Oberlin sponsors approximately 500 concerts on campus each year, including recitals and concerts by the more than 25 student ensembles, and performances and master classes by guest artists. Faculty members perform on campus and throughout the world. Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series features concerts presented by a range of highly acclaimed artists.
Performances by vocal and instrumental, solo and ensemble, students, faculty, and professionals represent the spectrum of music offerings that enrich life on campus and in the community. From baroque to contemporary guitar, classical to popular, computer-generated to acoustic, and from time-tested compositions to newer works, the college and conservatory present shows and performers to satisfy any musical interest.
The conservatory has several active student ensembles and faculty-led performance groups. Many are well established at the conservatory and in the music world; others represent innovations in music and musical collaborations.
If you don’t see a group or ensemble of interest to you, considering making your own music. Oberlin offers numerous performance opportunities and different venues in which to practice and perform.
Find out who’s performing on campus and in the community. Check the events calendar.
Ensembles at Oberlin
The Collegium Musicum specializes in medieval, Renaissance, and early music. Founded in the early 1960s, the group has been led by Director of Musicology Steven Plank, since 1990. The 40-voice student ensemble has performed Mass and motet settings by Byrd, Tallis, Fayrfax, Monteverdi, Victoria, Lasso, Schuetz, and Palestrina. The group performs frequently at the Cleveland Museum of Art and has also presented concerts in Washington, D.C., and at Kenyon College.
In its six annual full-concert cycles, Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME), directed by Professor of Conducting Timothy Weiss, performs music of all contemporary styles and genres: from minimalism to serialism, to electronic, cross genre, mixed media, and beyond.
CME has worked with many prominent composers, including Aaron Helgeson ’05, George Crumb, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Stephen Hartke, Helmut Lachenmann, David Lang, Joan Tower, Frederic Rzewski, and others, and has premiered many of their works. CME also regularly premieres works by Oberlin faculty, student, and alumni composers.
Each year, some of the most well-regarded contemporary music icons perform as soloists with CME, including Jennifer Koh ’97, Claire Chase ’01, David Bowlin ’00, Tony Arnold ’90, Marilyn Nonken, Stephen Drury, Steven Schick, and Ursula Oppens. Distinguished students regularly receive opportunities to perform as soloists with the ensemble as well, a luxury that is seldom afforded at other institutions.
CME ruotinely performs in Cleveland and tours the states. In recent years, the group has performed at the Winter Garden, Miller Theater, Merkin Concert Hall, DiMenna Center, Harvard University, Benaroya Hall, Palace of Fine Arts, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, and in partner concerts with the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The group is featured on a number of commercial recordings, including John Luther Adams’ In the White Silence (New World Records), Lewis Nielson’s Écritures: St. Francis Preaches to the Birds (Centaur Records), and on the Oberlin Music record label.
Video: Oberlin CME plays Gran Turismo
The Oberlin Gospel Choir launches in spring 2020, under the direction of jazz voice teacher La Tanya Hall. This group is open to all conservatory and college students with weekly rehearsals that lead to a performance.
The group will study and perform music that covers the diaspora of gospel music and represents everything from field songs passed on in the oral tradition from Africa, to modern gospel repertoire that incorporates elements of R&B, classical, neo-soul, jazz, and folk.
The focus is on phrasing, stamina, and three- and four-part singing to achieve the authentic sound of gospel music.
Founded in 1837, the 140-voice Oberlin Musical Union is the second-oldest continuing choral tradition in the United States. Only Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, founded in 1815, represents a longer ongoing tradition. This group performs the great works for chorus and orchestra. Recent presentations include Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Haydn’s Creation, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem Mass, Poulenc’s Gloria, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
The Musical Union (MU) offers Oberlin community members the chance to join with Oberlin College musicians in performing these works. Typically, MU performs one concert per semester, rehearsing Monday evenings through the academic year. Concerts are performed with the Oberlin Arts & Sciences Orchestra in Finney Chapel.
Founded in 1929 by Olaf C. Christiansen as the Oberlin A Cappella Choir, the Oberlin College Choir is a select ensemble of college and conservatory students who perform a wide variety of a capella and accompanied choral literature.
In 1964, under the direction of Robert Fountain, the ensemble sang 39 concerts in the former Soviet Union and in Romania as part of the Cultural Exchange Program of the U.S. State Department. The ensemble also has performed at Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra.
The Oberlin Jazz Ensemble is composed of jazz as well as classical performance majors, the ensemble is a component in a four-year curriculum in jazz studies leading to a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in performance, composition, or both.
The ensemble generally performs in Finney Chapel during the academic year and frequently appears at college festivals throughout the United States.
Oberlin Jazz Ensemble, founded in 1973, is one of several ensembles established by Wendell Logan, a beloved professor of African American music and onetime chair of Oberlin’s Division of Jazz Studies. Logan died in 2010.
The Oberlin Orchestra has enjoyed a rich history of notable guest conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Sir Simon Rattle (whose son is an Oberlin alumnus), David Zinman, Robert Spano ’84, and John Williams. Recent appearances by the Oberlin Orchestra include performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; at Cleveland’s Severance Hall; and a critically acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall in New York conducted by Spano. The New York Times described the performance at Carnegie Hall as “stellar.”
Formed in 1972, the Oberlin Percussion Group provides a forum for students to apply techniques learned in lessons, to hone their skills searching for the appropriate sound for a given situation, to learn the art of caring for instruments, and to discover diverse repertoire for the percussion ensemble. Perhaps most importantly, students acquire a keen sense of the dynamics of ensemble performance.
Compositions are conducted only if necessary and students are encouraged to play like other chamber music ensembles. Professor of Percussion Mike Rosen explains, “On each concert I usually program a composition of historical significance by early composers such as John Cage, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, or Johanna Beyer. I also try to select music of various compositional types and take into consideration the variety of colors and timbres of which percussion is capable including electronic music elements.”
All percussion majors are members of the group and receive credit for the four hours per week of rehearsals.
- Oberlin Chamber Orchestra
- Oberlin Sinfonietta
- Oberlin Guitar Ensemble
- Oberlin Arts & Sciences Orchestra
- Baroque Orchestra
- Oberlin Opera Theater
- Women’s Chorale
- Chamber Music Ensembles
- Viola da Gamba Consort
- Trombone Choir