A group of Conservatory students Monday turned musical instruments into protest instruments.
Two tuba students organized a performance in the Conservatory to make Dean of the Conservatory Karen Wolff listen to their demands that Oberlin retain their teacher, Rex Martin, at Oberlin.
As of late Thursday, Wolff had not decided whether she would reverse the decision she made earlier and keep Martin at Oberlin.
Martin is one of several Conservatory faculty members who commute to Oberlin to teach one day a week. Martin is also on the faculty at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Wolff said that the Dean of the School of Music at Northwestern originally told her that he would not release Martin to teach at Oberlin next year. With that decision and more than $100,000 to cut from the Conservatory budget in part of a College-wide cost-cutting program, Wolff decided not to rehire Martin. Martin's travel expenses account for around $50,000 a year for Oberlin.
Over the past few weeks, Oberlin's three tuba majors have had around a half-dozen meetings with Wolff in protest of her decision. Monday, she told them that Northwestern was willing to let Martin continue teaching at Oberlin.
Two tuba majors, sophomores Jeremy Stoner and Morgan Matthews, were not completely satisfied with their Monday morning meeting with Wolff.
So, at about 11:45 a.m., they began playing duets outside Wolff's office. Among their selections were a few transcriptions of Christmas music for tuba ensembles.
For their concert, Stoner adorned a T-shirt that said "Save Rex" - a message that has been plastered on posters around the Conservatory this week.
More brass players joined the protest over the next two hours. The ensemble peaked with around 15 members before the group decided to hang it up for the day around 2 p.m.
The tuba students planned their protest in advance of the meeting with Wolff. Before she went into the dean's office, Matthews said, "We will honk in her face."
Wolff said she talked about the tuba situation in her meeting Monday afternoon with the Conservatory Faculty Council - an elected committee of Conservatory faculty members who decide on personnel issues. After that meeting, she again talked to students about the issue.
She told them she would make a decision by week's end.
"We've taken into account the students' desires and opinions in this," Wolff said Wednesday.
In the last few weeks, local candidates for the tuba have come to campus. Stoner said they have not been up to the level of Martin, whom he described as one of the top tuba instructors in the nation.
This year is Martin's second teaching at Oberlin. He now works with a studio of three tuba majors and a secondary student. In the fall of 1993, there were no tubists enrolled at Oberlin.
Playing a protest: Conservatory tubists play outside Dean Wolff's office (photo by Alex Warnow)
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 21; April 19, 1996
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