Oberlin Blogs

Weekend in My Life: Oberlin Isn't Dead!

January 14, 2022

Ilana McNamara ’24

As a prospective student, I was worried about student life here, especially on the weekends. Was there going to be anything to do if I didn’t want to go into Cleveland? Was I going to be just standing in a cornfield as my “fun activity”? While going into Cleveland or standing in a cornfield are always a possibility, luckily Oberlin has many events, concerts, and other social activities happening every week, some sponsored by the college and others put on by students. I find that there are usually too many things to go to! Here’s what one weekend in my Oberlin life looked like:

posters in Wilder, the student union, advertise all the events happening that weekend
Posters in Wilder, the student union, advertise all the events happening that weekend.



After class, I went to my first event of the weekend: Bassoon Christmas! Bassoon Christmas is an annual tradition in the Conservatory where the entire bassoon studio dresses up (the theme this year was the 80s!) and plays arrangements of Christmas songs in the lounge in the Conservatory. It’s always hilarious, but my favorite part is the unsuspecting people that have forgotten that Bassoon Christmas is happening and have to walk to class or a rehearsal right in front of the performance (the lounge is very central in the Conservatory), and it makes for some pretty funny expressions. 

about 12 bassoon players sit and smile in costume in the Conservatory lounge while students on the floor look on
Bassoon Christmas!


I then went to a rehearsal with my string quartet, and unfortunately had to miss the roda (game circle) that Oberlin Capoeira Angola (OCA) was holding at the same time. Capoeira Angola is an Afro-Brazilian martial art / dance / game, and I’ve had the pleasure of being in the beginning Capoeira Angola class this semester. It’s pretty physically challenging, but it’s so cool to learn more about capoeira, and I really appreciate Professor Emeka. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t go this time, but OCA holds multiple rodas a semester, so I’ll get the chance to go again!


After my rehearsal, I got a Thai tea with boba from Bingo Chinese Restaurant in town as a treat (yum!). I also called my parents, my ritual for the end of the week, and I talked with them about our weeks and wished them a Shabbat Shalom. Every Friday night into Saturday night is the Jewish holiday of Shabbat, or the Sabbath, and I love having this relaxation time every week. I went to Shabbat dinner at Chabad, one of the Jewish organizations on campus, which is a family style dinner complete with the rabbi’s eight children. The food is always delicious, and the company is great (especially the kids!). I ended up staying and talking pretty late, so when I was done at Chabad I was too tired to go to the party that my co-op was hosting that night. I went back to my dorm and went to sleep. 



I had to wake up early to go to a string quartet rehearsal, then I continued to have a chamber-music-heavy day! This is ideal for me because I would love to have a career in chamber music someday. After my rehearsal, I got lunch at Kim’s, a Korean grocery store and restaurant in town. I would highly recommend the $5 bowls! They are $5! My personal favorite is spicy tofu! 


My friend had set up a chamber music sight-reading party, which is something that we really like to do. If you’ve never sight-read music with other people, it’s usually a lot of getting lost and yelling out measure numbers and being excited that what you’re playing kind of sounds like the actual thing even though it’s very much not polished. We were able to read the Brahms B-flat Major Sextet and a Mendelssohn string quartet!


I then went to a concert put on by the Verona String Quartet, the current ensemble-in-residence at Oberlin. They are usually coaching student groups or doing other things around the school, so it was a treat to actually get to hear them play. They performed Schubert’s Quartettsatz (which I analyzed for a music theory project last year), Gabriela Lena Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (which I’ve been obsessed with since high school), and Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 (which I love). Sorry for bombarding you with all the program details, but as you can see, chamber music is something that I’m pretty into :) Because of this, though, I wasn’t able to go to an acapella concert that one of my friends was in, so that was sad. 


Then it was time for co-op dinner! I’m in Keep Co-op, and I’m so happy to be back to the home-cooked meals that are a hallmark of the Oberlin Student Co-operative Association (OSCA) this year. Co-ops were not able to operate last year because of the pandemic, but now we have more guidelines in place for food safety and co-opers can enjoy meals cooked by their peers! I would love to say more about my experience in co-ops, but I think that may need to wait for another post. I would encourage you to check out what other bloggers have to say about OSCA, though!


After dinner, I went to a theater production of Next to Normal, which is a musical about a woman’s mental illness and how her family deals with it. One of my friends was in the pit, and another one of my friends who is a theater major assured me that it would be really good, and it didn’t disappoint! Although the subject matter was complicated, I thought that the student actors did a great job and I appreciated the talk-back about mental health that the director had at the end. This ended up going later than I thought, and I wasn’t able to go to my friend’s Taiko drumming performance, which was unfortunate, but I was able to get a good night’s sleep (vital and sometimes unattainable for college students on the weekends). 



My roommate and I have a few things we do over the weekend: we usually go over to our friends’ dorm and watch the Great British Bake-Off, which we didn’t do this week (sad!), but we did do our other tradition of going to Blue Rooster, a bakery in town, for breakfast. They have some of the best baked goods you will ever eat (I guess, outside of the Bake-Off tent)! 


I then had to go to a meeting for all the Accessibility Coordinators (AccessCos) in OSCA co-ops. I was elected as one of the AccessCos for Keep this semester, and this position helps ensure that the co-op is accessible for all members. Some example AccessCo duties might be working with cooks to make sure that certain allergens aren’t being prepared in the kitchen, talking to co-opers about personal issues with other co-opers, and making sure that the space is physically accessible to everyone. Every week, all of the AccessCos get together for the Accessibility Committee Meeting to talk about accessibility concerns across co-ops. After this, I went to co-op lunch and then held my AccessCo Office Hours, where co-opers can come and talk to me about issues they’re having. 


Then, the moment I’d been waiting for: my string quartet’s concert! We have been working on Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 1 all semester, and we finally performed the first and second movements. My cellist set up the event, and we were able to play in Peters Hall, which is an academic building that kind of looks like Hogwarts. This is not a normal venue (for anything, really, besides language and astronomy classes), but it was super cool to get to play in such a unique space. 


For dinner, all of the co-ops in OSCA participated in Iron Chef, which is like the TV show Iron Chef, but the contestants are the different co-ops (there are currently five). The secret ingredient, which this year was mushrooms, was incorporated into every dish. Co-opers have a lot of fun making the meal, but I think the best part is the camaraderie that comes from inter-co-op events like this, where many different co-ops are able to gather. 


After Iron Chef, it was time for Alexis’s Senior Recital! Everyone in the Conservatory has to perform a Junior and Senior Recital in order to graduate, and I was super excited for Alexis, who is my friend and studiomate. She did an incredible job, and I always love seeing people perform on their recitals. The recital really brings out the essence of the person, because they are playing music that they’ve picked and have worked on for months, and it’s so lovely to see everyone’s friends cheer them on. That’s one thing about Oberlin: it’s definitely in our culture to support your friends in everything that they do, including going to their performances. 


Speaking of supporting friends, the next thing that I did was attend a performance that another one of my friends put on - an orchestra made up of musicians in both the College and Conservatory that he conducted. It was cool to see a collaboration between the College and Conservatory like this, and also cool to see people working towards their passion, like conducting. Alexis had an afterparty for her recital later that night, but I decided to get some rest for my next day of classes instead. 

This was one weekend in my life at Oberlin, and I hope this has shown you that Oberlin is definitely not dead over the weekends! This schedule obviously shows my interests, and I’m aware that not everyone would want to go to this many classical music concerts, but there really is something for everybody. I also didn’t mention the times I spent doing work or practicing my instrument, but know that we also do that here :) There’s no way I could even hope to start listing all of the possible things to do even in one weekend on campus, and while this has fluctuated throughout the pandemic as restrictions change, I know that Oberlin is committed to having interesting things happen here!

a trumpet player and band stand on the stage of Finney Chapel with a psychedelic backdrop behind them
Ya like jazz?

Honorable Mentions:

I would feel weird if this post about things to do at Oberlin didn’t mention that there are also things to do during the week! Some highlights from this week for me include the outstanding performance by jazz trumpet player and Oberlin alum Theo Croker, who came to Oberlin to promote his new album BLK2LIFE: A Future Past. I also enjoyed rehearsing with my klezmer band, Schtick n Poke. Although I think the weekends are what prospective students are most concerned about, I just want to emphasize that even when there are classes, there are still fun events happening. Hope to see you soon at a concert in Oberlin!

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