Photo by Priska Ketterer/Tonhalle Orchester Zürich
Conductor David Zinman, Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich and one of the most renowned conductors on the international scene, will return to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, his alma mater, to conduct the Commencement Orchestra in a free concert on Sunday, May 25, 2008, at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel. The program will include Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 and Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80.
The concert is part of a surge of activity on campus taking place from May 23 through May 26, and culminating in Oberlin’s 175th Commencement. Zinman will also celebrate his 50th class reunion; he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from the Conservatory of Music in 1958.
Esteemed by his peers and loved by audiences, David Zinman is one of today’s most respected conductors. In addition to his work with the Tonhalle Orchestra, he is the Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School and Program director of the recently formed American Academy of Conducting at Aspen.
Decades before he attained the status of world-renowned conductor, though, he got his start at Oberlin, where he came to study violin.
“I think the reason so many conductors have emerged from Oberlin is that the school has always encouraged people to get involved in extracurricular music-making,” Zinman noted in a 2005 interview for the Oberlin Conservatory magazine. Zinman’s earliest conducting experiences were at Oberlin with the Gilbert & Sullivan Players and the opera workshop courses, and even the Elyria Little Symphony, a bygone local amateur orchestra. “Young conductors understand that they need to take every opportunity and make something of it.”
Zinman made a lot of those early learning experiences at Oberlin. Since graduating 50 years ago, he has held music directorships with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester and Rotterdam philharmonics, and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. He also has been guest conductor of the world’s leading orchestras, including those in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Berlin, London, Paris, and, closer to his musical roots, Cleveland. Zinman’s extensive discography of more than 100 recordings has earned him numerous awards.
When Zinman takes the podium this Sunday evening, on the eve of Oberlin’s 175th commencement, he will send off the next generation of Oberlin Conservatory musicians with an experience they are unlikely to forget. Perhaps one of the world’s next great conductors will even be in the violin section, as Zinman himself was 50 years ago.