Con Plans New Home For Jazz
The Conservatory’s world-class Jazz Studies program will soon have a world-class facility. In December 2005, College President Nancy Dye announced that a $5 million gift from Board of Trustees member Stewart Kohl, OC ’77, and his wife Donna would go toward funding a new building for the Conservatory’s Jazz Studies program. This is the largest gift ever given for jazz education at a college in the history of the United States. Since that announcement, the number of Jazz Studies applications have soared, according to Conservatory Dean David H. Stull.
The Conservatory has been working with architect Paul Westlake of the well-known firm, Westlake Reed Leskosky, on the planning of the space. WRL has designed an acoustically rated building, creating an outstanding music center for Oberlin without sacrificing an innovative look that will aesthetically contribute to and interact with the current campus. A model of the building is currently on display in the Conservatory lounge.
“They’re a terrific architecture firm [that is] really dynamic and creative,” Stull said.
Jazz was first incorporated into the Conservatory’s curriculum in 1972; the institution began offering the Jazz Studies major in 1989. The program currently operates in the renovated Hales Gymnasium, a space that is “obviously not adequate in any respect,” said Associate Professor of Jazz Guitar Bobby Ferrazza, who believes the new building will “increase the educational possibilities.”
In addition to housing Jazz Studies and more fully integrating the program into the Conservatory, the building will also include rehearsal and practice rooms, teaching studios, instrument storage and a library resources area. The third floor will boast a 1500 square foot state-of-the art recording studio with 30-foot ceilings, which will be “one of the finest in the region,” according to Stull.
Upon completion, the Departments of Music Theory and Musicology will be also moved into the building. A currently undisclosed Conservatory alumnus is also donating his set of nearly 100,000 notable jazz recordings, the largest privately owned collection of its kind in America.
Stull spoke animatedly of a new student lounge on the third floor accessible by a glass elevator. Essentially a skybox, he predicts the area will act as an interactive, cooperative spot for visitors, students and faculty.
This project is part of a long-term plan for the Conservatory that will include a renovation to the second floor of Bibbins, which will increase studio and classroom space.
“We’re interested in offering more non-major courses,” Stull said, which will be possible once more space becomes available. “It really is about opportunity for students.”
So far, the Conservatory has raised approximately $8 million of the $17.1 million estimated construction cost.
“We’re still fundraising for it…but we’re on track,” Stull said.
The facility will also be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rated music facility in the U.S. WRL strives to complete buildings “that significantly reduce the negative impact of buildings on the environment.” Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council over 13 years ago, LEED provides a set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.
The firm has worked on several top-notch performing arts facilities, including Cleveland’s Blossom Music Center and Playhouse Square, Denver Arts Center and Bethel Performing Arts and Interpretive Center in Woodstock, NY. They are also presently conducting a 5-year plan for Washington D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The project will go out on bid this fall after a final board approval process.
“We aspire to break ground in March of ’08,” Stull said, in hopes of a fall 2009 occupancy.
The facility will be dedicated to the memory of Phyllis Litoff, a close friend of the Kohls’ who passed away in 2002. Litoff and her husband, Mel, were forerunners in the New York City jazz scene as owners of the famous Greenwich Village jazz club, Sweet Basil.
“This is a really ambitious and exciting project for Oberlin College, not just the Conservatory,” Stull said.