead at what their future might hold in the newly formed Journalism Department.

“I’m going to bring into the classroom not only visuals to show them and my own personal experiences to tell them, but now I can speak about my students’ experiences and our interaction with other cultures,” says Hughes, educator assistant professor of journalism in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences.

Hughes was asked by a local public relations company to serve as director of photography for the World Choir Games, an international competition of choristers held biennially by German nonprofit organization INTERKULTUR. The games travel to different nations around the world, and this year’s set of events from July 4-14 was hosted at several locations across Cincinnati – the first time the games have come to the US.

Dean Ronald L. Jackson II called the games a unique and special opportunity and was proud to see Hughes take on a leadership role in such a high-profile event.

“Supervising the entire staff of photojournalists, professor Hughes led, essentially, an international delegation,” Jackson says. “This is extremely important as it speaks to the way in which the University of Cincinnati continues to play a leadership role on the international stage. Additionally, it simply demonstrates not only the caliber of faculty that we attract but also the kind of high-quality faculty here that are training students to be the next generation of truly world-class journalism professionals.”
Sean Hughes served as director of photography for the World Choir Games.

INTERKULTUR says 15,000 participants from 64 countries sang out in the spirit of friendly competition at this year’s games. Hughes, meanwhile, was busy coordinating his small army of photographers to shoot 68 choral competitions, 60 Friendship Concerts, and dozens of additional events; editing hundreds of photos every day; and squeezing in some time to snap some photos himself whenever possible.

INTERKULTUR took notice of the dogged and dazzling work done by Hughes and company, and after the games it announced it would establish a permanent satellite office for future choir competitions to be held in Cincinnati. Hughes couldn’t help but think his team’s efforts had something to do with that decision.

“Nobody has ever tried to document everything, and INTERKULTUR wasn’t sure it could be done. Two days in, they were just blown away,” Hughes says. “And I think that the university and the students representing the university more so than I were a key element in contributing to INTERKULTUR’s decision to set up an office here. I think a lot of the buzz and excitement created came from people who aren’t there being able to see what’s going on. We provided that face to the outside world.”

The work done by Hughes and his students admirably waved the UC banner in front of a worldwide audience. The aftereffects of their efforts in such an international showcase will manifest in different ways – such as the immense networking that took place – and should benefit the Journalism Department, A&S and UC for a long time to come.
Participants in the 2012 World Choir Games Parade of Nations from the Lively Choir of China.

For example, Hughes’ crew received immeasurable recognition from prominent media outlets in the US, Canada, Venezuela, Latvia, China, the Philippines and other nations. But what’s more, they also gained a once-in-a-lifetime personal and professional experience that reflects the A&S mission of promoting diversity.

“I told my students this wasn’t going to be just a photo job, it was going to be an experience,” Hughes says. “You’re not only going to make contacts, you’re also going to get tangential experiences just from seeing and witnessing other people interacting and all sorts of common experiences between music and food and culture. What a great opportunity to expose yourselves to cultures that will be in your backyard.”

For more of Hughes' photos from the games, go to the A&S Facebook gallery.

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