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Stamped by Magnificence

As we conclude another remarkable semester, it is worth noting a review by Donald Rosenberg of the Cleveland Plain Dealer of one of the most extraordinary events in Oberlin's recent history: "...virtually everything about (the performance of Mahler's Fourth Symphony) was stamped by magnificence. The Oberlin students no doubt drew much inspiration from Mahler, but they also had a mesmerizer on the podium, Sir Simon Rattle, music director of the Berlin Philharmonic."

It is difficult to improve on Mr. Rosenberg's assessment of the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra's performance under the brilliant baton of Maestro Rattle, but I would add that it was not only a tremendous achievement by our students and faculty, but emblematic of the great level of energy and enthusiasm that defines the Conservatory of Music as it moves forth in the 21st century. 

This year marks our 140th anniversary as the oldest, continuously operating Conservatory of Music in the country, and it is indeed worthy of celebration. Oberlin graduates have long populated the major orchestras and opera companies of the world, but perhaps it is less known that it has also generated many of the great teachers and advocates for music in our communities. A quick examination of the major conservatories, community music schools, public music programs, and leading artist management firms finds them replete with members of the Oberlin family. While it is true that a few artists, such as Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and Gil Shaham did not have the benefit of attending Oberlin, indeed their teacher did. These artists have performed with our alumni and good friends of the Cleveland Orchestra, an organization whose founding trustee was Oberlin graduate John Long Severance. In addition, within the fields of business, banking, education, medicine, law and many others, we have powerful advocates of serious music who are proud graduates from one or both divisions of this remarkable institution.

I don't mention these accomplishments simply to brandish our success, but to remind ourselves of the depth and scope of our contribution to the world, the historical importance of our values, and the significant responsibility we have in shaping the future. In my welcoming remarks to the entering class of students last fall, I illustrated this point by quoting a section from the 1944 Oberlin Catalog entitled "The Study of Music in the Time of War,"which says "...Oberlin is aware that sooner or later the war will end; that the peoples of the earth must start anew to build an enduring society of neighborly humanity; that in the new society, the arts, including music, will surely hold a significant role. To live worthily, and to lead effectively in the peace that will follow the war, this generation will need college and professional training more than any generation needed it before."

In looking toward our future, which is indeed exciting, challenging, and complex, we should remember the remarkable achievements and core values that have defined Oberlin and will continue to underpin our journey as a unique and vitally important institution committed to continuing academic and artistic excellence in the coming century.

On behalf of our students and faculty, I thank all of you for your current and future support. It is an honor and privilege to serve as Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

David H. Stull '89
Dean, Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Correction: A condensed version of this letter appears in the printed issue of the Winter 2004-05 Oberlin Alumni Magazine Due to the editor's error, that version mistakenly implies that alumnus John Long Severance was the teacher of artists Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and Gil Shaham. OAM apologizes for the error.