Page 1


Oberlin Conservatory




Violin 2013 Piano 2014

• For young musicians ages 13 to 18 • $10,000 First Prize • Concerto-round performance with The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall 2013 VIOLIN FINALS: July 26, 2013 2014 PIANO APPLICATIONS DUE : May 1, 2014 Presented by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra, the Thomas & Evon Cooper International Competition showcases the world’s most promising young musicians and features more than $20,000 in prize money.

Contents Oberlin conservatory magazine  2013

David Stull turned heads throughout his tenure as dean (page 26). Photograph by Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97. Cover: The Oberlin Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Jiménez, performs at Carnegie Hall in January 2013. Photograph by Chris Lee.




12 The Manhattan Project

44 A Cello Story

26 A Golden Age for Oberlin

46 Reflect. Write. Repeat.


Dean’s Greeting Of Note

Marilyn Horne, Oberlin’s organs, accolades, and recent recordings by alumni and faculty

57 Alumni Notes

From the Metropolitan Opera to the Neighborhood of MakeBelieve, and all points in between

61 Faculty Notes

Recent research, publications, performances, and retirements

64 2013-14 Artist Recital Series

OBERLIN conservatory magazine 2013

The conservatory’s Illumination Tour lit up New York City in January 2013 Dean David H. Stull’s tenure has been marked by great achievements—and great love for his alma mater

32 The Selch Connection

A major collection of instruments and artifacts bolsters the study of American music history

A boy’s prized instrument survives the horrors of war and lives on for Oberlin students For four days at Oberlin’s inaugural Rubin Institute, everybody’s a critic

52 Always an Obie

The 2012 conservatory reunion and celebration reignited passions on campus and beyond

38 From Hamar to Helsinki

Creativity & Leadership grants sprout imaginative winter-term projects


Dean’s Greeting

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.”

L —William Butler Yeats


decision of my professional life. It is my second departure from Oberlin, and this time I had a choice. The period of time I have served this institution has been the most extraordinary in my career. I have often been asked, “What is it like to be dean? Is it strange to work at a place where you were once a student?” My typical response has been: “I was nostalgic for about 10 minutes, then it turned into a job.” Of course, those words do not capture the reality of the responsibility or the joy of being here, or the initial terror of being advanced to the position before I felt ready. Fortunately, the work quickly became about the future, not the past, and it was far more than a job—it was a spectacular opportunity. My nostalgia matured into a great pride in all the school had accomplished and a burning passion for it to reach further into its potential. That potential is in all of us—the Oberlin community—and I can say with conviction that Oberlin is one of the great schools in the world. I have exceptional friends and colleagues here, and I will always miss them. While I will serve other institutions in the future, there is only one Oberlin, a place that prepares, educates, inspires, and advocates for its students; a place where a unique combination of intensity and rural quiet attracts passionate and exceptionally talented people—mavericks with brilliant ability and a willingness to look beyond the traditional toward the exotic and the new. All of this coalesces to form the genius of this great school, and what wonderful graduates it sends into the world. My own experience as a student at Oberlin was transformative, though I did not initially perceive it that way. I just loved the place. Beyond my brilliant teacher, Ron Bishop, I was fortunate to have courses with outstanding faculty who opened the world for all of us, though we did not realize the fundamental shift that was occurring as we moved from absorbing information, to cultivating knowledge, to developing perspective—perspective that informs us of how little we actually know. When I think of moments when I began to form my initial thoughts on leadership, Yeats comes to mind: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.” Something we all learn here is that serving communities and ideas beyond ourselves yields the greatest dividends, and if we are lucky, we get to blaze the trail and enjoy the journey. At Oberlin, the iron does not need to be made hot—it burns brightly all the time; the key to success is living happily in the flame. Thank you, Oberlin, for extending my education. I can never repay all that this institution has given me, and I will be forever grateful. It has been a pleasure to serve as dean of the conservatory, and it remains a privilege and honor to be a graduate of our wonderful college. All my best wishes to each one of you in the years ahead. Sincerely,

David H. Stull ’89 Dean of the Conservatory 2

Oberlin Conservatory CATHY PARTLOW STRAUSS ’84 Director of Conservatory Communications ERICH BURNETT Associate Director of Conservatory Communications EMILY CRAWFORD ‘92 Design LOGAN BUCKLEY ’14 JEFF HAGAN ’86 J KEIRN-SWANSON WILL ROANE ’12 HEIDI WALESON ANDREW WILLENS ’11 Contributors KELLY VIANCOURT Director of Print and Publications BEN JONES ’96 Vice President for Communications DAVID H. STULL ’89 Dean of the Conservatory ANDREA KALYN Associate Dean for Academic Affairs GLORIA KIM ’02 Associate Dean for Artistic Programming and Operations

Oberlin Conservatory is published by Oberlin’s Office of Communications. Editorial Office: Oberlin Conservatory Annex 39 W. College St., Oberlin, OH 44074 Phone: 440-775-8328 Fax: 440-775-5457 E-mail: Web: Oberlin Conservatory of Music Admissions 440-775-8413 Oberlin College Information 440-775-8121 Postmaster: Send address changes to: Oberlin Conservatory Office of Communications 39 W. College St., Oberlin, OH 44074-1576

Of Note

His and hearse: Cinematographer Micha Hilliard ’11 (left) with director Mika Johnson ’00, funeral director Walter Frey ’80, and Professor Jeffrey Pence ’88.

He Shoots, They Score

Dale Rothenberg

By Logan Buckley ’14 The film opens with Don Matis’ infectious laughter. A painter from Hudson, Ohio, Matis delights in sharing the secret to his work: He paints with his flowing gray beard, calling himself “The Human Paint Brush.” Matis is one of a number of quirky Ohioans featured in The Amerikans, a series of webbased short films conceived by OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

Mika Johnson ’00 and Oberlin Professor of Cinema Studies Jeffrey Pence ’88, and featuring the work of students from Oberlin’s conservatory and cinema studies program. The project grew out of an initial effort to create a film adaptation of the Franz Kafka novel Amerika. In addition to Matis, episodes of The Amerikans have featured a funeral home director, a graffiti artist named Fixer, and other fascinating local citizens. The Matis episode typifies the involvement of conservato-

ry students: As he describes his spiritual journey while painting a canvas, his voice floats over choral motets by French composer Maurice Duruflé, lending gravity and dignity to his story. A cut partway through the film reveals Oberlin students singing the motets in Fairchild Chapel. Conservatory student Eli Stine ’14 is the sound designer responsible for the striking juxtaposition of choral music with Matis’ thoughts on art, spirituality, and life. Involved with The Amerikans since the

first episode, Stine began by working with cinema studies majors on their film projects, and from there began handling sound design for alumni and professional filmmakers. Stine describes his role in three ways: “creating sound effects, cleaning up dialogue, and mixing everything—the diegetic sound from the story, narration, and the musical score—together.” He creates some of his own sound effects and uses effects libraries, and he helps with troublesome aspects of the recording 3

Of Note

Conservatory students Eli Stine’14 (top left) and Charles Glanders ’14 (right) handle sound design for The Amerikans. Bottom right: Beard artist Don Matis with the student choir that accompanied his episode.


working on The Amerikans provides students with valuable exposure to life as part of a professional film crew. Most episodes feature performances by Oberlin musicians and sometimes pieces by Oberlin composers or other sound designers. For example, the episode “Love & Venom,” which focuses on the bee-sting therapy of Don Downs, included sound design by TIMARA major Charles Glanders ’14. Ryan Lester ’11, who has composed music for The Daily Show, created an original score for the episode,

which was then recorded by conservatory students Jennifer Carpenter ’14, Rachel Iba ’14, and Jarrett Hoffman ’14, as well as Rosalind Soltow ’08. Such a collaboration— not to mention the numerous students and community members working on nonmusical aspects of the production—is typical of The Amerikans, a project that not only focuses on Oberlin and nearby communities, but could likely happen nowhere else. All episodes of The Americans are available online at

Marilyn Horne Professorship Established by Stephen Rubin Philanthropist Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co. and the man behind Oberlin’s Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, has committed $150,000 to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music to establish the Marilyn Horne Professorship and Residency Fund. The purpose of the


process: anything from rerecording muffled dialogue to assisting composers and musicians in adapting to the needs of the shoot. “The storytelling that Mika is doing is unique in that it fully envelops the audience in an individual’s world,” he says. “Not how they fit into a context, but how they feel about themselves as individuals, as Ohioans.” Stine also helps match the various projects with composers and performers from the conservatory. In addition to the artistic experience,


fund is to support a visit for the next three years by Marilyn Horne or another renowned operatic figure who embodies the attributes of the celebrated mezzo-soprano and teacher. The donation will also provide financial assistance for careeradvancement opportunities for the most promising voice students in the conservatory, to be identified as Rubin Scholars. Rubin’s contribution was made in honor of Horne, a visiting professor at Oberlin for seven years. While on campus for her annual residency, she presents master classes, private lessons, and mentorship for the conservatory’s finest aspiring singers. Rubin’s gift will help sustain Horne’s work at Oberlin. “Marilyn Horne is, by universal agreement, one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century,” says Rubin. “She also happens to be a superlative teacher. Her high standards and impeccable credentials and taste guarantee that she can instruct a whole new generation of singers in what is fast becoming a lost art. That she is also a dear friend of mine makes this twice as meaningful for me.” Opera legend Marilyn Horne has been a visiting professor for seven years.

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

Five decades since her operatic debut in 1954, Horne remains one of the most iconic artists to grace the stage. In 2002, Opera News wrote that she “may be the most influential singer in American history.” Incredibly versatile, Horne is dedicated to excellence in vocal art, with ongoing commitments for private teaching and master classes scheduled well into the next decade. “This is a special honor for me, personally, and a wonderful resource for Oberlin,” Horne says of her professorship. “On behalf of all of us at Oberlin, I extend my sincere gratitude to Steve Rubin for his extraordinary generosity,” says Dean of the Conservatory David H. Stull ’89. “Steve and Marilyn are both passionate advocates for advancing the art of great singing, and this investment will directly support talented young students for generations into the future. We are thrilled to honor Marilyn Horne for her unparalleled contributions as an artist and her brilliant work as a teacher, and look forward to Professor Horne being with us for many years to come.”

Stephen Schnurr’s Organs of Oberlin celebrates the town’s famed pipes.

New Book Flaunts Oberlin’s Fabulous Organs Pipe organs have a rich and vibrant history at Oberlin College and Conservatory and across the community—a history that has influenced organ building throughout the United States. For more than 125 years, Oberlin has been home to numerous high-quality organs large and small. Organs of Oberlin, a new coffee-table book by American pipe organ authority Stephen Schnurr, represents what is surely the most complete look to date of the continuing story of the organ at Oberlin—an exciting historic documentation and commentary of nearly every traceable organ in the town and at the college. Dedicated to the memory of Oberlin alumnus Roy F. Kehl ’58, an accomplished organist, pianist, and archivist of the historic piano producer Steinway & Sons, the book features full-color modern photographs and vintage illustrations, and includes a fore-

word by Oberlin Professor of Organ James David Christie ’75, MM ’77. “Stephen Schnurr has done amazing research on the history of the organs at Oberlin, from the early 19th century through the early 21st century at both the conservatory and in the city,” Christie wrote of the author, whose research is widely published. “This book is a welcome addition to the history of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. It gives a complete view of the development and growth of the organ department through the acquisition of state-of-the-art organs through its history. Stephen Schnurr writes in a style that non-musicians, as well as professionals, will easily understand.” A limited number of books were published; the hardbound edition is produced by Chauncey Park Press. Learn more about ordering the book by contacting Dennis Northway of Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Ill.: 773-764-5003 or 5

Of Note

2012 Concerto Competition winners Paul DeRonne, Rebekah Efthimiou, Zhi Qiao, and Wyatt Underhill (from left).

Concerto Competition Crowns Winners for 2012


Students chosen through the annual Danenberg Honors Recitals performed in Warner Concert Hall over the course of two nights in February. The programs— named in honor of Emil Charles Danenberg, who served for 30 years as a member of the conservatory piano faculty, subsequently as dean of the conservatory, and later as president of the college—showcase the breadth of excellence found in the conservatory. The award-winning solo performers included organist Sang Gil (Travis) Gu ’15 in Mendelssohn’s Sonata III in A Major. Violinist Zou Yu ’13 with accompanist James Howsmon presented Lutoslawski’s episodic Subito. Wyatt Underhill ’13 performed Schoenberg’s Phantasy for Violin, Op. 47 accompanied

Act 1, Scene 2 from her opera Trajectory, featuring vocalists and instrumentalists including Danielle Cheiken ’14, Amanda Dame ’16, Daniel King ’14, Xiang Fang ’14, Yuri Popowycz ’15, Yizhu Mao ’14, Eric Tinkerhess ’13, Matthew Chamberlain ’13, and Caitlin Mehrtens ’15. From the jazz division, a quartet of Matthew Gold ’12, Chase Jackson ’13, Evan Levine ’14, and Ian McColm ’13 presented Jackson’s composition Embers.

Kennedy Center Project Welcomes Oberlin Performers The Conservatory Project, part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, provides a platform for the best musicians from American conservatories and introduces the next generation of performers to Washington, D.C., audiences. Oberlin has presented free concerts on the Kennedy Center’s Conservatory Project series every year since its inception in 2004.

Participants in the Kennedy Center Conservatory Project: Wyatt Underhill, Benjamin Roidl-Ward, Zou Yu, Jesse McCandless, and Gregory Wang (back row, from left). Front row: Timothy Daniels and Joseph Hauer.


Four students were honored in the annual Conservatory Concerto Competition, which took place in Finney Chapel in October. Those awarded performance dates with Oberlin’s orchestras were harpist Rebekah Efthimiou ’13, from Delhi, N.Y.; pianist Zhi Qiao ’13, from Anyang, China; clarinetist Paul DeRonne ’13, from Elmhurst, Ill.; and violinist Wyatt Underhill ’13, from Elm Grove, Wis. The Concerto Competition is open to conservatory seniors and Artist Diploma students. Efthimiou performed the Ginastera Harp Concerto, Qiao played Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, DeRonne joined the Chamber Orchestra in Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, and Underhill finished the large ensemble season with Berg’s Violin Concerto in concert with the Oberlin Orchestra.

Danenberg Honorees Perform in February

by pianist Gregory Wang ’13. Wang also offered the third movement of Stravinsky’s Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka. Alison Lee ’13 performed the outer movements of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 6 in A Major. Double-degree baritone Aaron Keeney ’14 sang Ibert’s Quatre Chansons de Don Quichotte accompanied by Casey Robards. Sean Dowgray ’13 performed She Who Sleeps With a Small Blanket by Kevin Volans for solo percussion. Ensembles representing several conservatory departments also performed. A string quartet with violinists Mari-Liis Uibo and Zou Yu, violist Aaron Mossburg ’13, and cellist Iva Casian-Lakos ’13 played Vasks’ String Quartet No. 4. The historicalperformance ensemble of Nathan Giglierano ’13, Juliana Soltis ’16, Justin MurphyMancini ’13, and Alana Youssefian ’14 presented Furcheim’s Sonata in E Minor on baroque instruments. Composition major Yuxin Ouyang ’13 presented

The program this year featured seven students performing 20th-century works. Several of them had also been selected for the Danenberg Honors Recitals and reprised their performances for the Washington concert. Violinist Zou Yu ’13 opened the evening with Lutoslawski’s Subito, accompanied by pianist Joseph Hauer ’14. Pianist Gregory Wang ’13 followed with Igor Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka. Wyatt Underhill ’13, violin, joined Wang for Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone Phantasy for Violin, Op. 47. The concert concluded with Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon, with Timothy Daniels ’15, oboe; Jesse McCandless ’15, clarinet; and Benjamin RoidlWard ’15, bassoon.


Oberlin Bassist Drinks in Success The Thirstbusters, a pop-rock band featuring bass player and Oberlin jazz studies major Chase Jackson ’13, performed their latest single, “Bad Bad Girl,” on the hit CW Network prime-time series 90210 in February. They also received a prestigious Independent OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

Curtain call: Lisa Goode Crawford (seated left, at harpsichord) and her featured soloists bring down the palace.

Tragedy’s Happy Ending By Erich Burnett

The project that has consumed Lisa Goode Crawford’s life for the past three years began with a simple desire for something to do in retirement. It could result in a groundbreaking change in the way music historians view the contributions of an 18th-century French composer. An emerita professor of harpsichord, Crawford has long been a scholar of Joseph-NicolasPancrace Royer, who is well known for his harpsichord works but whose operas never escaped the shadow of his contemporary, Jean-Philippe Rameau. “This is a composer I’ve been interested in for a very long time,” says Crawford, who divides her time between residences in Oberlin and Paris. In particular, she’s been interested in Royer’s underappreciated 1730 tragic opera Pyrrhus, which he wrote in his twenties, before King Louis XV made other demands of his time. The tale of an ill-fated romance involving the son of Achilles, Pyrrhus

is written in the same style as Rameau’s much more celebrated work, Hippolyte et Aricie. “It’s fascinating because it was written three years before Rameau’s first opera, which absolutely revolutionized French opera,” says Crawford. So she established a twofold mission: to develop a scholarly edition of Pyrrhus, and to produce a concert performance of the work—the first of its kind in nearly 300 years. To direct it, she teamed up with Michael Greenberg, a Canadian musicologist and performer living in Paris. The project took wing in 2010 when Crawford earned a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship, which she supplemented with a Kickstarter campaign to ensure that all of her 30 or so performers could be paid. In September 2012, those performers came together for a critically acclaimed staging of Pyrrhus at the Palace of Versailles. “It was so exciting to hear the music come to life when you’ve

just been looking at it in libraries,” says Crawford. The event was captured by the French label Alpha, which plans to issue a recording in the near future. With a grand performance behind her, Crawford has set about the nuanced task of completing the critical edition: an authoritative text that includes a wealth of supplemental research—including information on the work’s relative importance—with the goal of aiding performers in making informed decisions about the music’s interpretation. “The critical edition is a huge project with enormous amounts of detail,” says Crawford. “It’s like detective work, and it can be very exciting when you discover something new or puzzle something out by studying the sources.” As for Detective Crawford’s next adventure? So far, she’s certain only that she’ll never undertake another project so expansive as this one. n 7

Of Note

Music Award nomination in the Rock/Hard Rock category for their other fan favorite, “Finders Keepers,” off their second album, Caught Between. Hear the band at

The Con Gets Social By Will Roane ’12 Social Media Coordinator The conservatory’s social media presence evolved from fledgling experiment to essential reading over the past year, offering new ways to deliver Oberlin’s daily happenings to Obies and their admirers

all over the world. Whether you wake up in Dascomb or Denmark, it’s now easier than ever to stay connected to this hotbed of tradition and innovation, and the people who make the music happen. Using myriad apps, features, and other implements of brilliance, we’ve stayed true to Oberlin’s spirit by embracing countless ways to tell the stories unfolding every day on campus via accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Our mission is to highlight the defining aspects and energy of the conservatory that captured our attention in the first place—everything

from master classes and concerts by our worldrenowned faculty and guest artists to witty posters for junior recitals. In January, we offered a backstage pass to our 2013 Illumination Tour of New York City, as five ensembles made up of students, alumni, and faculty performed in renowned venues ranging from Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola to Carnegie Hall. In March, we began our coverage of that quintessential conservatory experience, Senior Recital Season, highlighting the incredible growth of our students.

In April, we introduced Oberlin’s first-ever #obie twitterview, offering a new way for students and alumni to interact and discuss the changing face of the music business—all while bringing additional listeners into the conversation online. What will the future bring? Sign in and stay tuned. The possibilities are endless. oberlinconservatory @oberlincon




The Grand Piano Extravaganza at Finney Chapel is a perennial highlight of Commencement and Reunion Weekend. PIctured at the May 2013 festivities are conservatory faculty members Haewon Song, Angela Cheng, Alvin Chow, Sanford Margolis, Monique Duphil, Andrea McAlister, Robert Shannon, and James Howsmon (from rear left). Conducting is Peter Takács.

Oberlin Output Recently released by alumni and faculty...

DARRETT ADKINS ‘91 Hypersuite 2: Music for Solo Cello Oberlin Music Released in March, the latest album from the Oberlin associate professor of cello is part of a multiyear recording project that explores the connections and influences of Bach’s cello suites with the music of our time. The recordings are being issued as separate CDs corresponding to the six Bach cello suites. Adkins is currently scheduling eveninglength concerts, each featuring one suite and fusing together major works of contemporary masters as well as lesser known composers.

Richard Hawkins and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Timothy Weiss, conductor A place toward other places Oberlin Music The Oberlin associate professor of clarinet joined forces with the Contemporary Music Ensemble to release their debut recording for Oberlin Music at their DiMenna Center concert in New York City, part of Oberlin’s January 2013 Illumination Tour. Titled A place toward other places, the album brings together four American works written during the last quartercentury by four generations of composers.

Oberlin Music releases can be purchased online at www2. and are available for download through iTunes.

eighth blackbird trembling air Bridge Records

Steven Doane ‘73 Rachmaninoff Bridge Records

Josh Rzepka ‘06 Into the Night CDBY

The latest from Oberlin’s Grammywinning ensemble was made in conjunction with composer Benjamin Broening. Employing extended techniques such as bowed cymbals and sul ponticello bowing, the acoustic sextet is colored with hazy electronics for a set of texturally driven music that in some cases reflects changing processes of the natural world and in others acts as a response to older musical forms and compositions. The CD is available on Amazon and bridgerecords. com.

Rachmaninoff features “highly detailed and passionate performances by cellist Steven Doane and pianist Barry Snyder, two under-hyped yet excellent stalwarts of the national chambermusic scene,” according to Time Out New York. The album presents the composer’s rarely programmed chamber music, including his Cello Sonata in G Minor and the Étudestableaux, Op. 39 for solo piano. It’s available on Amazon.

Rzepka’s second album of original jazz compositions features the talents of pianist Jack Warren, faculty jazz bassist Peter Dominguez, drummer Ron Godale, and trombonist Andy Hunter ’01. Recorded in Clonick Hall, Into the Night has received significant national radio exposure, reaching No. 9 on the Jazzweek chart and No. 5 on CMJ Jazz, with airplay in every major market in the country. It’s available on Amazon and CD Baby.

Rebel Georg Philipp Telemann, Sonate à Cinque & Quattro, Quintets & Quartets for Strings, Flute & Continuo Dorian Sono Luminus Hailed as “sophisticated and beguiling” by the New York Times, Rebel features Oberlin alumni Risa Browder ‘85 and John Moran ‘85. The New York-based baroque ensemble is led by director/ violinist Jörg-Michael Schwarz. Rebel’s fifth release with Dorian Sono Luminus, Georg Philipp Telemann is available on presto

Jennifer Koh ‘97 Bach & Beyond, Part 1 Cedille Koh’s new album is a demonstration of “the violinist’s ability to tackle the most technically difficult and melodically tangled music with clarity and ease,” according to The Contrapuntist. It’s the first of a three-part series presenting a historical journey of three solo violin recitals, beginning with the Six Sonatas and Partitas by Bach, and linking them to contemporary composers by the commissioning of new works. The CD is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Caitlin Marie Bell ‘10 Blood and the Water Caitlin Marie Bell Released on May 3, Bell’s debut album consists of original music and arrangements of traditional folk songs, and features fellow Oberlin alums Daniel Stein ’11 on double bass and Austin Vaughn ’11 on percussion. The album came out shortly after a tour of the Irish countryside, where Bell was invited to perform at the Gealach Gorm Singer/ Songwriter Festival. Blood and the Water is available on iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon, and can be previewed on Bandcamp and Spotify.

7 9

Of Note

Student Accolades Honors and awards from 2012-13 Gregory Wang ’13 and Chelsea de Souza ’15, piano students of Peter Takács, both took prizes at competitions this academic year. Wang won an impressive second prize at the 2013 Music Teachers National Association Young Artist National Competition in Anaheim, Calif. De Souza won first prize at Akron’s Tuesday Musical Association Scholarship Competition, a state-level award known as the Marguerite Thomas and Gertrude Lancaster Scholarship for Piano. • Pianist Lishan Xue ’15 won second prize at the 40th National Arts Piano Competition in Midland, Texas, in January. Last fall she traveled to Venezuela to perform with the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra under the direction of José Antonio Abreu in Caracas. The concert was held in Simón Bolivar Hall and organized and presented by the Fundación Musical Simón Bolivar, commonly known as “El Sistema.” • Katelyn Emerson ‘15 was one of three winners of the North American Round of the Mikael Tariverdiev International Organ Competition, which took place at the University of Kansas at Lawrence in April. Katelyn received a stipend to cover her travel to the finals of the competition in Kaliningrad, Russia, to be held in September 2013. • All of Oberlin’s organ majors who competed this spring in the American Guild of Organists (AGO)/Quimby Regional Competitions for Young Organists took first prize in their chapter-level competitions. They will compete this summer in their AGO regional competitions. Congratulations go to Jennifer Bower ‘14 (St. Louis 10

Chapter), Nick Capozzoli ‘15 (Pittsburgh), Alcee Chriss ‘15 (Dallas), Jillian Gardner ‘15 (Buffalo), Jennifer McPherson MM ‘15 (Boston), Mitchell Miller ‘16 (Cleveland), Justin MurphyMancini ‘13 (Hartford), and Jessica Park ‘14 (Minneapolis/St. Paul). • Soprano Emily Peragine ’14 performed the role of Mabel in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance in March 2013 with the Glacier Symphony and Chorale in Kalispell, Mont. • Eli Stine ’14, a TIMARA and computer science doubledegree student with a minor in music composition, submitted his work, Life, to the 60x60 Voice project, which was created for the International Sound Art Festival in Berlin. His piece was chosen for the concert, which took place in October 2012 at the Mitte Museum in Berlin. Stine’s new commission from the Akropolis Reed Quintet was premiered on May 17 in Detroit as part of the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings concert season. To round out a stellar year, Stine was selected for an artist residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida. He spent three weeks in May composing and studying with electroacoustic composer Judith Shatin. • TIMARA major Paulus Van Horne ’16 was selected as one of four composers for the 2013 Young & Emerging Electronic Music performance with Verb Ballets and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. Young composers and students throughout Ohio submitted original electronic works to be considered for inclusion; once the four compositions were selected, Verb Ballets choreog-

raphers were assigned to craft companion dance pieces to the chosen works. Van Horne’s piece started out merely as an experiment with FM synthesis, but once he started time stretching and manipulating shifting polyrhythms, the experiment turned into a fully-realized composition with changing, varying speeds— allowing freedom and flexibility in tempo rates for the dancers and choreographers to follow. The performances were held in March at Cleveland Public Theatre. • Violists Aaron Mossburg ’13 and Daniel Orsen ’16 both won their divisions at the 2013 American String Teachers Association National Solo Competition, sweeping the viola category. The final round was held in April at the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Hall in New York City. Oberlin was the only conservatory to have finalists in two divisions. Mossburg (in the senior division) and Orsen (junior division) were each among three viola finalists. Orsen and Mossburg are both students of Peter Slowik. • Justin Murphy-Mancini ’13 (BA in philosophy, BMUS degrees in composition and organ performance, and a MM in historical performance ‘14) is this year’s Oberlin recipient of the Theodore Presser Graduate Music Award, which provides funds for an ambitious summer project. He will study organ, harpsichord, and composition with a variety of wellknown composers, both privately in England and Germany, and at the prestigious Schloss Solitude Summer Academy near Stuttgart, Germany. A further aspect of this project involves a performance tour in the Netherlands

with fellow composer and pianist Eugene Kim ‘12. At Oberlin, Murphy-Mancini studies composition with Joshua Levine, organ with James David Christie, and harpsichord with Webb Wiggins. • Rachel Grandstrand ’13 and Asher Butnik ’13 traveled to Cincinnati with Jennifer Fraser, conservatory associate professor of ethnomusicology and anthropology, in April to present papers at the Midwest Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology conference. Presenters included renowned faculty, independent scholars, graduate students, and a select few undergraduates. Grandstrand, a cello and music history double major, presented a version of her music history honors project, “The Performance and Perception of Identities in Country-Rap Music,” on the sociological reading of countryrap and the ways in which the subgenre negotiates and incorporates concepts of “authenticity” and “genre” as related to country and hip-hop music. Butnik, a double major in gender, sexuality, and feminist studies and musical studies with a concentration in ethnomusicology, focused on the uses of queer theory and Peircean semiotics, or theory of signs, to read several popular hits. This was a version of his senior capstone project “Heard and Not Seen: The Child in Euro-American Pop Music.” The event was an impressive feat by both, being accepted as undergraduates among professionals in the field. Both received excellent feedback from senior colleagues at the conference, and Butnik’s experience solidified his interest in pursuing graduate study.

Annual Conservatory of Music Honors & Awards Students’ names appear followed by their major field of study. The Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts Awarded to a graduating senior who has performed with uncommon distinction in music performance: Gregory Wang ’13 (Piano Performance) The Walter E. Aschaffenburg Prize Awarded to a graduating senior for outstanding music composition: Yuxin Ouyang ’13 (Composition) The Ruth Cogan Memorial Scholarship in Vocal Performance Awarded to outstanding voice majors who have dedicated significant time to the Otto B. Schoepfle Vocal Arts Center: Robert McGinness ’13 (Voice Performance) The Arthur Dann Senior Piano Competition Awarded to the winner of this juried

competition for excellence in piano performance: Shihui Yin ’14 (Piano Performance) The John Elvin Piano Prize Awarded to a student judged by the piano department to be the most talented in the junior class: Joseph Hauer ’14 (Piano Performance) The Louis and Marguerite Bloomberg Greenwood Prize Awarded to a graduating student excelling in cello, piano, violin, or voice: Marguerite Jones ’13 (Voice Performance) The James H. Hall Prize in Music History Awarded to a graduating senior for excellence in work in musicology: Rachel Grandstrand ’13 (Cello Performance and Music History) The Selby Harlan Houston Prize Awarded to a graduating senior whose performance in organ and music theory is of distinguished quality: Wesley Hall ’13 (Organ Performance and Historical Keyboard Instrument Performance, Master of Music in Historical Performance)

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

The Faustina Hurlbutt Prize Awarded to an outstanding graduating student in cello, piano, violin, or voice: Wyatt Underhill ’13 (Violin Performance) The Louis and Annette Kaufman Prize in Piano Awarded to a piano student showing the most progress in chamber music: Joseph Hauer ’14 (Piano Performance) The Louis and Annette Kaufman Prize in Violin Awarded to an outstanding student of violin: Wyatt Underhill ’13 (Violin Performance) The Carol Nott Piano Pedagogy Prize Awarded to an outstanding graduating senior for continued study in piano pedagogy: Shuyi Guan ’13 (Piano Performance) The Pi Kappa Lambda Prize for Musicianship Awarded to a student judged to be the most outstanding of those elected to Pi Kappa Lambda: Alexa Ciciretti ’13 (Cello Performance) and Wyatt Underhill ‘13 (Violin Performance)

The Theodore Presser Graduate Music Award Awarded to an outstanding returning graduate student for the furtherance of his musical education and career: Justin Murphy-Mancini ’13 (Organ Performance, Composition, and Philosophy, returning with Master of Music in Historical Keyboard Instrument Performance) The Theodore Presser Undergraduate Scholarship Awarded to an outstanding returning double-degree student for excellence in musicianship and liberal arts study: Aaron Keeney ’14 (Voice Performance and Chemistry) The Earl L. Russell Award in Historical Performance Awarded to a worthy student majoring in Historical Performance to assist with the purchase of a musical instrument: Justin Murphy-Mancini ’13 (Organ Performance, Composition, and Philosophy, returning with Master of Music in Historical Keyboard Instrument Performance)

The Rudolf Serkin Scholarship Awarded to a student demonstrating excellence in piano performance: Wei (Amy) Shi ’14 (Piano Performance) The Margot Bos Stambler ‘84 Professional Development Award Awarded to an outstanding voice major of great promise to enhance career opportunities: Robert McGinness ’13 (Voice Performance) The James “Jimmy” Stamp Award Awarded to the most improved trumpet player: John Davison ’13 (Trumpet Performance) The Ernest Hatch Wilkins Memorial Prize Awarded to a returning student who has demonstrated academic excellence in the three preceding years: Carrie Frey ’14 (Viola Performance) The Conservatory Initiative Grants Supporting Imagination and Excellence (CIGSIE) Carrie J. Frey ’14 (Viola Performance), Myra A. Hinrichs ’13

(Violin Performance and Mathematics), Caroline E. Little ’15 (Flute Performance), Helen P. Newby ’13 (Cello Performance), and Crispin P. Swank ’14 (Classical Guitar Performance) The Avedis Zildjian Conservatory Percussion Award Awarded to a continuing percussion major in recognition of outstanding performance skills: Benjamin Rempel ’15 (Percussion Performance) Piano Faculty Prize in Accompanying Awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated excellence in accompanying singers and instrumentalists: Ann Schaefer ’13 (Piano Performance) 2013 Phi Beta Kappa Society Initiates Zeta Chapter of Ohio, Oberlin College Conservatory doubledegree students Julia Chen (Psychology and Jazz Piano), Charles Colwell (Biology and Cello), Matthew Gold (Jazz Guitar and History), and Luke Lovett (TIMARA and Computer Science)


The Manhattan Project Oberlin Conservatory’s Illumination Tour lit up New York City in January 2013

The view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline from the stage at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, where the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble launched the Illumination Tour with a pair of shows on January 15. 12

Dizzy’s Club January 15, 2013

Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble



1. Paul Samuels grew up in suburban Cleveland and honed his craft under fellow ensemble percussionist Billy Hart (bottom right). 2. Bassist Peter Dominguez is at home in both jazz and classical settings. 3. Gary Bartz, Sean Jones, and Robin Eubanks (from left) hold down the horn section.

cool breeze emanated FROM

the lounge of Jazz at Lincoln Center on opening night of Oberlin’s Illumination Tour. Amid the intimate confines of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble roared through a pair of sets, the Manhattan skyline grandly looming over their shoulders. Standards shared air space with original compositions by the conservatory’s vaunted faculty—a stellar cast that boasts Grammy nods and stages shared with jazz’s all-time great performers. “It always feels like a holiday when we’re all together, because it doesn’t happen often,” says guitarist Bobby Ferrazza, an associate professor and director of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Department. “With so many people that are performing regularly all over the planet, it’s a rare event that everyone is able to be in the same zip code.” Together, they struck a buoyant chord that set the tone for the Illumination magic that followed throughout the week in venues across Manhattan. 14






4. Oberlin’s jazz faculty revel in their role as educators, but relish opportunities to cut loose onstage together too. Pictured above (from left) are Dan Wall (piano), Jay Ashby (trombone), Gary Bartz (saxophone), Sean Jones (trumpet), and Bobby Ferrazza (guitar). 5. Billy Hart cut his teeth in 1970s New York City, playing with legends like Herbie Hancock and Stan Getz.


DiMenna Center January 18, 2013

Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble with ICE

The Contemporary Music Ensemble collaborated with ICE on Lament for Réjà Vu. The piece's composer, Professor Tom Lopez ’88, accompanied the performance with video and real-time audio processing. 16


c laire Chase ’01 stood firm

on the stage as she began a heated alto flute conversation with Professor Alexa Still. The two seemed to be taking turns excitedly telling a story, sometimes appearing to tangle as if in slight disagreement over the details. The 2010 composition, Altar of Two Serpents, by Mario Diaz de Leon ’04, was the apt, attention-grabbing opening piece of a sparkling night of sometimes bracing, entirely intriguing contemporary music that paired the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)—co-founded by Chase in 2001 and conducted by Professor

DiMenna Center January 18, 2013


1. 1. Oberlin Conservatory Professor Alexa Still (left) performs Altar of Two Serpents with ICE co-founder Claire Chase. 2. Chase shares a moment backstage with

avant-garde composer John Zorn, who wrote The Tempest for ICE. 3. Featured vocalist Nicole Levesque (left) performs Lament for Réjà Vu with the Contemporary Music Ensemble and ICE.


clarinet, and drums composed for ICE by John Zorn. Interest had built to a crescendo during the week leading up to the 8 p.m. Friday concert, and a second show, at 10 p.m., was added to satisfy the demand. In Lament for Réjà Vu, by Tom Lopez ’88, an associate professor of computer music

and digital arts at Oberlin, the composer accompanied members of CME with video and real-time audio processing on his laptop computer. His intent was to express the opposite of déjà vu: Rather than the feeling of something having happened before, “réjà vu” is the sense that something will happen again. For alphabeta, Visiting Assistant Professor of Composition Eric

Wubbels assigned notes to percussion instruments that he matched with piano chords in a piece, performed by Oberlin students and alumni, built on what he calls “extremely abstracted” metaphors of song, speech, and music. Corale, by Italian composer Luciano Berio, featured


Timothy Weiss—and Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME) on the stage of Mary Flagler Cary Hall at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. The concert showcased the exuberant work of the two ensembles and a number of composers with connections to Oberlin, along with the world premiere of The Tempest, a piece for flute,




4. Professor Timothy Weiss leads the Contemporary Music Ensemble in a performance of David Lang's sweet air.

5. Violinist David Bowlin, a founding member of ICE and assistant professor at Oberlin, was

violinist David Bowlin ’00, a founding member of ICE and an assistant professor at Oberlin, performing with members of CME. In composing Compline, also presented by members of CME, Christopher Rouse ’71 was inspired by his tour of Rome; in the piece, as in Rome, says Rouse, “the sound of bells is never far away.” Though the title sweet air refers to the laughing gas a

featured with CME in Luciano Berio’s Corale. The New York Times called it an “alluring performance,” and Bowlin

was praised as a “brilliant violin soloist, traversing his complicated part with ferocious intensity.”

dentist gave to the son of Oberlin composer-in-residence David Lang, the piece was a birthday present to his onetime teacher, Louis Andriessen, whom Lang said always forbid crescendos in his students’ compositions. “You’ll notice,” said Lang when he introduced the piece, performed by members of CME, “it has a crescendo.” n —Jeff Hagan ’86


Brick Church January 19, 2013

Oberlin College Choir and Oberlin Baroque

W WHEN k ate Shuldiner WASN’T






performing with Oberlin Baroque and the Oberlin College Choir, she was probably back in her hotel room, retuning her temperamental, 200-year-old viola da gamba or snoozing while her fellow musicians soaked in the sights of New York. “It was a big performance for me, so it was a little bit nerve-wracking,” says the senior from Chicago (pictured, right). But on the afternoon of January 19, Shuldiner’s singular focus paid off in a stunning rendition of Bach’s Sonata in G Minor, part of an exemplary performance by both ensembles. “Being baroque musicians in this day and age can be a tough thing, because we don’t get that many opportunities to play,” says Shuldiner, who seems to be making her way just fine: She’s already lined up a series of post-graduation performances in her hometown.





1. Composed of students from both college and conservatory, the Oberlin College Choir sang selections spanning the 16th through 21st centuries. 2. Kate Shuldiner performed Bach’s Sonata in G Minor with harpsichordist Wesley Hall. 3. Oberlin Baroque opened the performance with a concerto by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier. 4. Assistant Professor Jason Harris led the Oberlin College Choir. 5. Justin MurphyMancini played a solo piece for harpsichord by Pierre du Mage.


Carnegie Hall Oberlin Orchestra with January 19, 2013 Jeremy Denk,’90, piano

Oberlin Orchestra with Jeremy Denk ’90



“Do we have a good quote from a review of this? Or maybe a quote from one of the kids describing what it feels like to play in Carnegie Hall?”



the Oberlin Orchestra’s engagement at Carnegie Hall opened with La Valse, Maurice Ravel’s 1920 ode to the waltz. “I purposely selected a repertoire that was going to make very clear the artistic level of our students,” says Conductor Raphael Jiménez. A flawless La Valse was followed by Piano Concerto in C Major K. 467 by Mozart, Iscariot 2013


Carnegie Hall January 19, 2013





by Christopher Rouse ’71, and The Firebird by Stravinsky—another challenging work that, like La Valse, made its U.S. premiere at Carnegie Hall a century ago. In the weeks leading up to the tour, the performers toiled feverishly amid the slumber of winter term, rehearsing daily—and then twice a day—until nerves were supplanted by certainty in the mission that lay ahead, till at last they were ready for the world’s grandest stage. “You don’t have to believe in miracles,” Jiménez recalls telling them moments before the first notes were struck. “We only do this one more time. It’s time to celebrate.” n



5. 1.

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

1. “It was a huge responsibility,” says Conductor Raphael Jiménez (right). “Everybody understood that, and the students rose to the occasion.” 2. Oberlin President Marvin Krislov (center) visits with Tony Award-winner Nelle Nugent and husband Jolyon Stern ’61, whose contributions made the tour possible. 3. Prior to the concert, Dean David H.Stull ’89

accepted an award presented by Steinway & Sons, commemorating the famed piano maker's 135-year relationship with Oberlin—longer than any other institution in the world. 4. An enthusiastic audience of alumni and friends of Oberlin packed Carnegie Hall for the orchestra’s performance. 5. Pianist Jeremy Denk ’90 rehearses the Mozart concerto with the orchestra.


A Golden Age for Oberlin

Dean David H. Stull’s tenure has been marked by great achievements—and great love for his alma mater By Erich Burnett Photographs by Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

26 00


Under David Stull’s leadership, the conservatory christened the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building in 2010, at last uniting the worlds of jazz and classical music on campus. 2013


David Stull’s most enduring memory at the helm of the Oberlin Conservatory actually started with a twinge of terror.

On sabbatical during the fall of 2009, the recreational pilot had just lifted his Cessna Skylane above the northeast Ohio landscape, en route to a visit with schoolchildren half a country away. Prior to takeoff, Stull’s longtime assistant back in Oberlin assured him that she wouldn’t call unless there was a grave emergency. Then a few minutes later, she did exactly that. “I need to talk to you,” his assistant, Greta Williams, said nervously. Stull returned the plane to earth and dialed her back. “I said, ‘What’s up?’ And she said, ‘Well, the White House called…’” For the next four months, Dean Stull was sworn to secrecy: Oberlin had been awarded the National Medal of Arts— an almost unheard-of gesture for an institution of any kind, and a resounding note of validation for Stull’s achievements in his first five years on the job. “This will rank as one of the golden ages of the conservatory,” says Steven Plank, a professor of musicology. “David is visionary in a way that asks how a conservatory of the 21st century needs to be different from one of the 20th century. He’s a 28

great steward of what this conservatory has been, but he also prompts us to think imaginatively about what it can be.” Beginning in July, Stull will assume the role of president at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, taking with him more than 17 years of Oberlin experience as both student and administrator. He has said repeatedly that Oberlin will always be his home, and the conservatory family he leaves behind will be forever grateful for the academic home he established here. To Stull, they were the lifeblood of a world-class institution; and to them, he was the gregarious leader who ensured that every voice would be heard.

New Levels of Greatness Perhaps the FINest compli-

ment that can be made of David Stull’s tenure is this: Talk about his legacy with any number of faculty and friends of the conservatory, and you’ll get a recitation of defining moments that runs longer than a Mahler symphony. He excelled at elevating Oberlin’s international status, at securing gifts and funding for a wide range of initiatives, at giving life to his fac-

ulty’s dreams, and at ensuring that the conservatory’s students earned opportunities to play on the world’s finest stages. “David Stull’s vision, drive, and acumen have elevated the conservatory’s already lofty reputation to new heights,” says Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov. And Stull wasted no time in getting started. When the conservatory found itself in need of a new dean early in 2004, it also found little reason to look beyond the office of its associate dean at the time: 1989 graduate David Stull. In four years on the job, he had earned such admiration that those who were charged with finding the next head of the conservatory were certain their leader was already among them. “The most telling thing was not that they promoted David from within, but that there was no search,” says Plank, who has been teaching at Oberlin since before Stull’s days as a tuba-playing student. “There was thinking among the faculty that we could do a search, but why bother?” To the surprise of no one, the new dean hit the ground at a full sprint.

“Working with the faculty to recognize how wonderful we are was job one,” Stull remembers. “One of the initial conversations we had was how we planned to present our program to the world and whether we were truly willing to own the things that are the strengths we have: the fact we’re attached to a robust liberal arts college, that we serve undergraduates, and that we’re in the middle of the lovely wilds of northern Ohio.” This, to Stull, represented Oberlin’s opportunity to present the conservatory as the way to teach music education, as opposed to it merely being one way. Just as quickly as Stull set about solidifying the conservatory’s identity, he turned his attention to its renowned jazz program and the decrepit gymnasium it had called home for years. “We needed to bring jazz into the center of the conservatory,” he recalls thinking. “There really wasn’t another project we could imagine until we dealt with that.” What resulted was the most visible achievement of his tenure: the $24 million Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, an architecturally stunning,

“David Stull’s vision, drive, and acumen have elevated the conservatory’s already lofty reputation to new heights.” —Oberlin President Marvin Krislov

“Great administrators are those who advocate not for their own interests, but equally for all interests. And that’s what David has done.” —Professor Timothy Weiss

state-of-the-art facility that united the conservatory’s key pillars at the center of campus. A project years in the making, it was dedicated in 2010 to great fanfare, including visits from Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby. “He’s a big thinker, and he brought a big vision for how you could take an institution that is already recognized as being one of the best in the world at what it does, and still have incredible ideas for how to take it forward,” says Oberlin Trustee Stewart Kohl ’77, CEO of a private equity firm who, with his wife, Donna, was the key contributor who made the Kohl Building possible. Among Stull’s innumerable other contributions: He led student tours across the country and to China, exalting the Oberlin Orchestra as well as the conservatory’s other world-class ensembles. He established a commercial record label, Oberlin Music, to showcase the work of students and faculty. He developed key relationships and funding sources that have resulted not only in new construction and sweeping renovations on campus, but also in new programs, new professorships, and new collections dedicated to enhancing the learning experience. Through Stull’s great effort, the conservatory ushered in the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the annual Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, and the wildly successful Creativity & Leadership project, which encourages Oberlin students to tap into their entrepreneurial instincts. OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

“David’s energy and his enthusiasm are contagious,” says Thomas Cooper ’78, a partner for an international finance group and an Oberlin trustee. Cooper and his wife, Evon, felt that same enthusiasm five years ago when Stull approached them with an opportunity to sponsor a piano and violin competition for teens. In addition to a grand prize of $10,000, finalists would perform with the renowned Cleveland Orchestra. “If we could get that going, it would be unique,” Stull told Cooper. “I said, ‘Unique, huh?’” And with that, the Cooper Competition was born.

An Advocate for Everyone “If you walked down the

hallway and asked any faculty member what our vision is, you would always get some version of ‘excellence.’ And that all comes back to David,” says Associate Dean Andrea Kalyn, who will serve as interim dean during the search for Stull’s successor. From his first days in the dean’s chair, Stull earned the respect and admiration of faculty through his great passion for their endeavors and his attentive ear to their concerns. It’s a theme that has carried through to his final days on campus. “David has been an amazing leader for the conservatory in every way that a leader should lead,” says Professor Timothy Weiss, director of conducting and ensembles. “He’s raised the profile of the school—not only made us better, but told the world we are the best. That translates to better recruiting, better students,

a better program, and ultimately a better school. “But he’s also given the faculty a sense of direction, to where we all feel we’re working with a purpose. He’s had an open door, so that everyone in the building feels comfortable walking in and talking about their ideas, concerns, and projects they want to initiate. He’s not only been a good listener, but he’s a great advocate for every program.” Nowhere was that more evident than in the conservatory’s January 2013 Illumination Tour of New York City, which featured performances by the Oberlin Orchestra, the Contemporary Music Ensemble, Oberlin Baroque, the Oberlin College Choir, the Faculty Jazz Ensemble, and an all-star lineup of alumni. “Great administrators are those who advocate not for their own interests, but equally for all interests,” Weiss says. “And that’s what David has done.” “It’s been so easy for us to come to work and do what we do best, and that’s teach,” says Professor James David Christie ’75, MM ’77 chair of the organ department. “He loves this place so much. Everything he’s done was intended to make this the best conservatory in the United States, and I believe he’s succeeded.”

A Legacy of Inspiration For four excruciatingly

giddy months, David Stull knew his conservatory had won the National Medal of Arts, yet he was forbidden to mention it until President Obama went public with the news.

Finally, on February 24, 2010, that day had come. Scheduled for an afternoon flight to Washington to accept the award, Stull insisted his faculty and staff not be blindsided by the news secondhand. And so he convened an emergency meeting to be held in Warner Concert Hall. “Everyone was panicked,” Stull recalls with a satisfied smile. “We had never had an emergency meeting—in fact, we usually end up canceling most of our faculty meetings.” Fears of the unknown mixed with an uneasy sense of certainty: Either drastic budget cuts were looming, or Stull was leaving. “They were taking bets!” he says. As the dean launched into a round of It’s been a pleasure to serve you filibustering, an acoustical baffle behind him began its labored descent to the stage floor. Minutes later, as tensions rose to a crescendo and the panel finally disappeared, a table came into view—covered with glasses of champagne. Bursts of laughter gave way to joyful tears, and then to a round of applause. Three years later, the unthinkable has come to pass: David Stull is leaving, but not without first helping the world to see the great heights Oberlin can achieve. “It’s hard to imagine the place without him,” says Plank. “The fact we can do that speaks to the way that he’s nurtured this place. He’s made it a very dynamic place, and because of that we are prepared to move ahead. He’s given us the model to inspire the effort.” n 31

The Selch Connection A major collection of instruments and artifacts bolsters the study of American music history By Jessica Downs ’10 Photographs by Dale Preston ’83

Assistant Professor James O’Leary discusses a 16th-century manuscript from the Selch Collection at an event on campus in September 2012. 33



A Stunning Learning Space An accomplished publisher and creator of early television commercials, Frederick Selch—known to friends and family as Eric—also nurtured a profound passion for music throughout his life. Along with his wife, he reveled in the thrill of the hunt for unique and often forgotten instruments and seminal books. He earned a PhD in American studies from New York University, helped found the American Musical Instrument Society, and created an ensemble of professional and amateur players known as the Federal Music Society. Through it all,

Sketch and manuscript description of double bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) by Joseph Gear, 1815. Top: 20th-century baroquestyle violin and bow created by a Tarahumara Indian of northern Mexico.

he demonstrated a remarkable desire to share his collection, his knowledge, and his enthusiasm with others. Today, that passion is evident in the Selches’ wide-ranging contributions to the learning environment at Oberlin. The Selch Classroom, on the newly renovated second floor of Bibbins Hall, is a technology-enhanced “smart” classroom that allows networking, audio-visual, and audience-response capabilities. It features towering walnut cabinets, which house a portion of the Selch Collection, and wideplank walnut flooring; custom lighting illuminates the room’s UV-filtered glass cabinet fronts. More than just a beautiful addition to campus, it’s a highly functional one too. “The new Selch Classroom provides dedicated space for dialogue between students, and between students and teachers,” says Professor Steven Plank, chair of Oberlin’s Department of Musicology. “At the same time, it nurtures ongoing dialogue with the artifacts housed there.” The five initial exhibits featured on campus spanned the 16th through 19th centuries. Created by Selch Curator Barbara Lambert, they included instruments—both strange and familiar—and artifacts that provide a fascinating glimpse into the scientific and cultural practices of early America. Installed in the Selch Classroom, the exhibit Beginnings of American Music and Musical Instruments contained a timeline of musical evolution experienced by early American colonists. ▲

Bakwin Selch devoted a lifetime to creating one of the world’s most comprehensive collections chronicling American music history. Now, a decade after the death of her husband, Patricia Selch has ensured that their treasures will illuminate that rich history for future generations at Oberlin and beyond. In September 2012, the Oberlin Conservatory unveiled the Frederick R. Selch Classroom, a technologically superior learning space that represents the final component of an expansive gift made by the Selches—a gift that underscores Oberlin’s position as a key center for the study of American music. Gifted in 2008, the Selch Collection includes some 800 instruments, 9,000 rare books, and a large collection of artworks depicting musical themes. Patricia Selch is also the benefactor of the new Frederick R. Selch Professorship of Musicology, a critical component in the expansion of music studies at Oberlin. “I’m so happy that the collection will be made available in these ways,” says Selch. “People have traditionally gone to places like Oxford to study American music history.

Why go there when now they can come here?” Last fall, the conservatory hosted public and private events in celebration of the Selches’ gift. Five exhibits showcasing key components of the collection were featured across campus throughout the fall semester. “We are enormously grateful to the entire Selch family for their extraordinary generosity to Oberlin,” says David H. Stull ’89, the conservatory dean who orchestrated the donation. “[Frederick] and Pat Selch’s vision for a center for the study of American music history will finally be brought to fruition, and their support will immeasurably advance the study and performance of music at the highest level.”

Patricia Bakwin Selch (second from left) views artifacts displayed in the Kohl Building during fall semester 2012. Top: Junior Joseph Trumbo, a student in the Hands-On Music History class, discusses the exhibit that was created as their final exam. 35

Visitors tour an exhibit on 19th-century music as part of a September 2012 celebration on campus. Top: Patricia Bakwin Selch, pictured in the Kohl Building storage facility with an assortment of her husband’s prized viols. 36

Chronicling a period highly influenced by the Protestant church, it depicted the progression from simple psalms and tones played on pitch pipes to more poetic song-style hymns that were complemented by string and melody instruments. The exhibit’s theme was derived from Selch’s doctoral work at NYU. The objects “captured Eric’s imagination,” says Lambert, pointing out the basic but elegantly carved wooden pitch pipes displayed alongside a 1690s psalm book that is startlingly well preserved. The other four fall-semester exhibits revealed their own fascinating stories. The Musical World of Actress and Abolitionist Fanny Kemble described in portraiture, playbills, and manuscripts the life of a remarkable woman. Born in Britain into a dynasty of major actors, Kemble married American Pierce Butler, heir to cotton, tobacco, and rice plantations worked by hundreds of slaves. Despite Kemble’s enormous popularity as an actress, her true calling was as a writer; her personal journal, which includes firsthand accounts of the slave industry, had a profound influence on British attitudes toward slavery. The exhibition Frederick R. Selch, in the conservatory library, introduced viewers to the collector himself. Among the items on view were photos of Eric and Patricia Selch in their New York City brownstone, along with books hand-bound by the couple. A clarinet by the important early 19th-century maker

William Whiteley, a baroquestyle violin made and played by Tarahumara natives from Mexico, and a “tenor violin” represent significant areas of scholarly work by Selch and important parts of his collection. The science of music was showcased in the Science Center exhibition Musical Instruments and the Harmonic Series. In collaboration with physics professors Bruce Richards and Chris Martin, the exhibit complemented a course on acoustics. The Selch Collection’s central home at Oberlin is found on a workshop-type floor in the belly of the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building. There, a jingling

johnny, cittern, bumbass, and a bass viol shaped like a pumpkin rest among hundreds of other instruments, including those of Native and Central American peoples. Steel engravings, woodcuts, oil paintings, playbills, and programs are among other artifacts and ephemera too numerable to list. Floor-to-ceiling glass display cases at the entrance of the workshop housed the exhibit 19th-Century European and American Music. It was created as a final exam by students in a new course called HandsOn Music History, taught by Lambert and Professor of Musicology Claudia Macdonald. In spring 2013 alone, three classes on campus directly incor-

Bass saxhorn by John F. Stratton (New York), circa 1860. Middle: Clarinet by William Whiteley (New York), circa 1840. Right: Harp-lute guitar by Edward Light (London), circa 1820.

porated the Selch Collection into their curriculum. “Eric was not just a collector,” Patricia Selch said in a 2008 interview with critic Heidi Waleson. “He was very much a scholar, and he built his collection to be used.”

Inheriting the Vision James O’Leary, Oberlin’s newly appointed Frederick R. Selch Assistant Professor of Musicology, boasts an enthusiasm that matches his knowledge of American music history. He likens the collection to “an anthropology of music.” His course, and the way that he guides students’ interaction with the collection, offers extraordinarily deep insight into how music in America not only was performed, but how it was bought and sold, and depicted in art and in other cultural iconography, such as cartoons and music trading cards. O’Leary encourages study not only of the what of music, but also the ways in which people interacted with it and the influences it had on their actions and beliefs. And he marvels at the possibilities for the collection that will continue to emerge over the years. “The potential for using the collection is somewhat unknown at this point,” he says. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving.” n Jessica Downs is former assistant director of conservatory communications. A Juilliard-trained oboist, she earned her master of music in teaching at Oberlin College in 2010. 37

From Hamar to Helsinki Creativity& Leadership grants sprout imaginative winter-term projects By Logan Buckley ’14 Photographs by Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97


Flutist Caroline Little devoted her winter term to advanced instruction in “body mapping� at an academy in Finland.


ive Oberlin Conservatory students

devoted their 2013 winter term to visiting destinations across Europe, where they worked with early music manuscripts, toured as a string trio, and even explored the discipline of “body mapping.” Each trip was made possible through Conservatory Initiative Grants Supporting Imagination and Excellence (CIGSIE), which are offered through Oberlin’s Creativity & Leadership project. CIGSIE grants provide support for students seeking entrepreneurial experiences and aid in developing their professional skills. Every November, a panel of conservatory division directors awards $12,000, with grants of up to $4,000 offered to each student selected from a competitive field. Winning proposals stand out for their quality and imagination—or what Acting Dean Andrea Kalyn refers to as “their articulation of the creative edge.” This year’s winners were Crispin Swank, a junior who studied early music manuscripts in England; a new music trio called Chartreuse, which performed for 10 days throughout Norway; and second-year flutist Caroline Little, who studied body mapping—anatomy as it relates to movement—in Finland. Oberlin’s Creativity & Leadership project was founded to foster entrepreneurship across campus and is funded in part by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In addition to expanding the academic curriculum, Creativity & Leadership helps students develop practical ways to apply what they’ve learned in school. For conservatory students, that means honing skills that working musicians need: everything from connecting with other musicians and booking performances to designing concert programs. These experiences help students join the ranks of Oberlin musicians who are already forging innovative careers out of their visionary ideas, says Kalyn, who cites success stories such as Apollo’s Fire and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Though CIGSIE grants are awarded for winter-term projects, the program continues after participating students return to campus. In February, Chartreuse played its Norwegian program in Warner Concert Hall, and in May, Swank directed a campus performance of early music transcriptions that stem from his work in England. This fall, Creativity & Leadership will emphasize skills in developing programs, designing concerts, and thinking entrepreneurially about musical ventures in advance of the 2014 winter term. Related events will feature a lineup of experts whose insights will help students gain skills needed to successfully deliver their concepts—an integral part of the musical process. As Kalyn puts it: “We start with an idea. The culmination of that idea is connecting with an audience.” n Logan Buckley studies creative writing and politics at Oberlin. He is from Alexandria, Va., and enjoys reading, folk music, and working on vegetable farms. 40

Getting Medieval Crispin Swank, a junior who studies classical guitar and politics, became interested in early music as a result of his experiences singing in Collegium Musicum under the direction of Professor Steven Plank. Swank joined the ensemble his first semester at Oberlin and has since founded his own early music choir, NeumeMusic. During his winter term at the University of York, Swank worked with two professors of musicology to learn about the cultural contexts in which early

music manuscripts were produced. He studied documents in the library of York Minster Cathedral, one of the largest Gothic-style cathedrals in Europe. In the process, he learned some of the sleuthing skills— handwriting analysis, paper study—necessary to glean key information. In addition to analyzing the manuscripts themselves, Swank transcribed several pieces into modern notation—a necessary step to enable performance, since most singers cannot read the notations in which early manuscripts were written. But transcription is not merely a straightforward process of converting notation; it can be more akin to translating poetry, with the transcriber forced to make creative decisions that substantially affect the piece’s final tone.

In preparing his transcriptions, Swank wanted to combine the intentions of a performance edition with a scholarly one—to help musicians be more informed scholars. The project heightened his awareness of the need to understand music’s historical context as a route to inform its performance. It’s a notion Swank compares to an actor studying Elizabethan language conventions in order to better perform a Shakespearean play. “I understand the music on a more visceral level now,” he says.

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013


Hello Tromsø! The string trio Chartreuse devoted winter term to touring Norway with a new music program that included the premiere of Migration Study by Oberlin Assistant Pro-

Chartreuse, on native ground: Myra Hinrichs, Helen Newby, and Carrie Frey (from left).


fessor Peter Swendsen, with whom the three students worked closely in preparation. For 10 days, senior violinist Myra Hinrichs, senior cellist Helen Newby, and junior violist Carrie Frey performed in a variety of settings from Oslo, to Hamar, to Tromsø—and they came away flattered by the

response they received and impressed by the musical IQ of their audiences. (The Norwegian arts scene is rich in part due to government support for artists. It is possible, for example, to live in Norway as a composer without

necessarily needing a teaching job or other means of support. Indeed, the career advice the trio received from many Norwegians was: “First, move to Norway.”) Through their experience, Hinrichs, Newby, and Frey learned firsthand how to work with venues, arrange transportation and

lodging, and coordinate schedules, among other tasks related to organizing a tour. They even recorded their Oslo performance, which can be accessed at http:// chartreuse4tet. They hope to tour again someday, perhaps including a return trip to Norway.

A Different Body of Work Caroline Little had already taken every available course on “body mapping,” a discipline that involves applying an understanding of human anatomy to improve movement, which can be used to work out problems in technique and posture. “It helps you connect to all humans through anatomy,” the secondyear flutist says. Determined to seek additional instruction elsewhere, she applied for a CIGSIE grant and earned the opportunity to study body mapping for two weeks in Finland. At the Sibelius Academy in

Helsinki, she met Liisa Ruoho, a professor of flute renowned for her playing and for her body mapping instruction. While there, Little took multiple lessons each week and spent long hours practicing her technique, often in front of the bathroom mirror. Body mapping has reinforced her plans to teach flute, and she is interested in pursuing body mapping certification after graduation. “I’ve grown so much, musically and personally,” she says of her experience overseas.

“We’re grateful for the generosity of the people we met and interacted with, and for the opportunity to share our work.” —Carrie Frey

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013


1938. Hamburg, Germany. “Play it or leave it! ” the Nazi customs inspector demanded. “Play the Largo in G Major by Handel.” In line in the customs shed, 16-year-old Ferdinand Mann had but one possession that mattered to him: his cello. All the family loved music, but Ferdi, as they called him, was the first to make it his own. He had carefully packed it for the journey—his parents had arranged for him and his sister to flee Hitler’s Germany for the safety and promise of America. To unpack his cello now might mean the

Fred Mann’s 19thcentury Postiglione cello is one of three cellos gifted to Oberlin by Mann’s family.

By J Keirn-Swanson and Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

in December 2012, the gift includes several other pieces from his collection: a modern Spanish cello made in 1980 by Fernando Solar, an electric cello, three cello bows, and a violin bow. Fred Mann’s daughters, Pamela A. Mann ’70 and Katherine S. Mann ’82, and Katherine’s husband, Mitchell Lederer ’82, were drawn to Oberlin in part because of their family’s love of music. When it came time to find a good home for their father’s instruments, the conservatory seemed the natural place. The gifts were accompanied by the family’s sentimen-

A Cello Story A boy’s prized instrument survives the horrors of war and lives on for Oberlin students


instrument’s destruction if he didn’t have a chance to repack it properly before boarding the ship. But the customs officer was unrelenting. “I never trust a Jew. Play! ” Slowly, under the watchful eyes of his mother and father, his sister, and the customs officer, Ferdi obeyed. Carefully and quietly, he set down the massive wooden case and pulled out the instrument. He tuned it methodically as he had been taught, checked the tension on his bow, planted his feet, and prepared to play. A crowd gathered to see what would happen. Ferdi took a deep breath and began. The music that poured from the instrument emanated from the depths of his soul. It spoke of his longing for life in America; it expressed his dreams and hopes, and it sang of love. Compassion overtook the inspector, who granted the Manns permission to depart with all their possessions—including the precious cello—without another word. It marked the end of Ferdi’s childhood and the beginning of his new life as Fred Mann, American citizen. Today, the cello that young Ferdi played to freedom—a beautiful Neapolitan instrument made by Vincenzo Postiglione circa 1850— has begun a new life at the Oberlin Conservatory. Donated by Mann’s children TANYA ROSEN-JONES ’97

tal chronicle of the Postiglione family’s own passage to America. In this way, stringed instruments’ histories are often passed on from player to player; they are the stories of people, carried across time, continents, and oceans. The story of Mann’s beloved cello will live on in the hands of Oberlin students: those with important solo dates, Kennedy Center performances, and concerto appearances with the Oberlin Orchestra. Cellists in contemporary music or performance and improvisation ensembles will play the electric cello in amplified rock, jazz, world, and polystylist genres. An anxious student whose own instrument needs repairs will keep up with her studies by working on the fine modern cello once played by Mann. “It is really thrilling to think that our father’s cellos will be played by aspiring musicians,” says Pamela Mann. “Access to better quality instruments is a huge gift the conservatory can give developing musicians,” says Darrett Adkins, associate professor of cello. “It supports the growing artistry of our students in tangible and exciting ways.” And through these instruments, generations of Oberlin alumni will forge their own connections to a story that began with one cello’s voyage from Germany to America in the arms of a young boy who dreamed of a better life. n

Participants in the Rubin Institute were treated to four performances over four days—and four deadlines to produce compelling critiques.


Ref lect Write. Repeat. For four days at Oberlin’s inaugural Rubin Institute, everybody’s a critic By Heidi Waleson


t started with a dedi-


ence, while others did not. Would the public have any interest in the open sessions? And does anybody other than Stephen Rubin really care about classical music criticism? As it turns out, they do. For those few days, Oberlin felt like the center of the musical world. Excitement surrounded the four international-quality, sold-out concerts in Finney Chapel. The students grappled with how best to evaluate their experiences, and the senior critics debated how best to direct them. As a college and a conservatory, Oberlin fosters both the study of the humanities and the training of professional musicians, and during the Rubin Institute, those two educational strands met and mingled in an unusual and powerful way. They also spilled

over into something larger: a discussion of how and why we talk and write about music. As one of the critics, Alex Ross of the New Yorker, put it: “Music is inconceivable without language. There is a deep need to talk about the musical experience.” Musicians, critics, professors, academics, and listeners—we were all trying something new. And it was an adventure.

Think Like a Critic A packed schedule challenged the students to learn and produce swiftly. The lineup consisted mostly of third- and fourth-year students, but included two sophomores—Matt Young, a double-degree student in piano and English; and Gabe Kanengiser, who created his


cated man’s idea: Stephen Rubin, a distinguished book publisher with a passion for music, was concerned about the state of music criticism and wanted to do something about it. He shared his idea with Conservatory Dean David H. Stull ’89, and Stull ran with it. In January 2012, the inaugural Rubin Institute for Music Criticism unfolded over four days on the Oberlin campus. Rubin and Stull invited a panel of prominent critics to town and set them loose on 10 students, who had prepared by taking a semester-long class in music reviewing. They would attend four live concerts (part of Oberlin’s prestigious Artist Recital Series) and write overnight reviews, which would be assessed by the critics in

seminar sessions the following morning. In addition, each critic would deliver an address and participate in public discussions. At the end, one student would be awarded $10,000 to seek further training in criticism. As one of the invited critics, I was curious to see how the academic world and the “real” world of professional criticism would intersect. How would the students react to the critics, who believe that our job is to speak the truth as we see and hear it, without pulling any punches? After all, many would be performance majors from the conservatory, possibly already imbued with a sense that the critic is the musician’s adversary. How would we fare in the classroom? Some of the critics had teaching experi-

own major in creative writing and arts management—and a master’s student in historical performance, organist and harpsichordist Jake Street. Four were pursuing degrees in the college, four in the conservatory, and two were doubledegree candidates. All had musical training. The critics decided that the students would benefit from hearing critiques of each other’s writing as well as their own, and from multiple perspectives. Accordingly, we divided the senior critics— and eager participant Stephen Rubin—into two teams, each of which would work with five students every morning. They had top-flight material to practice on. The first evening’s concert featured The Cleveland Orchestra conductOBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

ed by its music director, Franz Welser-Möst. Next came a recital by pianist Jeremy Denk ’90; a concert by the period-instrument orchestra Apollo’s Fire, led by Jeannette Sorrell ’90; and one by the International Contemporary Ensemble—ICE, for short— headed by Claire Chase ’01. The novice critics faced a punishing schedule: The first three reviews ranged from 500 to 750 words, and each was due at 8:00 the following morning; the final review was due mere hours after the conclusion of the performance. Every morning at 10, the students faced the senior critics nervously, as though waiting for the ax to fall. Those morning sessions, if nerve-wracking for the students, were fascinating to

the rest of us. It was intriguing to see what these young writers responded to, how they framed their thoughts, what they were passionate about, and where their blind spots were. As musicians themselves, they would often zero in on technical details of execution. Some would open with grand framing images and then struggle to maintain them throughout the piece. Some had clear biases—singling out individual orchestra players by name but failing to mention the conductor, for instance. There were dramatic differences of opinion about the quality of particular performances. But there was a lot of ambitious writing. The critics responded to the telling moments of description, like this detail from senior Megan

The Rubin Institute was an inspiration to participating students, the renowned critics who mentored them, and the audiences who attended the public sessions.

Will the institute turn any of the students into critics? Perhaps it already has. 49

Emberton, on Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6: “…an absurdly upbeat second movement ending with a sly chromatic scale—the parting wave of a cat’s tail disappearing around the corner,” or junior A.D. Hogan’s suggestion that ICE’s performance “sprinkled fertilizer” on Xenakis’ Thallein. Evocative conceits shaped some of the reviews, such as Jake Street’s witty, thoughtful analysis of Jeremy Denk’s concert as an “attempted pianicide” and senior Chad Putka’s clever, engaging image of Denk, sustained throughout the review, as a child at play. The critics’ goal was to harness the students’ listening acuity and ideas about expression into reviews that would tell a reader who wasn’t there what happened. Not just what, where, and when, but how it felt and why it mattered; opinions backed with concrete detail, expressed in vigorous writing. Storytelling became a key strategy: learning to create a frame and a narrative thread, and to make choices about what to include and what to leave out. They were urged to push for clarity, for exactness in description, and to avoid the bland,

the formulaic, the placid or detached review. Questions of prior knowledge and background surfaced. We were surprised to find that some students had little exposure to the historical performance and contemporary music featured in the last two concerts. This prompted discussion of how much preparation critics must do and how self-deprecating of your own lack of background you can be without undermining your authority. It also brought up the larger issue of the critic as generalist and specialist. As retired New York Times critic and arts editor John Rockwell pointed out, there will certainly be someone out there who knows everything about 16th-century polyphony (and is probably writing exhaustively about it on the Internet), so you had better know something if you’re going to review it. The critics encouraged students to incorporate more first-person material into their reviews, and they did. We also debated how much personal revelation is appropriate. (I felt that some of the writing, perhaps influenced by the very first-person nature

of blogging, tended too far toward the personal essay, so that there was more information being conveyed about the writer than about the event. A fellow critic insisted that a review is a personal essay. We agreed to disagree, and the students realized that there’s no single right way.) Most of all, we urged the students to speak with their own voices. A.D. Hogan, a violist majoring in politics, said the institute illuminated a completely new path to writing. “It opened up room for me to write without pressure,” Hogan said. “I wasn’t writing for a grade. There was the $10,000 prize, but by day three, I didn’t care about that. It gave me freedom and pushed me into finding a voice.” Not that it was easy. “It was terrifying,” Hogan said. “I feel more vulnerable writing about music than in academic writing. I have more flesh in the game. I love [the music] so much, I feel a responsibility to communicate it well.”

Hope Amid Journalism’s Hopelessness During well-attended public sessions—the keynote

addresses and three afternoon panel discussions—the senior critics talked about their own varied career paths and how their world has changed. There was much discussion—some of it quite gloomy—about how arts criticism faces a transitional moment. The shift from print to web is a double-edged sword: Opportunities abound with the explosion of the Internet, where anyone can be a critic; but as newspapers trim staffs and go out of business, it is increasingly difficult to be paid for being one. With only a dozen or so full-time jobs for music critics now in existence, what is the future of the profession? In his keynote, Alex Ross questioned the web mantra “information wants to be free” and wondered how serious criticism can survive if no one is paid to produce it. John Rockwell offered a slightly more hopeful prognosis, noting that just as television did not eliminate radio, the emergence of new technology simply adds a new sedimentary layer. “The future of professional criticism is tied to the future of classical music,”

Meet the Critics Tim Page

Anne Midgette

John Rockwell

Alex Ross

Heidi Waleson

A former music journalist who specialized in profiles of classical composers, Stephen went on to a standout career in publishing. He served as the inspiration and benefactor behind the Rubin Institute.

Formerly of the Washington Post , Tim now heads the master’s program in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

After devoting 11 years to music writing in Munich, Anne returned to the U.S. in 1998 and became a critic for the New York Times and other publications. In 2008, she succeeded Tim Page at the Washington Post.

John began writing about classical music for the New York Times in 1972 and went on to become that paper’s chief pop music critic and, later, editor of its Sunday Arts and Leisure section.

Alex has written for the New Yorker since 1993, serving for most of those years as its music critic. His widely acclaimed first book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, has been translated into 15 languages.

Heidi is an opera critic for the Wall Street Journal and a regular contributor to Symphony Magazine and Opera News, among numerous other national and international publications.



Stephen Rubin

he said. “To the extent which music finds a new vitality, so will be the opportunities to expand coverage.” Also noted was the positive side of the shift. In addition to providing new opportunities and outlets for writers, the Internet has altered the nature of criticism and commentary. Blogs like Ross’ “The Rest is Noise” curate news of interesting musical events and share it with enthusiasts; posts can have sound and video files embedded in them, enriching the medium; they can appear quickly. And no longer do a handful of critics make olympian pronouncements into the void; instead, there is instantaneous feedback and debate on reviews and blogs such as Anne Midgette’s for the Washington Post. As Rockwell remarked: “The critic provides a focus for an ongoing conversation. That’s still one of the most exciting offshoots of the musical experience, and it won’t go away.” One afternoon, a panel of artists—pianist Jeremy Denk, composer David Lang, and ICE founder Claire Chase— talked about their challenges and how musicians adapt to changing times. They also OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

dealt with their own attitudes toward critics and admitted to wanting more of them— even to occasionally being inspired by negative criticism. As long as there are critics, they know that someone is paying attention.

Shaping the Future of Criticism By the end of the final concert and review, it was clear that each student had made remarkable progress, improving their writing and their command of what they wanted to say while gaining a new appreciation for the role of criticism in the arts. After considerable debate, the $10,000 prize was awarded to Jake Street, a deft, expressive writer—and, as I heard in his master’s recital a few months later, a fine harpsichordist whose wry sense of humor carried over into his programming. An honorable mention prize of $2,500 was awarded to Megan Emberton, who impressed with her forthright, stylish writing. Stephen Rubin, who bankrolled the institute and was an enthusiastic contributor throughout, considers travel a wonderful use of the prize money. He pointed out

that he was inspired by how Alex Ross, as a young critic at the New York Times two decades ago, was advised by John Rockwell to spend a few months in Europe hearing as much music as he could. Jake Street took that suggestion to heart: In September 2012, he used his winnings to travel to Europe, where he soaked up music in Germany, France, and England; placed second (out of 31 competitors) at the International Buxtehude Organ Competition; and scouted potential teachers for a Fulbright fellowship. “The trip was among the most formative experiences of my life and certainly gave me new perspectives on all kinds of music,” he said. “Experiencing the best examples of one’s art, up close and personal, seems to me to be the best way to learn, and I had a remarkable opportunity to hear a lot of music at its absolute best.” Now based in Boston, Street is working as a church organist. He recently learned that his Fulbright application has been accepted. Emberton also traveled to a new place: She landed a 2012 summer internship with Symphony Magazine in New York

Jake Street (pictured left, with plaque) earned the institute’s top prize—and used it to fund a tour of Europe. Right: The Rubin Institute’s inaugural class.

and used her award to cover expenses there. She conducted interviews, wrote online articles, and learned firsthand how a magazine is put together. “I would never have been able to live in and experience New York for a couple of months without the prize money,” she said. Emberton lives in the Ann Arbor area, where she is accompanying dance classes and writing. Will the institute turn any of the students into critics— particularly since most of them had no intention of pursuing such a career when they took the fall semester course? Perhaps it already has. Samantha London, a master’s student in piano at Western Michigan University at the time of the institute, attended one of its public programs and won a $1,000 audience prize for criticism. This spring, she completed a year-long master’s program in journalism studies for the arts at the University of Southern California— in a program run by Rubin Institute critic Tim Page. n 51

Always an Obie The 2012 conservatory reunion and celebration reignited passions on campus and beyond By Andrew Willens ’11 Illustrations by Peter Arkle



n a wa r m AND cloudless NIGHT

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

speckled Manhattan skyline, but host Lee Koonce ’82 attributed the great turnout to much more than stunning location. “We have conservatory alums who want to be involved. They’re hungry to be engaged,” says the pianist and executive director of New York’s Third Street Music School, the oldest community ▲

in June 2011, one hundred alumni of the Oberlin Conservatory gathered on a New York City rooftop to convene with old friends, some of whom they hadn’t seen in decades. The guests marveled at the garden setting and the picturesque view of the star-


“For the first time in a very long time, I got to feel like a student again.”

music school in America. For Koonce, the informal gathering was a signal to act on his vision for a first-of-its-kind conservatory reunion and celebration on campus—an idea he had discussed at length with Oberlin administrators and colleagues on the Oberlin Alumni Council. A year later, that vision became reality. In June 2012, nearly 200 alumni returned to Oberlin from as far away as Washington, Florida, California, and Germany, and representing classes dating as far back as 1944. For one long weekend, they performed in venues across campus, shared laughs about conservatory life, debated passionately, and honored alumni who have passed. For many, it was a flashback to a life remembered fondly. “For the first time in a very long time, I got to feel like a student again,” says David H. Stull, dean of the conservatory and a 1989 graduate. “It reminded me that for a period of about five years, day after day after day, the world was always like that.” For organizers like Koonce, the reunion represents one brick in the foundation of what they hope will become a lasting tradition. “This reunion is a time to reconnect with friends, make new friends, rekindle your passion for music, and rekindle your passion for Oberlin,” Koonce said in his opening address to returning graduates. “It’s about building a network of conservatory alumni.”

A World of Connections That net wor k, composed of sm a ll

communities clustered around similar interests and scattered across the country, is widely considered one of the conservatory’s most valuable resources. “For those of you who live in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., or elsewhere, I think you would describe Oberlin as having this wonderful sort of sleeper-cell network,” Stull told 54

alumni. “This means that when you move to one of these places and run into an alum, they can get you connected.” In Minneapolis, for example, venues and events featuring contemporary classical music—such as the Walker Art Center, Southern Theater, and the American Composers Forum—regularly draw musicians and ensembles with ties to Oberlin, including So Percussion and the International Contemporary Ensemble. “Oberlin is such a thriving contemporary music breeding ground,” says Mandy Tuong ’02, a pianist, attorney, and former board chair at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. “Almost every month, someone was coming from Oberlin to perform or have their work performed. I felt like I was never away from it.” (Tuong, who recently relocated to San Francisco, succeeded Koonce as chair of the Alumni Council’s Conservatory Committee in the fall of 2012.) The reunion hinted at the wide variety of fields in which these communities are found, from musical performance and education to business and the sciences. Pianist and University of North Carolina Professor Patricia Gray ’67 offered an extensive presentation on her research regarding the biology of music, which focuses on the ability of certain apes to recognize rhythm. In a seminar on innovation in the business of music, Eugene Carr ’82 described his path from cello performance to managing nonprofits and businesses such as the American Symphony Orchestra and Patron Technology, his current company, which provides marketing software to arts organizations. In many cases, alumni are drawn to one another by a shared set of personal and professional values, which they often learned at Oberlin and continue to hold in high regard. “I love it when I meet someone who’s gone to Oberlin,” says Seth Rudetsky ’88,

a Broadway renaissance man who has performed in and produced shows such as Les Misérables and Dreamgirls, in addition to writing several books and hosting two Sirius/XM radio shows. “You just assume they have the same values you do, that they’re smart, and they’re creative,” he says. “It’s just a very smart, creative, artistic, appreciative atmosphere.” Rudetsky attributes these characteristics in part to Oberlin’s collaborative, industrious environment. For him, campus life was an entrepreneurial laboratory—the testing ground for an approach to producing performances that he still uses today. As a first-year student, he recruited an entire orchestra of friends and classmates to collaborate on his winter-term performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. He applied the same tactic to Broadway in 2001, drawing on friends such as five-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald to stage a production of Dreamgirls that sold out and raised nearly $1 million for a nonprofit group that provides social services to performers. “My whole career has been like that: commandeering people to do big, fun projects,” Rudetsky says. “I kind of learned at Oberlin that if no one’s going to hand it to you, you can just do it yourself.” At the reunion, Rudetsky produced the Cabaret Dinner, a performance of show and film tunes tracing the career of Judy Kuhn ’81, a soprano famous for roles such as Cosette in the 1987 Broadway premiere of Les Misérables. From two barstools and a piano in the Root Room of the Carnegie Building, the two relived the highs and often-humorous lows of Kuhn’s career, from recording “Colors of the Wind” for Disney’s Pocahontas to forgetting a verse while performing at the 1987 Tony Awards. It’s a slip Rudetsky remembers viewing “obsessively” at the conservatory library OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

Thriving Amid Crisis What alumni can do to bolster music education in America Obies are naturally good educators—just ask David H. Stull. At the Oberlin Conservatory reunion and celebration in June 2012, the dean found himself responding to passionate inquiries about what the conservatory is doing to support music education during challenging financial times. “Oberlin is unique among the top conservatories in the world in that it attracts individuals who play at an incredibly high level and can teach,” he said. “Almost every Oberlin graduate I have ever encountered has this desire—and willingness— to give back to somebody else. It’s a collective spirit.” That desire was so strong at the reunion that questions about the conservatory’s educational programs spilled out a day in advance of the panel discussion dedicated to the subject. “I still remember the feeling of having a violin under my chin for the first time,” said teacher and

freelance musician Lisa Whitfield ’90 at a panel on innovation in the music industry. “I still love the smell of rosin. How do we individually give these children that passion? How do we light a fire under ourselves to pick up that torch?” While growing up in Philadelphia, Whitfield said in an interview, she learned to play viola and violin through the music program at her public school, which provided everything from ensemble opportunities to instruments and private lessons free of charge. Had the program not been free, she says, Whitfield’s family would not have been able to pay for it—and she probably would not have pursued a career in music. “Today,” she adds, “there is a huge divide between the wealthy, who are able to afford the arts, and the rest of us.” Whitfield, who has performed with renowned artists such as Ray Charles, taught for nearly two decades in the Music Advancement Program at Juilliard, which targets students in racial demographics that are underrepresented in the performing arts. She moved to Oberlin in 2006 and now teaches in the Lakewood public school system near Cleveland. Even in the face of America’s languishing economy, the conservatory is exploring new frontiers in music education. Music in America (MIA), for example, establishes

and recognizes innovative education programs that use music to build critical academic and life skills in urban and underserved communities throughout the U.S. Select faculty in K-12 schools are named Music in America Fellows and invited to participate in an annual conference at Oberlin, where they document best practices for teaching and work directly with conservatory students. Launched in 2011, the program has raised $500,000 in partnership with the conservatory’s innovative Master of Music Teaching program. These programs, Stull emphasizes, are training students to be fearless advocates of music education. And that role, he says, is one that all Obies should adopt. “Each one of us graduated from this institution, and we understand what needs to be done,” Stull said at the panel discussion on music education. “So I’m going to charge you to take action: Tell the school board, parents, administrators, and executive directors in your community that you’re going to change the world and that you need their help. And of course, remember your Oberlin partners and friends—the reason we’re having this reunion is the network.” —Willens


in his days on campus, and he delighted in playing it again for fellow alumni. “Seth wants to embarrass me now,” Kuhn joked, as Rudetsky cued up the clip for the first of three times.

Oberlin on Tour

“It’s our intention to build this network of conservatory alumni, and this is the beginning.”


One of the conservatory’s priorities is

to forge connections with its many small communities of graduates. Many of them, Koonce says, exist in complete isolation from Oberlin simply because they hadn’t thought to reach out. For 19 years following his graduation, Matthew Liebendorfer ’83 focused intently on his career as a programming consultant, losing touch with his violin and the Oberlin community. But he was inspired to reconnect with both several years ago during his college reunion. For the conservatory reunion, he organized 18 musicians and a series of chamber music sessions to tackle an ambitious goal: playing all of the Haydn string quartets in the standard repertoire. “It wasn’t quite a cycle,” he says. “But we played 42 of the 56 quartets that people frequently play, in about 48 hours. It was really a hoot.” Today, Liebendorfer maintains close ties to Oberlin and organizes opportunities for alumni to play together, including chamber music sessions for the classes of ’82, ’83, and ’84 at Oberlin’s 2013 Commencement and Reunion Weekend. “I just want to have fun,” he says, “but the more I give to this…the more it’s paid off in spades.” Connecting with Oberlin, Dean Stull says, can also be of enormous benefit to current students and recent graduates. “The best thing that we can do for our graduates is get them to know each and every one of you,” he said during his State of the Conservatory Address. “Especially in today’s world, whether you’re in music or you’re out of music, the people you know, what you know

about the city, the things you are working on—all this provides the exceptionally talented people we have coming out of Oberlin with great opportunities.” To foster these connections, the conservatory is presenting regional performances in major urban centers across the country, providing alumni and current students opportunities to meet each other as performers. As part of the college’s recently launched Oberlin Illuminate campaign, for example, several Oberlin ensembles performed to enthusiastic crowds of alumni at Carnegie Hall, the DiMenna Center, and other famed New York locales in January. Similar events are being considered in other cities as well. In recent months, conservatory concerts have become available for realtime viewing online. Listen Live!, which streams programs held in Finney Chapel, Kulas Recital Hall, Warner Concert Hall, Clonick Recording Studio, and Fairchild Chapel, launched in September 2012 with a concert in Finney Chapel that featured the Oberlin Orchestra and Contemporary Music Ensemble. (The service can be accessed at listenlive.) If all goes according to plan, Koonce says, regional alumni events will be organized around these streamed concerts, much like the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” program, which broadcasts performances to faraway movie theaters. In the coming years, additional conservatory reunions on campus may come into focus as well. “It’s our intention to really build this network of conservatory alumni, and this is the beginning,” Stull said in his closing remarks. “Please tell your friends they won’t regret coming back and remembering why this place was so special and what it did for all of us.” n Andrew Willens lives in New York City, where he is involved in environmental policy and is pursuing a new love: swing dancing.

Alumni Notes 1960s

François Clemmons ’67 retired from Middlebury College at the close of the 2012-13 academic year. For the last 15 years, he has been artist-in-residence and director of the College Choir and the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir. He has enjoyed a distinguished career as a singer, performer, playwright, and lecturer, but he is perhaps best known for his appearances on the PBS television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. For 25 years, Clemmons performed the role of Officer Clemmons, the friendly neighborhood policeman, and in the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” ran a singing and dance studio located in the building diagonally across from Mr. Rogers’ house. After graduating from the Oberlin Conservatory, Clemmons went on to earn a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University. Shortly thereafter, he won a Metropolitan Opera regional audition and earned a place in the company. In seven

seasons, he played more than 70 classical and opera roles, traveling around the world. He has performed his favorite role, Sportin’ Life, in the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess, more than 200 times. His 1975 recording of that role with The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel earned him a Grammy Award. In the 1980s, he founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and made several recordings with the group. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of arts by Middlebury College in 1996 and joined its faculty in 1997.


Dick Hensold ’81, a conservatory graduate in recorder and early music, has carved out a career as the leading Northumbrian smallpiper in North America, and for the past 20 years has performed and taught in England, Scotland, Japan, Canada, and across the United States. Based in St. Paul, Minn., he is a full-time musician, passionately presenting the traditional music of Scotland, Cape Breton Island, and Northumberland, as well as Nordic folk music, early music, and traditional

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

Cambodian music. An active composer, studio musician, and theater musician, he also has a solo Northumbrian smallpipes CD, Big Music for Northumbrian Smallpipes, which was released in 2007. He returned to his old stomping grounds in April 2013 to present “Northumbrian Smallpipes and Other Strange Beasts” for the West Side Irish-American Club just outside of Cleveland. His tour calendar can be found at Baritone Todd Thomas ’84 and conductor Jed Gaylin ‘85, MM ‘86 performed Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Bay-Atlantic Symphony this season. Gaylin is music director of the Bay-Atlantic Symphony in southern New Jersey, with residencies at Stockton College, Cumberland College, the Cape May Music Festival, and the Borough of Avalon. Gaylin has also served as music director of the Johns Hopkins Symphony Orchestra since 1997 and begins a stint with the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra in West Virginia in September. He is married to poet and essayist Lia Purpura ‘86. They live in Baltimore with their son, Joseph. Cathleen Partlow Strauss ’84 joined the administration of the Oberlin


Conservatory in August 2012 as director of conservatory communications. She continues to perform as a cellist on a music series in the Indianapolis area that she founded with her husband, violist and Oberlin faculty member Michael Strauss.

Elizabeth Hankins ’89 was recognized for her work in the field of music education as a vehicle for school reform with the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award. Hankins began pursuing her PhD in music education at Case Western Reserve University in the fall of 2010. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Oberlin Conservatory and a master of arts in education from BaldwinWallace College. She began teaching in the Lakewood City Schools in suburban Cleveland in 1990. She has taught orchestra in grades 5-12, music theory, and music history. She currently directs five orchestras at Lakewood High School and is the founding director of the Lakewood Project, an innovative rock orchestra that teaches students a lifelong love of music.

Will Chase ’92 was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his portrayal of John Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The show, a production of the Roundabout Theatre Company, ran on Broadway at Studio 54 from November 2012 to March 2013. DRG Records has released a new recording of the 2013 Broadway cast’s critically acclaimed production. Chase was also recently seen as Michael Swift on the hit NBC show Smash.

Michael Christie ’96 completed year one as the first-ever music director of the Minnesota Opera, a move the company made just prior to its 50th anniversary season. “While conducting performances of three Minnesota Opera productions, Christie established a strong rapport with the company’s orchestra,” wrote Ron Hubbard of the St. Paul, Minn.-based Pioneer Press. The critically lauded productions securing this 57

Alumni Notes

demented, surreal, strangely dark,” according to the New York Times. The paper made note of Lenormand’s “rich mezzo-soprano voice,” as well as the “grace and spunk” she brought to the role.

appointment were 2011’s La Traviata, Wuthering Heights, and Silent Night. Christie has won multiple awards for his programming during his 16-year career. Since 2001, he has spent his summers heading the acclaimed Colorado Music Festival, for which the Denver Post named him Musician of the Year in 2010. This year he was named music director laureate of the Phoenix Symphony, where he has served as the Virginia G. Piper Music Director since 2005.

Mezzo-soprano Marie Lenormand ’99, whose performance last year as Despina in Cosí fan tutte was hailed by critics, sang the title role this April in Offenbach’s La Perichole. The innovative production by the New York City Opera, directed by Christopher Alden, turned Offenbach’s “most charming” opera into something “zany, 58


Lydia Steier ’00 directed Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera for Theater St. Gallen in Switzerland in February and Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serai for Stadttheater Bern in Germany. Her productions were praised in several German publications, both online and in print, for their innovative staging. To follow Steier’s unique work in the opera world, visit

Composer, saxophonist, clarinetist, and singer Aurora Nealand ’01 and her band performed at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz Fest in May. Enamored of traditional jazz from a young age, Nealand apprenticed with several bands from the Crescent City’s Frenchmen Street-centered traditional jazz revival scene, including the Panorama Jazz Band, VaVaVoom, and the New Orleans Moonshiners. In 2010, she

stepped out with her own project, the Royal Roses, which is now at the vanguard of that scene. The Times-Picayune gave the Jazz Fest performance warm praise for Nealand’s work of vintage and vintage-sounding pieces, writing, “Every arrangement was light on its feet…she is comfortable and capable enough to take liberties: a lyrical twist here, an odd key change there.”

Ellie Dehn ’02 appeared as soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall in Carl Nielsen’s Third Symphony in February. She will be featured on a new Oberlin Music release in September titled Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces with Oberlin faculty harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and other artists. Dehn will also open the 135th Artist Recital Series in Finney Chapel with the ensemble from that recording.

Scott Skiba ’02 directed Puccini’s two short operas, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, for

Malia Bendi Merad as Queen of the Night in A Magic Flute.

Opera per Tutti in Cleveland in April, after directing the first part of the trilogy, Il Tabarro, during the 2010-11 season. The production of Il Tabarro was the first operatic performance to be hosted by Cleveland Public Theatre, a venue revered for its artistic programming. Opera per Tutti has now been established as the resident opera company at Cleveland Public Theatre, where numerous productions are staged each year.

Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs during its Florida residency. The South Florida Classical Review wrote: “The gifted young mezzo Elizabeth DeShong gave a mesmeric performance.” In April and May, she appeared as First Norn in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with Deborah Voigt. In June, she sings at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw in John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary.

Soprano Marcy Stonikas ’02 received the George London-Leonie Rysanek Award for her successful showing at the 2013 George London Foundation competition.

Soprano Malia Bendi Merad ’03 sang the role of the Queen of the Night in A Magic Flute, Peter Brook’s reimagining of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The production, which radically remodels and pares down Mozart’s opera, has met with acclaim as it toured the world during the past two years. The New York Times praised Merad’s “light yet penetrating sound and pitch-perfect accuracy.” A Huffington Post review referred to the Queen of the Night’s

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong ’03 has had great success this season with performances on some of the most prestigious stages. She performed as soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and

famous aria “Die Holle Rache,” which is among the music recordings on NASA’s Voyager space probe. The Post critic wrote: “I’m sorry the version making its way through the galaxy was not from the incandescent production of the opera conceived and directed by Peter Brook.”

Soprano Rebecca Ringle ’03 performed with the Metropolitan Opera this season as Rossweise in Robert Lepage’s landmark production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. The three complete cycles performed in spring 2013 celebrated the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Ringle has previously performed with the Met in productions of John Adams’ Nixon in China and Wagner’s Die Walküre.

Fei Xie ’04, who joined the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in January 2008 as second bassoonist, was named principal

at the start of the 2012-13 season. That appointment followed what was described as “an extensive search” by Music Director Marin Alsop and an audition committee to find a successor to Phil Kolker, who retired in 2010. Xie is the first Chinese bassoonist to hold the principal position in a major American symphony, according to a statement from the orchestra.

Emily Brebach ’05 joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as its new English hornist and oboist in September 2012. Brebach studied oboe performance with James Caldwell and Robert Walters at the Oberlin Conservatory before earning her master’s degree from Rice University in 2007. Prior to joining the Atlanta Symphony, Brebach held the position of English horn and oboe with the Sarasota Orchestra for two seasons. Oberlin’s support has been indispensable to her success, she said— particularly her current connections with Walters. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say that a large part of my professional trajectory is due to the mentorship that I’ve had with Robert Walters,” she said. “He came in and subbed for Mr. Caldwell, and I’ve continued that relationship until now.” Brebach is excited to

OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

be in Atlanta to connect with the thriving community of Oberlin graduates there. Oberlin alumni inhabit the viola and bassoon sections, the conductor’s podium, and the Atlanta School of Composers, a group founded by conductor Robert Spano ’84 that works regularly with the orchestra.

James Feddeck ’05 is wrapping up his four-year term as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and music director of The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. In the spring, he stepped in for an ailing conductor Franz Welser-Möst for a three-concert series of Orff’s Carmina Burana, of which the Plain Dealer wrote: “Feddeck turned in an expertly balanced reading. Hot-blooded on one hand and smoothly polished on the other, his account was that of a conductor pegged to the work from the start.

Whole careers have been launched with less, and his was already on a brilliant track.” In May, Feddeck was recognized as the 2013 winner of the prestigious Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, which includes a $25,000 grant—among the largest bestowed upon young American conductors. Since finishing its 2010-12 stint as the Oberlin Conservatory’s quartet in residence, the Jasper String Quartet has toured the nation. The ensemble, whose members include Oberlin graduates J. Freivogel ’05 (violin), Sam Quintal ’06 (viola), and Rachel Henderson Freivogel ’05 (cello), has been hailed as “sonically delightful and expressively compelling” (the Strad) and “powerful” (New York Times). It was recognized for its efforts with the prestigious 2012 Chamber Music America Cleveland Quartet Award. Among

the quartet’s many 2013 performances, a February 11 appearance in West Palm Beach, Fla., earned considerable notice from critics. “The Jasper String Quartet is the young face of American chamber music, now and in the future,” wrote Rex Hearn of the Palm Beach ArtsPaper. “To my mind they are on their way to replacing the eminent, now disbanded, Emerson String Quartet.” In more recent news, the quartet made an extended appearance in New York with an April 12 performance at Carnegie Hall, as well as a concert on April 26 at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. Richard Hawkins’ former student, clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan ’06, won the co-principal clarinet position of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The Armenian native has served as associate principal clarinet of the Kansas City Symphony

The Jasper String Quartet 59

Alumni Notes

the Pacific Symphony, with whom she has played since auditioning as an undergraduate. Elizabeth Zharoff ’09 will sing the role of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto with the Houston Grand Opera in January 2014. Boris Allakhverdyan, co-principal clarinet at the Met Opera.

since 2009. Allakhverdyan has also been principal clarinet in the summer orchestras of the Colorado Music Festival and the Britt Festival in Oregon. He continues to perform as a founding member of the Prima Trio, the grand prize and gold medal winner of the 2007 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

In February, soprano Jennifer Forni ’07 made her Met Opera debut in the role of First Esquire in Parsifal.

Clarinetist Jack Marquardt ’07 is a member of WindSync, a woodwind quintet called “revolutionary” by the Houston Chronicle. It won the 2012 Concert Artists Guild Competition and the Sylvia Ann Hewlett Adventurous Artist Prize in October.

The 2012-13 season has been eventful for Alek Shrader ’07. His feature debut at the Metropolitan Opera was met with glowing praise, as he 60

opened the season with a production of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest, conducted by the composer. The New York Times called his performance “sweet-voiced,” “bright,” and “appealing.” Shrader returned to the Met in December to sing Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. In March, he debuted at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall after performing the program in Kulas Recital Hall. Abroad, he sang Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola at the Hamburgische Staatsoper. Shrader closed the U.S. concert season with the tenor solo in Britten’s War Requiem at the Cincinnati May Festival, with James Conlon conducting. In July, he makes his role debut as Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Thomas Schneider ‘08 was appointed principal bassoon of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in 2012.

Meredith Crawford ‘09 is the new assistant principal viola for

2010s Michael Matushek ‘10 was appointed second bassoon of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012.

Cree Carrico ’11 was accepted into the competitive studio program at the Chautauqua Opera for the 2013 summer season, beating out roughly 700 others for one of 26 positions.

Soprano Sydney Mancasola ‘11 performed in the world premiere of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied with the Fort Worth Opera. The Dallas Morning News praised

Mancasola’s “amazing clarity and pliancy” for her portrayal of Young Alyce. This year, Mancasola has received awards from several prestigious competitions, including the top prize in the 2013 Gerda Lissner Foundation’s International Vocal Competition, and was one of six winners in the 2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in March.  

Piano Competition earned him awards for Audience Favorite and Best Performance of a Work by Franz Liszt.

Michelle Wong ’11 won the solo English horn position with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires and has been performing with the orchestra at the Teatro Colón since March.

Violinist Lauren Manning ’12 and colleague Danny Lai are traveling to the Middle East during the summer of 2013 to promote cultural understanding and peace through music. They will spend seven weeks in the West Bank and Jordan. In cooperation with Holy Land Trust, Musicians Without Borders, Al-Mada, Yabous Cultural Center, Madrasati Palestine, the Edward Said Conservatory, House of Hope, and the African Community Society, they will be working to present music in nontraditional and innovative ways to a vast array of audiences. They will perform traditional (and some nontraditional) repertoire and will also be working with groups of children in interactive workshops. The trip is being supported through a successful Kickstarter fund titled Music Heals Us.

Moye Chen ’12 performed on April 21 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ 2013 Debut Artist concert. His performance at the 2011 Seattle International

Jacob Street MM ‘12 has been awarded a Fulbright grant to study organ at the Hochschule für Musik in Lübeck, Germany, beginning in fall 2013.

Addison Teng ’11 was appointed to the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago in February. He was recently invited to give master classes in Brazil by invitation of the Conservatorio de Brasilia in Rio de Janeiro as well as the Villa Lobos Conservatory PreCollege division. Currently completing work on a master of music in violin performance and string pedagogy at Northwestern University, he serves as Roland and Almita Vamos’ teaching assistant.

Faculty Notes Stephen Aron, teacher of classical guitar, performed and taught at several festivals this year, including the Mediterranean Guitar Festival in Italy, the Iserlohn Guitar Festival in Germany, the Massillon Guitar Festival in Ohio, and the Keene State Guitar Festival in New Hampshire. He also co-produced a flute/guitar workshop in Assisi, Italy, called “Suonare in Italia,” with flutist Jane Berkner. Their collaboration has led to a new recording, Tropicale, made in Oberlin’s Clonick Recording Studio and available on Clear Note.

Peggy Bennett, professor of music education, enjoyed a productive year of leave made possible by a Research Status Award. The honor allowed her to complete an Oberlinsponsored website, SongWorks for Children: A Video Library of Children Making Music. She also published her sixth book with Alfred Publishing, Playing with the Classics, Volume 2: Music Masterworks for Children. The latitude of research status also provided her the time to participate as a clinician or presenter at

conferences nationwide on topics of teacher training, preschool music in underserved communities, general music methods, and staff development. Bennett spoke at the Academy of Education Through Music in New York City, the Colorado Music Educators Association conference, Duquesne University’s Early Childhood Music Initiative, and Mountain Lake Colloquium for Teachers of General Music Methods in Virginia. In April, she was thrilled to present a session for the annual international conference of Music EdVentures Inc. (MEI) in Minneapolis. Joining Bennett as presenters for that conference were Oberlin music education graduates Samantha Meese Smith ’10 and Ruthanne Fisher ’08. Smith and Fisher, as well as Oberlin alumni conference attendees Danielle Koplinka-Loehr ’08, Jake Harkins ’11, Anna Shelow ’11, and Meghan Meloy ’10, have been designated as Emerging Pioneers in Education by MEI. For the link to the SongWorks website, visit digital/songworks/index. html.

Peggy Bennett (center) with co-presenters Ruthanne Fisher, Anna Shelow, Samantha Meese Smith, Jake Harkins, Danielle Koplinka-Loehr, and Meghan Meloy (from left). OBERLIN conservatory magazine  2013

The Caldwell Collection of Viols: A Life Together in the Pursuit of Beauty is a handsome coffee table book chronicling the life work of Catharina Meints Caldwell, associate professor of viola da gamba and cello, and her husband, James Caldwell. The Caldwell Collection is legendary in the worldwide viol fraternity. Curated and restored to playing condition with exquisite care over several decades, the instruments form one of the most extraordinary private assemblages in the world, rivaling the holdings of major musical instrument museums. The book, audio recordings of each of the 22 historical instruments, and an iPad app were released in 2012, available through

Oberlin’s conservatory librarian, Deborah Campana, was commissioned to write nine biographical entries for the Grove Dictionary of American Music, second edition. These profiles of distinguished music librarians included Mary Wallace Davidson of the

Eastman School of Music and Indiana University, Don L. Roberts of Northwestern University, and John Roberts of the University of California at Berkeley. Campana’s work for Grove also included a complete revision of the article “Periodicals.” In association with the many activities surrounding the John Cage centenary in 2012, Campana presented lectures at Cage festivals at Northwestern University and the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Her topics addressed challenges of interpretation in Cage’s

works, drew retrospective reflections on his body of work, and drilled down into the more specific area of his use of prepared piano. The Music Library Association’s journal, Notes, also commissioned Campana to write the article “Happy New Ears! In Celebration of 100 Years: The State of Research on John Cage.” Campana served on the board of directors of the American Music Center during the organization’s recent transition and collaboration with Meet the Composer to form New

Music USA, an organization devoted to service and advocacy of new American music. Campana now serves on the Media Council of New Music USA.

Professor Peter Dominguez‘s year has been a whirlwind of events and performances. In February 2012, he performed with fellow jazz faculty Billy Hart and Dan Wall at the Rocky River Chamber Music Society. In July, he appeared with Bobby Sanabria in a showcase of “Latin Music in Rock” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. A regular onstage at Cleveland’s Nighttown, Dominguez has played dates there with Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler, the Peter Zak Trio and Billy Hart, the Houston Person Quartet, the Humberto Ramirez Quintet, the Mark Soskin Trio, Phil Woods & Greg Abate Quintet, the Vanessa Rubin Quartet, and the Ken Peplowski Quintet—all in the past year alone. 61

Faculty Notes

Professor of Music Education Joanne Erwin was the keynote speaker for “Strings in the 21st Century,” a presentation at the Australian Strings Association’s National Conference in July 2012 in Melbourne.

Jonathon Field, director of Oberlin Opera Theater, directed the 2012 production of Il Barbiere di Seviglia for the New Jersey State Opera. Last fall, he also directed a performance of La Traviata in Solon, Ohio, that the Plain Dealer praised as “reverent only to Verdi,” noting that “it keenly balances the sacred and profane.” His Oberlin Opera Theater production of Haydn’s Il Mondo della Luna was reviewed by cleveland as “entertaining and successful not so much because of Carl Goldoni’s libretto or Haydn’s score but because of Jonathon Field’s resourceful and often hysterically funny stage direction.”

The New York City Ballet has invited Raphael Jiménez, associate professor of conducting 62

and director of Oberlin orchestras, to conduct several performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker during its 2013 holiday season. For Jiménez’s December dates at the podium, visit

In addition to a number of on-campus performances, the faculty members of the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble took to the road in 2012-13. On October 12, 2012, the Ensemble, comprising Marilyn McDonald on baroque violin, Catharina Meints on viola da gamba, and Webb Wiggins on harpsichord and organ, performed a concert series at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. Janelle Gelfand of the Cincinnati Enquirer praised the performance, noting: “A concert of early baroque music performed on period instruments might be viewed as a serene way to spend an evening. The biggest surprise was how lively and virtuosic this music could be in the hands of the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble.”

Professor of Piano Peter Takács continued his focus on the music of Beethoven and presented a series of recitals with Robert deMaine, principal cello of the Los

Angeles Philharmonic. In addition to two on-campus live-streamed concerts in Kulas Recital Hall, the duo took Beethoven’s complete music for violoncello and piano to venues in Grand Rapids and Birmingham, Mich., as well as Columbus, Ohio. The Cleveland Institute of Music Keyboard Convocation Series also engaged him to lecture on performing the Beethoven piano sonatas. This year, Takács gave solo recitals in Hudson, Ohio, for the Music from the Western Reserve series as well as in Falls Church, Va., for the Odeon Chamber Music Series. George Sakakeeny (above) and Robert Walters (top left)

Peter Takács

Professor of Bassoon George Sakakeeny has traveled considerably this year. He taught master classes at Miami’s New World Symphony Orchestra and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He also presented master classes and solo recitals at Fresno State University and at Florida State University’s first biannual Woodwind Festival. As part of his ongoing capacity as principal of the Latin

American Bassoon Academy, he taught a week-long bassoon seminar for the bassoon teachers of El Sistema during winter term. This summer, he joins the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, N.C., as principal bassoon.

In April, TIMARA Professor Peter Swendsen was interviewed on the radio series Pulse of the Planet. Each weekday, the show provides listeners with a two-minute sound portrait of planet Earth, tracking the rhythms of

Peter Swendsen

nature, culture, and science worldwide, and blending interviews and extraordinary natural sound. The series, presented by the National Science Foundation, is broadcast on over 209 public and commercial stations and on the Voice of America and the Armed Forces Radio Network, reaching more than 415,000 listeners daily. Swendsen has conducted research on soundscape composition and ecoacoustics throughout his career; his interview—complete with wintry sounds from Oberlin—can be heard at Robert Walters, professor of oboe and English horn, performed Bach’s Concerto for oboe d’amore (BWV1055) with the Cleveland Orchestra in April under the direction of James Feddeck ’05. Walters was praised for his “crisp, exuberant reading” by the Plain Dealer. He will be performing the same concerto with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra on the opening concert of the IDRS conference in Redlands, Calif., in June.

Faculty Retirements

Marcus Belgrave Professor of Jazz Trumpet

Retired jazz faculty member Marcus Belgrave was presented with a 2013 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Hero Award for his dedication to the city of Detroit. Considered the foremost jazz artist of his adopted hometown, Belgrave notched significant achievements as an educator and self-producing artist, which prompted the award. Since the 1960s, Belgrave’s ventures have included establishing ensembles, residencies, and community jazz-studies programs in Detroit, as well as performing in committed outreach projects across the United States and abroad. Belgrave retired from the Oberlin Conservatory in 2011, but he has not retired from performing: His Homecoming Band played the 33rd Detroit

Jazz Festival in September 2012, he presented guest master classes in Oberlin this year, and his Detroit-themed CD is due out soon on Blue Note, produced by the Grammy-winning president of the label, Don Was.

Kathleen Chastain

Professor of Wind Chamber Music Flutist Kathleen Chastain joined the conservatory faculty in 1993. In addition to her flute studio and chamber music classes, she has taught Professional Development for the Freelance Artist, a course she devised. She has appeared in solo and

recital performances and with orchestras around the world. An enthusiastic performer of contemporary music, she has commissioned works by Tom Lopez and recorded works by Elliott Carter, Noel Lee, and David Felder. Chastain has recorded with Virgin, EMI, La Flûte Traversière, Arion, and Skarbo. Her CD with French pianist Laurent Boukobza includes works by Schumann, Schubert, Beethoven, and Hummel. Before joining Oberlin, she taught at BaldwinWallace College, the University of North Texas, and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, where she had earlier studied with Jean-Pierre Rampal.

James DeSano Professor of Trombone

Faculty, students, and administrators honored retiring faculty member Marcus Belgrave (fifth from left) in the Kohl Building’s McGregor Sky Bar in May 2013.

In addition to teaching trombone at the conservatory since 1999, James DeSano played with The Cleveland Orchestra for more than 30 years, serving as assistant

John Knight steps away after 35 years at Oberlin.

principal trombone from 1970 to 1989, then as principal trombone from 1989 to 2003. Prior to that appointment, he served as principal trombone of the Syracuse Symphony from 1964-70. During his teaching career, DeSano served on the faculties of Syracuse University, the University of Akron, Kent State University, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has performed under such distinguished conductors as Pierre Boulez, Leopold Stokowsky, and John Cage, among others, and has recorded works by Stravinsky, Mahler, Shostakovich, and Schumann with musicians such as Boulez, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Christoph von Dohnányi. He earned degrees at Ithaca College and the Eastman School of Music, where he was a student of influential trombone teacher Emory Remington.

John Knight

Professor of Music Education During his 35-year tenure at Oberlin, John Knight taught courses in conducting, music education pedagogy, and performance. He has lectured at major universities, adjudicated competitions, and presented master classes locally and abroad, and he has been invited as a guest conductor for regional, national, and international institutions. Knight led the Commencement Band for 30 years, and he founded and conducted the College Community Winds, which included musicians from the student body and the Oberlin community. An accomplished writer, he is the author of two books, The Golden Age of Conductors and The Interpretive Wind Band Conductor, in addition to many articles written for the Instrumentalist  magazine. 63

Calendar FOR TICKET INFORMATION, CALL 800-371-0178 OR VISIT artsguide/tickets

Artist Recital Series 2013-14 A celebration of the arts at Oberlin since 1878

November 20, 2013

Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott

November 5, 2013

Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces

Even to those who knew him well, the great French composer Maurice Ravel seemed to live his life devoid of intimate relationships, yet an unmistakable intimacy coursed through his compositions. He reserved his passion for music, and he immersed himself in a broad range of styles: from the impressionism with which he is closely associated, to his discovery of jazz during visits to America. Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces is a celebration of the new recording of the same name, conceived by Oberlin faculty harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and slated for fall release by Oberlin Music. Kondonassis will be joined onstage by a lineup of distinguished faculty and alumni: internationally acclaimed soprano Ellie Dehn ’02, pianist Spencer Myer ’00, Associate Professor of Clarinet Richard Hawkins, and Associate Professor of Flute Alexa Still. Accompanying them will be the Jupiter String Quartet, the conservatory’s artists in residence for 2012-14, featuring strong ties to northeast Ohio: Three members met at the Cleveland Institute of Music and recruited violist Liz Freivogel ’00 from the recital halls of Oberlin.

Imani Winds and Gilbert Kalish

april 6, 2014

Susan Graham mezzo-soprano


Featuring Oberlin alumni Toyin Spellman-Diaz ’94 on oboe and Monica Ellis ’95 on bassoon, Imani Winds is renowned for its spirit of adventure and broad range of influences. Fellow New Yorker Kalish serves on the faculty at Stony Brook University, and his widely varied discography numbers some 100 recordings.

“America’s favorite mezzo,” Grammy-winner Graham revels in her passion for the French song repertoire and contemporary American compositions. Remarkably versatile, she interprets the work of 14 composers on her latest album.

december 3, 2013

The Cleveland Orchestra Marin Alsop, conductor David Fray, piano Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will lead Cleveland’s internationally renowned orchestra in concert with Fray, whose flair for eccentric performances is matched only by his outstanding musicianship.

april 13, 2014

Takács String Quartet march 1, 2014

George Li piano

Li made his performance debut at age 10 and later won the inaugural Cooper International Competition in 2010, among numerous other honors.

Founded in Hungary in 1975, the Takács Quartet has been drawing international acclaim for almost as long. They earned a Grammy in 2003 and are active worldwide in concert and educational settings.

Oberlin Opera

November 6 & 8-10, 2013

march 12 & 14-16, 2014

Each year, Oberlin Opera Theater presents two major productions accompanied by orchestra. The program has developed some of opera’s brightest stars and has featured the talents of a host of top conductors.

Hänsel und Gretel

Albert Herring

By Engelbert Humperdinck Sung in German

By Benjamin Britten Sung in English


OBERLIN conservatory magazine 2013


Ellie Dehn ’02, soprano Richard Hawkins, clarinet Yolanda Kondonassis, harp Spencer Myer ’00, piano Alexa Still, flute Jupiter String Quartet

Cello master Ma first performed with British classical pianist Stott in 1985, and the two have collaborated on acclaimed tours and recordings ever since, winning Grammy Awards together in 1999 and 2004.

february 9, 2014

Oberlin 2013

Conservatory Moments

Oberlin Alumni make a difference. Participate. Donate. Connect.

Photo credits: Roger Mastroianni, Dale Preston ’83, Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97, and John Seyfried

It’s been an exciting and magical year of music for the Oberlin Conservatory, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our incredible alumni. Thank you. Help us continue our record of excellence by making a gift today at

The Office of Conservatory Communications 39 West College Street Oberlin, OH 44074-1576





— Alexa Ciciretti ’13, principal cellist


“Sometimes I wish I could just play it again and again. That moment in time is something you can never recapture.”

Oberlin Conservatory Magazine - 2013  

The Official Magazine of Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Featuring stories about students, faculty, and alumni.

Oberlin Conservatory Magazine - 2013  

The Official Magazine of Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Featuring stories about students, faculty, and alumni.