Oberlin Blogs

A Tour of the Conservatory

April 17, 2014

Three students sit on the steps outside of the jazz building. One has a horse mask on their head

Welcome to your own private tour of the Oberlin Conservatory! We are very excited to show you our "home away from home" on this bright and sunny day. I want to introduce your tour guides: from left to right we have Ben (1st year, DD in vocal performance and undeclared), Jack (2nd year, vocal performance), and Maddie (1st year, vocal performance). Today we're going to show you everything EXCEPT the concert halls. Yes, yes, I know it's a bummer. But you'll have to stay tuned for another coming post dedicated solely to our halls.

Let's get started, shall we?

Four students pose in front of the koi pond

We'll start here at the scenic koi pond with some general information. The conservatory has approximately 600 students (mostly undergraduate) and 75 faculty members. Over the course of the year, there are over 500 concerts that span a large genre spectrum. For example, on Tuesday you can see a recorder ensemble, Wednesday a free jazz jam session, Thursday you can live stream your friend's orchestra concert while folding laundry, and kick back on a Friday to some bluegrass. And guess what? You can go to almost all of these concerts without spending a single penny!

Sorry for not warning you about that last part, I'll give you a moment to collect your jaw from the floor. Anyway, the koi pond is a perfect place to unwind after an intense practice session, catch some UVs, or take introspective pictures of people looking off into the distance.

Let's go inside the central unit (the building in front of us) and have a look around.

A student stands in the center of a lounge area with many other students. Chairs and couches fill a window-y room

Here we are in the conservatory lounge — also known as "the-place-where-you-think-you-can-be-productive-on-your-homework-but-spend-all-your-time-socializing-yet-you-still-keep-coming-back-to-try-again."

The con lounge is the social hub of the conservatory. In the winter, you can see performances of A Very Minimalist Christmas, A Very Falsetto Christmas, Bassoon Christmas, and many other holiday performances. The lounge is also a frequently used space for post-concert receptions. If you're lucky, you'll be able to grab some leftover cupcakes!

Also in the central unit is Kulas Recital Hall, Warner Concert Hall (I'll show you these in another post), ensemble rehearsal rooms, the conservatory library (coming up soon), student lockers, and audio services.

Let's a take look down the hallway to your right...

Four students in a window-y classroom. Two sit at desks looking at another who is in front of a music stand weatring a horse mask. The other is standing with his hand facing the others and looking at the camera

We've entered Bibbins Hall, the academic hub of the conservatory. On the first floor you'll find administrative rooms, the second floor is mainly academic classrooms for music theory, history, aural skills, etc., and on the third floor is the newly built Stull Recital Hall (Penthouse Stull, as it is affectionately called), and music studios.

The Bibbins classrooms are state of the art: almost everything is controlled with the push of a button. Curtains, mp3 recording, projectors, temperature, you name it! Every classroom also has at least one wall full of windows for you daydreamers out there!

Down the hall is the "distance learning" classroom. Here you can have a masterclass or private lesson with a teacher from around the world over video transmission. So if you want to have a lesson with an Australian virtuoso but don't have the money lying around for a trip to Australia, you can arrange to have the lesson set up for you in this high-tech room!

Do we have anyone interested in TIMARA? A few hands— I'll take you to the TIMARA lair in the basement of Bibbins.

A student in a room full o f computers and keyboards is facing the camera with his hand toward the room. Three others sit at computers

Welcome to the Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA) department. The TIMARA program is the world's first conservatory program in electronic music. The department boasts five studios (excluding instructor studios): the control room, live studio, diffusion studio, analog studio, and video suite. Currently, we are standing in the public lab where college and conservatory students are allowed to edit and process video and audio material.

The TIMARA department has an extensive collection of cutting edge and historical instruments including original models of the ARP 2600, the Buchla 200e, and the EMS VCS 3 (for those of you who know what these are, isn't that awesome? For those of you who think I'm reciting the alphabet in an abstract fashion, I can assure you these instruments are pretty great!). I definitely suggest you check out the department's website for more information!

All right everyone, we're heading to the conservatory library. I want to warn you that your first visit to the con library can cause uncontrollable tears of joy and/or fainting from seeing SO MUCH MUSIC in one concentrated location. Brace yourselves and have inhalers at the ready.

A student in the library is holding a book and holding her hand towards the rest of the room, where three others sit in front of computers

Welcome to heaven, book worms! The conservatory library offers two floors of space for books, recordings, videos, listening stations, computers, and study spaces. The conservatory library houses roughly 127,000 musical scores, 80,000 sound recordings, 63,000 books about music and 210 music periodical titles (and is still growing)!

In the rare chance you can't find a book, don't worry! Oberlin is part of OhioLINK. Through this program, you can get what you are looking for through one of 84 public or private libraries throughout Ohio with just the click of a button! Nifty, huh?

WARNING: one can easily get addicted to browsing the entire repertoire for your instrument. Violinists and pianists should pay special caution.

A student with a horse mask on their head lays on a lounge chair as though they are asleep amidst shelves of books

Here's some insider advice:

Go to the very far right corner of the library and you will find some secluded couches. This area is probably the best place to take a nap in the conservatory or to people watch (as a psychology major, I definitely take advantage of this).

So after a long practice session (or an unwillingness to go to an orchestra rehearsal you should have prepared for) this secret lounge is definitely a prime location.

Two students in a practice room. One is holding the door with their hand held toward the other student, who is wearing a horse mask and standing in front of a piano

Speaking of practicing!

Here we are at Robertson— home of the practice rooms (or your second dorm room...). I suggest you check out my last blog post that was solely on practice rooms.

If you have, I'll add some things that vocalists and reed instrumentalists would like to hear:

Attention Vocalists! The Otto B. Schoepfle Vocal Arts Center can be found on the third floor. This laboratory includes stroboscopic and fiber-optic instrumentation that can display four types of vocal analyses concurrently, allowing examination of both the function and the timbre of the artistic singing voice.

Attention Reed Instrumentalists! Individual reed-making rooms for the bassoon, oboe, and clarinet studios can be found on the second floor.

Enough talk of practice rooms, it reminds me that I haven't looked at my orchestral excerpts yet. (Sorry Prof. Slowik, I promise I'll get to them tomorrow!!!)

A student in the sky bar holding her arm toward the room of others sitting at tables. Behind is a food bar where a horse-masked student is buying food

Do you like food...? Great!

A quick trip up a flight of stairs/elevator and you'll find yourself in the Sky Bar — also known as "the-place-where-you-should-do-your-homework-instead-of-procrastinating-in-the-con-lounge-pretending-to-do-work." Here you'll be able to get coffee, tea, breakfast items, or snacks. The Sky Bar is suspended (literally) in limbo between Robertson and the Kohl Jazz Building.

Once Jack gets his coffee we can head on over to the Kohl Building for you jazz majors in the crowd.

A horse-masked student stand in front of a glass encased award

On our way into Kohl, I thought I would just point out our National Medal of Arts: the United States' highest award given to individuals and institutions that promote the arts. Oberlin is one of only a few select institutions that have received this award.

Just sayin'...

A group of students play jazz outside of the Kohl building while others on-look

SPOTTED! A wild jam session is happening outside Kohl! This is a common occurrence when it's a beautiful, sunny day: jazz, classical, and college students come together and have a great time playing or listening.

A student standing in front of stairs holding his hand out with his palm facing up

If you're a jazz major or are feeling particularly hip and/or cool, you'll be spending a good portion of your time here at the Kohl Building! The Kohl Building has earned a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating (i.e. not only does it look awesome, but is also awesome for the environment)!

In Kohl you can find a computer lab, self-recording-capable practice rooms, and the Clonick recording studio. Also, Kohl houses the James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection of more than 100,000 jazz recordings, as well as posters; the Selch Collection of American Music History with nearly 700 instruments and 6,000 rare books and artworks; and the Frank Kuchirchuk Collection of Jazz Photography with images of select jazz greats taken in 1952 and 1953.

Before I'm asked to improvise over a walking bass, let's head to the roof!

Students sitting on the roof of the Kohl building. A horse-masked student is emerging from the brush as though they are about to scare two students sitting in front of it

That was a close call! Well here we are at our final stop of the tour: the rooftop terrace of Kohl. Up here you can find jam sessions, lunching, lounging, and introspective staring into the distance (it's a common theme here in Oberlin).

I hope you enjoyed getting a tour of my Ober-home. Ben, Jack, and Maddie and I had a great time showing you around (and publicly embarrassing ourselves) and we hope to see you around campus: it's a beautiful place to make beautiful music!

If you want to know more about Oberlin, feel free to email the conservatory's admissions office or myself (see my email in my bio).

A horse-masked student stands in front of the conservatory building with both arms outstretched

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Responses to this Entry

Gahhh I love these photo tours, because I get to see things I've never seen before. The TIMARA lab?! Awesome!!

Also the "fishbowl" at the end of the the con library is one of my favorite spots on campus. So glad you included it!

Posted by: Ma'ayan on April 24, 2014 2:24 PM

Loved this tour! It was exactly what I was looking for. Makes me want to apply even more!

This tour was especially good for me because it would be very costly for me to actually tour the campus.

Posted by: Giorgio on May 26, 2014 4:45 AM

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