Beginning in summer 2010, Oberlin Conservatory of Music joined with The Cleveland Orchestra to offer an important new international competition for young musicians. The competition awarded more than $20,000 in prize money plus a performance with the orchestra.
The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition at Oberlin, sponsored by Thomas and Evon Cooper, alternates annually between piano and violin. The program was first offered in summer 2010 for pianists, followed by a 2011 competition for violinists. Open to musicians between the ages of 13 and 18, the competition culminates in a final round at Severance Hall in Cleveland, where the top three competitors perform a full concerto with the incomparable orchestra. Beginning in 2016, overall cash prizes were increased to $40,000, including a $20,000 first prize.
Thomas and Evon Cooper
Thomas F. Cooper is a retired partner in the investment firm GMO LLC in Boston. Cooper graduated from Oberlin College in 1978 with a BA in mathematics and went on to the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned an MBA in finance in 1982.
An active and longtime member of the Oberlin community, Cooper served on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2017. He and his wife, Evon, have two children, both of whom are musicians. Their son Thomas graduated from Oberlin Conservatory in 2017.
The earliest musical influence on Evon Cooper was her mother Joyce, who would sing to her 10 children almost every day and play recordings of Marian Anderson singing sacred music every Saturday morning.
A native of Kittery, Maine, Evon began piano studies at age 11 with Ruth Price Silva. She went on to study with Rachel Goodwin, artistic director of Ashmont Hill Chamber Music; Stephanie Brown of New York; and Edwin Hymovitz of the New England Conservatory. While living in Santa Monica, California, she began teaching in the studio of Phyllis Metlen.
In 1989, Evon met Dusi Mura, professor emeritus of the Romanian Music Academy, who profoundly changed and reshaped her musical life. “If it were not for Dusi, music would not be as much a part of my life as it is today," she says. "I continue to search for and study with the elders of the musical world, whose lives and experience can only broaden our own.”
Cooper lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Seal Cove, Maine, with her husband, Tom. They are proud sponsors of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.
Oberlin and the Orchestra
The relationship between Oberlin College and The Cleveland Orchestra dates back nearly a century, beginning with the philanthropy of John Long Severance, an 1885 Oberlin graduate and flutist who founded the Musical Arts Association, under which The Cleveland Orchestra was established in 1918.
Severance and his wife were the major donors for the construction of The Cleveland Orchestra’s home, Severance Hall, and John Long Severance served as the orchestra’s second board president. The Cleveland Orchestra first performed in Oberlin in 1919, six months after its founding. The group has returned to Oberlin each season since, giving more than 200 performances on campus to date.
Members of the orchestra teach at Oberlin, and several Oberlin graduates are among the orchestra’s ranks. James Feddeck ’05 served as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra from 2009 to 2013. Many of the conservatory’s most outstanding students have had the opportunity to participate in the orchestra’s performances and special projects for years.