Performance Ensembles

Oberlin presents nearly 500 concerts on campus each year, many of them performed by the more than 30 Conservatory large ensembles, with most of them offered to our supportive community free of charge. 

These faculty-directed ensembles range in size and breadth of repertoire, encompassing 500 years of musical output. From vocal to instrumental to electroacoustic, the spectrum of music that you learn and perform prepares you for a diverse professional life, and enriches the campus and community. 

The Conservatory also has several active student-led ensembles that represent various areas of interest, innovations in music, and musical collaborations. Learn more.

Stay up to date with all the concerts by visiting our events calendar.

Ensembles at Oberlin

The Oberlin Orchestra, directed by Professor Raphael Jiménez, has enjoyed a rich history of notable guest conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Sir Simon Rattle, David Zinman ’58, Robert Spano ’84, and John Williams. Appearances by the Oberlin Orchestra on tour include performances at Carnegie Hall (2013, 2019, 2022, and 2023), Chicago’s Symphony Center (2016), Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Cleveland’s Severance Hall with Sir Simon Rattle, and two tours of China including Singapore (2005, 2011). 

The New York Times has described the performances at Carnegie Hall as “stellar,” “stirring,” and “tightly wrought.” The Plain Dealer wrote that the concert at Severance Hall was “stamped by magnificence.” 

The Oberlin Orchestra’s work can be heard on several releases on Oberlin Music, the official recording label of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, which celebrates the artistic vision and superlative talent of Oberlin’s faculty, students, and alumni, on campus and on tour. 

Described by The New York Times as an “experimental haven” and “a hotbed of contemporary-classical players,” Oberlin Conservatory of Music cultivates innovation in its students. Under the direction of Professor Timothy Weiss, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble’s high level of performance has led to considerable acclaim. The Plain Dealer praised its recent performance at the Cleveland Museum of Art, saying it “spoke volumes about the caliber of Oberlin Conservatory's new-music program, with astonishingly vital performances by Oberlin students.” 

In its six annual full-concert cycles, the Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME), performs music of all contemporary styles and genres: from minimalism to serialism, to electroacoustic, cross-genre, mixed media, and beyond.

CME has worked with many prominent composers from a variety of backgrounds, including Vijay Iyer, Stephen Hartke, George Crumb, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Helmut Lachenmann, David Lang, Joan Tower, Carlos Simon, Cindy McTee, Courtney Bryan, Alex Paxton, and a long list of others, and has premiered many of their works. CME also regularly premieres works by prominent Oberlin faculty, student, and alumni composers.

Some of the most well-regarded contemporary music icons perform as soloists with CME, including Jennifer Koh ’97, Claire Chase ’01, Tony Arnold ’90, Marilyn Nonken, Stephen Drury, Steven Schick, and Ursula Oppens. The ensemble also features outstanding students as soloists each year.

CME routinely performs in Cleveland and tours the United States. In recent years, the group has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Roulette, Winter Garden, Miller Theater, Merkin Concert Hall, DiMenna Center, Harvard University, Benaroya Hall, Palace of Fine Arts, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, and 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 several releases on the Oberlin Music label.

The ensemble has produced scores of powerhouse new music performers and ensembles who began their careers as members of CME, including the multiple Grammy Award-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird and the International Contemporary Ensemble.

Video: Oberlin CME plays Gran Turismo

choir members on stage singing. photo.

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 cappella 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.

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 with 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, Poulenc’s Gloria, Handel's Messiah, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 9, and R. Nathaniel Dett's The Ordering of Moses.

Musical Union (MU) offers Oberlin community members the chance to join with Oberlin College and Conservatory musicians in performing these works. The ensemble typically performs one concert each semester, rehearsing Monday evenings through the academic year. Concerts are performed in Finney Chapel and commonly collaborate with the Oberlin orchestras as well as student, faculty, and staff pianists and organists.

The ensemble is directed by Professor Gregory Ristow. Singers interested in joining MU should send email to or call 440-775-8068.

Oberlin Collegium Musicum specializes in early music—primarily liturgical music of the 16th and 17th centuries. Founded in the mid-1960s, the group has been led by Professor of Musicology Steven Plank, since 1989. In 2009 Plank received the Thomas Binkley Award from Early Music America for his work with Collegium Musicum. A competitively auditioned choir of students from both the Conservatory of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences, the 30- to 40-voice ensemble performs mass and motet settings by Byrd, Tallis, Monteverdi, Gabrieli, Lassus, Gibbons, and Palestrina, among many others. The group performs regularly in its campus venue, Fairchild Chapel, as well as off-campus in various venues in Cleveland including the Museum of Art. They have also presented concerts in the nearby cities of Pittsburgh, Columbus, Washington, D.C., and at Kenyon College. Colleguim Musicum has released two albums—Cantemus and Cantemus II.


The Oberlin Gospel Choir launched 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 studies and performs 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.

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.

Formed in 2018, the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble was made possible through a generous gift to Oberlin Conservatory by Rollins, the revered jazz saxophonist and composer. More than a mere spot in an elite unit, membership in the ensemble requires a commitment to service through music and willingness to give for others—core principles exemplified by Rollins throughout his life and career. Auditions for the "Sonny Ensemble"—a core ensemble based in Oberlin's Jazz Division—are held each year, and all Oberlin jazz students are eligible for inclusion beginning with their first year on campus. The "Sonny Ensemble," led by Professor Bobby Ferrazza, made its New York City debut performing two sets at Jazz at Lincoln Center-Dizzy’s Club in January 2019. The following year, the ensemble made its West Coast debut in the Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ in San Francisco. The group has since returned to both coasts giving performances at Dizzy’s Club and SFJAZZ’s Robert N. Miner Auditorium, as well as at Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley, California.

director leads5 percussion players in rehearsal. photo.

The Oberlin Percussion Group provides a regular 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—performing on campus and on tour.

The ensemble has access to an extensive collection of fine exotic and conventional Western percussion instruments. Most importantly, students acquire a keen sense of the dynamics of ensemble performance. Compositions are conducted only if necessary and students are coached to play like a chamber music ensemble.

Concert repertoire exposes students to compositions of historical significance by early composers such as John Cage, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, or Johanna Beyer as well as contemporary music. Premiering new works is a major objective of the group. The ensemble has commissioned more than 20 compositions to date by composers including Edward Miller, Richard Hoffman, Dary John Mizelle, Randall Coleman, Michael Daugherty, Russell Currie, Alejandro Viñao, Guo Wenjing, and Adam Rudolph '76. OPG has also presented the American premieres of many works by composers including Harrison Birtwistle, Iannis Xenakis, Michaël Levinas, Franco Donatoni, Luigi Nono, and Riccardo Malipiero. The various compositional types take into consideration the variety of colors and timbres of which percussion is capable, including electronic music elements.

OPG has made several recordings for the Opus One, Lumina, CRI labels, and Oberlin Music labels.

All percussion majors are members of the group and receive credit for the four hours per week of rehearsals.

Oberlin Brass Ensemble
Performance & Improvisation (PI) Ensembles
Oberlin Guitar Ensemble
Oberlin Baroque Orchestra
Opera Chorus
Chamber Music Ensembles
Viola da Gamba Consort
Trombone Choir
Small Jazz Ensembles
Oberlin Improvisation and New Music Collective (OINC)
Javanese Gamelan
Brazilian Ensemble
Sumatran Talempong
Djembe Orchestra


Arts and Sciences Chamber Collective
  • Led by members of the Verona Quartet, quartet-in-residence at Oberlin College and Conservatory, this chamber ensemble and chamber orchestra practicum course is designed for college students—orchestral instruments and pianists—to sharpen their individual and collaborative music-making skills through multifaceted settings from small groups to the A&S Chamber Orchestra, generally presenting three to four performances each year.

  • Instrumental Ensembles
  • Small Jazz Ensembles
    Performance & Improvisation (PI) Ensemble
    American Roots Music Ensemble
    Oberlin Improvisation and New Music Collective (OINC)
    Javanese Gamelan
  • Brazilian Ensemble
  • Sumatran Talempong
  • Vocal Ensembles
  • Oberlin College Choir
  • Musical Union
  • Collegium Musicum
  • Gospel Chorus