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PROFILE: Freshman Hit the Right Note to Earn Cincinnatus Scholarship

Date: Nov. 27, 2000
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823

On many days, you'll find Aaron Ziegel warming up in a practice room at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) by playing a composition by Franz Schubert. Ziegel, a piano performance major, is one of six UC freshmen to receive a Cincinnatus award that covers full tuition, books, fees, and room and board for his undergraduate level education. His love for music began in childhood. The award for his academic achievement was the result of his performance at the Cincinnatus Scholarship Competition, held during his senior year in high school.

Aaron Ziegel

Ziegel, valedictorian of the 2000 graduating class at Miamisburg High School, was familiar with Cincinnatus because an earlier graduate from his high school, Amanda Skudlarek, was a winner in the very first Cincinnatus competition. Cincinnatus is a unique outlet for the student who's searching for dollars to fund a college education. First, students submit their academic records and those who qualify are invited to the competition. As part of the invitation, students complete a portfolio that details their honors, high school activities, leadership roles and community service. Students then flock to the campus of the University of Cincinnati to compete in essay and problem-solving contests. The next competition will be held Saturday, March 3, 2001. The competition brings opportunities for students to interact with high academic achievers from around the nation.

"It's a pretty fun time. It's really an amazing program, and it allows the competitors to be themselves," explains Ziegel. "Instead of just doing numbers or essays or whatever, I think the competition lets us be observed as who we are and how we work in a group."

Ziegel recalls the challenge for his group was to come up with a design for a new student center, something that is actually happening at UC. "We talked about what should be included in the center and we talked about a design plan for it."

Now adjusting to college life, Ziegel lives on an Honors floor in Daniels Hall and says the living arrangements are working out well between his roommates, Ian Bellomy (digital design), Matt Urbaniak (aerospace engineering) and Kevin Smith (business), and his neighbors.


Ziegel was considering enrolling at the prestigious College-Conservatory of Music before he competed in Cincinnatus. His grandmother, Mary R. Ziegel, graduated from CCM in 1940, before it was part of UC. He started playing piano at the age of eight, and also played clarinet in his high school marching band, as well as principal clarinet for the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. At CCM, Ziegel has high praise for his instructor. "I'm studying with a wonderful teacher, Michael Chertock, who's a pianist with the Cincinnati Symphony. I sort of randomly ended up with him but it's been a really good fit."

"The thing I enjoy about my work with him, he's a very intelligent student," says Chertock, an adjunct assistant professor of piano. "Not only does he bring a body of knowledge to the piano, but also a body of knowledge on a variety of different subjects. It's not just that he knows a lot about music, but he seems to know a lot about many subjects and connects them to his music."

Ziegel says he'd eventually like to teach, possibly on the university level, but says there are a lot of options ahead for him. As part of his Cincinnatus experience, Ziegel will continue his commitment to community service. He started his UC service experience by serving an early morning breakfast at the Drop-Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine. During his high school years, Ziegel performed community service through the National Honor Society and also was a tutor in an after school program sponsored by his church, Parkview United Methodist Church in Miamisburg.

Ziegel was a celebrity of sorts at the October UC Presidential Ball that marked the success of the university's fundraising campaign. He was introduced as one of two Cincinnatus Presidential Scholars - students from the Tristate who are awarded a full scholarship to UC.

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