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Of Note

:: Conservatory and Cleveland Orchestra Enhance Collaboration
:: Music Critic and Historian James Keller Is Luce Professor of the Emerging Arts
:: An Eye (and Ear) to the Future: The Oberlin Community Music School
:: Oberlin Welcomes Prominent Guest Artists
:: Cellist and Alumnus Darrett Adkins Joins Faculty
:: Oberlin Opera Singers Perform in Buenos Aires and Cleveland
:: Huzzahs from Handel. What Say You, Humperdinck?
:: International Piano Competition Winners
:: A Grand Partnership
:: Student Directs Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum, Draws Capacity Crowds
:: The Next New Thing and All that Jazz

Conservatory and Cleveland Orchestra Enhance Collaboration

Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Most leads a rehearsal of the Oberlin Orchestra.
(photo by Roger Mastroianni)

An April 14 performance by the Oberlin Orchestra and conductor Steven Smith in Cleveland’s historic Severance Hall was more than just an off-campus concert for the student ensemble. It was one of numerous recent outcomes of an enhanced relationship between the Conservatory and the Cleveland Orchestra.

At the start of his tenure with the Cleveland Orchestra, Music Director Franz Welser-Möst strengthened the connection between the orchestra and Oberlin through his commitment to participate in coaching and conducting student ensembles. The maestro led the Oberlin Orchestra through a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture last fall.

Ties between the two institutions date from 1919, when the Cleveland Orchestra made the first of its annual appearances on Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series.

Recent collaborations have also included vocal performances. For example, the Women of the Oberlin College Choir were on stage when mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong ’02 made her Cleveland Orchestra debut in March, joining Dame Felicity Lott in Debussy’s La Damoiselle élue. And during the Cleveland Orchestra’s first performances of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt last November, Malia Bendi Merad ’03 sang one of the soprano roles.

More than 120 members of the Oberlin Orchestra appeared on the Severance Hall stage for the April performance. The program, which was broadcast live on WCLV 104.9 FM and simulcast on www.wclv.com, consisted of Mahler’s Symphony no. 5 and György Ligeti’s Atmosphères. Conductor Steven Smith is associate professor of conducting at the Conservatory and music director of the Oberlin Orchestras. He is also former assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Read more about the Conservatory and the Cleveland Orchestra at www.oberlin.edu/con.

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Music Critic and Historian James Keller Is Luce Professor of the Emerging Arts

James M. Keller '75

Music critic and historian James M. Keller ’75 has been named Oberlin’s new Henry R. Luce Profes-sor of the Emerging Arts—a faculty position in both the Conservatory of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences. His appointment begins July 1, 2004.

“James Keller brings to this important professorship an enormous breadth of interests and knowledge,” says Dean of the Conservatory of Music Robert Dodson.

Keller is program annotator and a frequent lecturer for both the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony orchestras.

A prolific writer, he was awarded the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for feature writing about music in Chamber Music magazine, for which he is contributing editor. From 1990 to 2000 he was music editor of the New Yorker magazine, writing weekly columns about classical and popular music, record reviews, and events listings. He also has contributed articles and reviews to many other publications.

Keller believes his experience in observing and writing about the rapidly changing arts and culture scene suits him to a teaching position that is itself experimental.
“I’m a historian by training and bias,” Keller says. “I believe that new creations are born out of traditions, and I want to place them in a context that makes them approachable.”

Keller earned bachelor’s degrees in 1975 from both the Oberlin Conservatory and Oberlin College, majoring in music history in the former and French and music in the latter. He also holds a certificate in French language and literature from the Sorbonne, Paris; a master of philosophy in music history from Yale University; and a certificate from the Careers in Business Institute at New York University’s Graduate School of Business Administration.

The Luce Professorship of the Emerging Arts is funded for six years by the Henry Luce Foundation. Keller is the second person to hold the post.

For more information about Keller and the Luce Professorship, visit www.oberlin.edu/con.

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An Eye (and Ear) to the Future: The Oberlin Community Music School

Where will the next generation of audiences for serious music come from?

Heaven or Las Vegas knows, but the Conservatory is leaving nothing to divine intervention or chance.

The Conservatory has for several years sponsored several music programs for young people: the string preparatory program, coordinated by Associate Professor of Music Edu-cation Joanne Erwin; the piano lab, led by Associate Professor of Class Piano and Pedagogy Andrew Hisey; and MusicPlay, overseen by Professor of Music Education Peggy Bennett.

These programs now have a place in the shade of a new umbrella: the Oberlin Community Music School. Last fall, the school added Suzuki violin lessons and private lessons in several applied areas to Oberlin’s offerings for young people.

Assistant Professor of Piano Pedagogy Andrea Steffan directs the Oberlin Community Music School.

Children as young as 3 can enroll in Suzuki and MusicPlay, while 7 is the typical starting age for the string prep program and the piano lab. Adults can enroll in private lessons and classes.

The school is funded primarily through tuition and fees, but financial aid is available, says Steffan, adding, “The program would not be possible without the generous support of the Esther Simon Charitable Trust.”

Most of the group classes and private lessons take place at the Conservatory, but the school also rents space for the Suzuki program in the nearby First United Methodist Church of Oberlin.

“The school is for students of all ages, from the young child to the adult learner, as well as all talent levels,” says Steffan. “This is about reaching the student who could potentially be very interested in music but, outside the standard school classroom, has not had exposure to music. It’s also an excellent resource for adults who have always wanted to learn.”

Read more about the Community Music School at www.oberlin.edu/ commusic.

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Oberlin Welcomes Prominent Guest Artists

Ida Haendel shows violinist J Freivogle '05 and accompanist Yu Sakamoto her legendary style.
(photo courtesy John Seyfried)

Guest artists enhanced the Conservatory’s musical life this year with master classes, performances, and presentations.

Baritone Sanford Sylvan presented a master class in September, when he was in town for an Artist Recital Series concert with pianist and Associate Professor of Historical Performance David Breitman.

Composer Joan Tower was in residence in October. The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME), the Wind Ensemble, and the Oberlin Percussion Group performed her works Black Topaz, Flute Concerto, Petroushskates, and DNA in Finney Chapel. The Division of Contemporary Music also sponsored a November appearance by pianist Marilyn Nonken, whose program included the complete piano works of Tristan Murail.

Also in November, legendary violinist Ida Haendel provided students valuable tutelage in a master class, and Catherine Turocy, artistic director of the New York Baroque Dance Company, completed a residency that included dance classes for musicians and a concert of English baroque music and dance.

Two-time Grammy Award winner Frank Foster guest conducted the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble in Finney Chapel in a December program that featured his arrangements and compositions. Composer Stephen Montague was also on campus that month and heard the CME and artist diploma student Balint Karosi perform Behold a Pale Horse, for organ and brass septet. The program also included Professor of Composition Randolph Coleman’s Apparitions and featured eighth blackbird and the Oberlin Orchestra performing Split Horizon, a work by David Schober ’97.

Premier composer of electronic music Morton Subotnick was in residence in March; he presented a composition seminar, a master class, and a solo concert from his laptop computer. A concert by the CME featured the Jasper String Quartet performing Subotnick’s A Fluttering of Wings.

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Cellist and Alumnus Darrett Adkins Joins Faculty

Darrett Adkins
(photo courtesy
Wendy Stulberg '90)

Cellist Darrett Adkins ’91 joined the Conservatory faculty in September 2003 as assistant professor of violoncello.

“Darrett Adkins’ magnetism as a teacher and his compelling voice as a performer have contributed to his growing reputation in the world of music,” says Dean of the Conservatory Robert Dodson.

Prior to his Oberlin appointment, Adkins was a faculty member for seven years at the Juilliard School, where he earned his doctor of musical arts degree. (He also holds a master of music degree from Rice University.) He joined the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School last summer, teaching cello and codirecting the string chamber music program.

He made his professional debut at Aspen in 2002 when, with only three days’ notice, he performed Pierre Boulez’s Messagesquisse with James Conlon conducting. That year he was also “cellist of honor” at the International Cello Encounter in Rio de Janeiro.

Called “an adventurous champion of contemporary music” by Strings magazine, Adkins has won numerous prizes, including the Presser Music Award and the Bunkamura Orchard Hall Award, for which he appeared as soloist with the Tokyo Philharmonic. He has also appeared with Tochio Soloisten and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, among others. He gave the 1999 American premiere of Franco Donatoni’s cello concerto Un Ruisseau sur l’Escalier and, in 1990, Birtwistle’s Meridian, both with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra.

The Houston Chronicle praised Adkins’ “suave musicality” in a November 2000 performance of Debussy’s 1915 Cello Sonata with the Zephyr Trio, of which Adkins is a member and with which he regularly tours.

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Oberlin Opera Singers Perform in Buenos Aires and Cleveland

Kathryn Leemhuis '05 and Ferris
Allen '04 in a scene from the
production of Dido and Aeneas in Cleveland's Trinity Cathedral.
(photo by Al Fuchs)

There was no crying in Argentina —except on stage—when Oberlin opera singers performed Dido and Aeneas with singers from the Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.

The production, staged in January at Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral and in March at the Argentine capital’s Teatro Colón, was part of a groundbreaking international opera project. The event was “the first collaborative effort between performing arts organizations in Ohio and South America,” says Director and Associate Professor of Opera Theater Jonathon Field.

Field directed two casts composed of Oberlin and Instituto students in the Cleveland and Buenos Aires productions of Dido and Aeneas, with Kathryn Leemhuis ’05 and Ferris Allen ’04 performing the lead roles. The Orquestra Academica of the Teatro Colón, under the baton of Bruno D’Astola, accompanied both performances in Buenos Aires, while the Trinity Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Hathaway, accompanied the Cleveland productions.

A grant from the Ohio Arts Council made the international opera project possible.
“Understanding each other’s culture is good business, and the arts enable us to explore both what our cultures have in common and how they are different,” says Wayne Lawson, director of the Ohio Arts Council (OAC).

“The OAC’s International Program is committed to bringing together people from diverse cultural backgrounds to foster understanding and to increase Ohioans’ access to international arts activities. We were pleased to support a project that used innovative opera to accomplish those goals.”

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Huzzahs from Handel. What Say You, Humperdinck?

Handel would have loved it, declared Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg about the Oberlin Opera Theater spring 2003 production of Alcina. Jeannette Sorrell ’92, he wrote, conducted it with “propulsion, crispness, and flexibility,” and Jonathon Field staged it “with imaginative flair.”

Vera Savage ’03 as Alcina used “her bright soprano with fearless attack and bold expressivity,” while soprano Malia Bendi Merad ’03 as Alcina’s sister, Morgana, showed “amazing virtuosity” and “technical command of even the most eye-crossing figurations equaled by irrestible musicality.” Liora Grodnikaite ’03 was “stalwart and warm” in the castrato role of Ruggiero. Bradamante, played by Sara Fanucchi ’04 “phrased with knowing elegance”; Oberto, performed by Sarah St. Germain ’04 “was alive and feisty”; and David Kurtenbach ’02 (shown at right) sang Oronte’s lines with “tenorial freshness.”

Hänsel und Gretel, staged in fall 2003, did not disappoint either. “As usual, opera standards at Oberlin soared,” Rosenberg wrote.

Much of the beauty, he noted, derived from the pit. “Steven Smith led a performance that basked in Humperdinck’s lyrical effulgence and high spirits.” Karen Jesse ’04 sang the roles of Gertrud and the Witch “with a penetrating mezzo-soprano that one day could lead her to the land of Wagner.” Kathryn Leemhuis ’05 “filled the pants role of Hänsel with gawky allure,” and Adrianne Herman ’04 as Gretel “was a bundle of freshness, buoyancy, and compassion.”

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International Piano Competition Winners

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Kudo of Northbrook, Illinois, a student of Emilio del Rosario at the Music Institute of Chicago, won the Ninth Annual Oberlin International Piano Competition and Festival, held July 26, 2003, in Warner Concert Hall.

Kevin Kordi—also 16, from Northbrook, and a student of del Rosario—won second-prize and the audience favorite award. Third prize went to Ye Jin Lee, 15, of South Korea.

Guest judges for the finals round were Hans Boepple, chair of the music department at Santa Clara University; Ekaterina Murina, chief professor and chair of piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia; and broadcaster, writer, and teacher Robert Sherman. Judges from the Oberlin Conservatory were piano faculty members Alvin Chow, Monique Duphil, and Sanford Margolis.

The competition is for pianists 13 through 18 years old. The 2004 event will take place July 25 through August 1.

Professor of Piano Robert Shannon is the competition and festival director.

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A Grand Partnership

Steinway & Sons celebrated its historic partnership with the Conservatory by sending its director of institutional sales, Sally Covaleskie, from New York to present a plaque to Dean Robert Dodson. The inscription reads: “On the occasion of our 150th Anniversary Steinway & Sons proudly honors Oberlin College Conservatory as an All-Steinway School since 1877.” The Oberlin Conservatory is Steinway’s oldest continuous client.

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Student Directs Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum, Draws Capacity Crowds

Fairchild Chapel was the apt setting for a production of the 12th-century morality play , by Hildegard von Bingen.

In February, a capacity crowd witnessed a mortal struggle in Fairchild Chapel. By candlelight, the Soul worked to resist the temptations of the Devil and the World to join the virtues in Heaven.

Directed by composition major Mary E. Larew ’05 as a winter-term project, the performances of Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th-century morality play Ordo Virtutum combined sacred music, drama, and ritual. The fully-staged productions, with costumes based upon Hildegard’s mystical visions recounted in her book, Scivias, were so successful that additional performances were mounted in Fairchild Chapel and at St. Stanislaus Church in Cleveland’s Slavic Village the following month.

In her program notes, Larew writes that, like other medieval chant, Ordo Virtutum “was written without precise notation of rhythm. ... Over the course of our month of rehearsals, we created our own phrasing—first I would sing a line to the cast (with consideration of direction of line, text painting, and general mood), then they would sing it back, and we would repeat this until the rhythm felt just right. Each member of the cast created her own notation and marked it into her score to remind her of the phrasing.”

Larew also wrote the instrumental interludes for the production, based primarily on excised pieces from the vocal score.

The performers included students from the College and the Conservatory as well as early music specialists performing on period instruments, among them Debra Nagy ’00.
Professor of Musicology Steven Plank was Larew’s sponsor for the project.

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The Next New Thing and All that Jazz

The Conservatory was the place to experience the next new thing in 2003. Events began in February, when Oberlin hosted the 2002-03 Midwest Composers Symposium, and continued throughout the year.

Midwest Composers Symposium
Sponsored by the composition department, the 50-year-old symposium, held annually at one of several participating institutions, is the oldest such event for student composers in the United States.

Students from Indiana University and the universities of Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa joined Oberlin student composers for the two-day conference, where their works took center stage.

The symposium concerts showcased “a rich variety of music for solo and chamber music, as well as works involving electronic sound with and without live instruments,” says Professor of Composition Lewis Nielson.

The concerts featured performances by the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, directed by Associate Professor of Conducting Steven Smith; the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, directed by Strickland Gardner Professor of Music Timothy Weiss; and the Oberlin College Choir, directed by Associate Professor of Choral Conducting Hugh Floyd.

Oberlin student composers represented on the program were Ashley Fure ’04, Jiena Gu ’04, Angie Knotts ’04, Clara Latham ’04, Michael Leibowitz ’05, Clint McCallum ’03, Adam Schoenberg ’02, Nathan Sutter ’03, and Michael Weyandt ’04.

CME Premieres Works
The Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Timothy Weiss, performed a March concert that featured two world premieres and two American premieres. One of the world premieres was Death of the Moth by Tom Lopez, assistant professor of computer music and digital arts. The other, the soadie waste by James Dillon, was commissioned by the CME. The two American premieres were Dillon’s Once upon a Time and Gilbert Amy’s La Variation Ajouteè.

Aural Capacity Vol. 2
The biennial recording project of the Conservatory’s Division of Contemporary Music, which encompasses jazz, composition, and TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts), culminated in the 2003 release of Aural Capacity Vol. 2.

Students whose works are featured on the recording are Mario Diaz de León ’03, Stephen Wood ’03, John Levey ’04, Suzanna Sitomer ’03, Mark Barden ’03, Leslie Roberts (1977-2002), Sam Kulik ’04, and César Alvarez ’03.

Recent Conservatory graduates and current students perform on the CD.

Paul Zinman ’84, president and chief engineer of New York-based SoundByte Productions, Inc., was recording engineer.

Sweet and Lowdown
Performing as the Oberlin Jazz Septet, Conservatory jazz students once again wowed audiences at the Ford Detroit Jazz Festival, held during the Labor Day weekend last September at assorted Detroit jazz clubs. The septet—Rob Adkins ’04 on bass; Courtney Bryan ’04 on piano; Nick Lyons ’04 on saxophone; Sam Kulik ’04 on trombone; Rob Schwartz ’04 on drums; Steve Strohmeier ’04 on guitar; and Josiah Woodson ’03 on trumpet—also opened for the Mulgrew Miller Trio at Detroit’s new SereNgeti Gallery.

Josiah Woodson '03

Woodson was honored with a solo appearance at the festival’s 2003 Trumpet Summit, hosted by Visiting Professor of Jazz Trumpet Marcus Belgrave. Woodson has already played at some of the world’s best-known jazz clubs, including Yoshi’s, Bluesville, and Dillard’s, and he has opened for Kool and the Gang.

During Oberlin’s annual sojourn to the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival (Elmhurst, Ill.), held in February 2003, the “cats” (as Professor of Jazz Studies and Double Bass Peter Dominguez calls them) received “Outstanding Recognition” awards. The top cats at Elmhurst were Kassa Overall ’05 (drums), Sam Kulik ’04 (trumpet), Ryan Kotler ’05 (guitar), Jacob Fiss-Hobart ’05 (bass), and Alexander Shepherd ’04 (saxophone).

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