As we continue to respond to COVID-19 for the 2020 fall term, it is our goal to provide an in-person experience, as safely as possible, and for as many students as we can. These plans are contingent upon the Governor of Ohio’s directives, the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio, and the guidance of health professionals.

Please check this page frequently. Information will be updated as needs arise.


Will Conservatory students have in-person lessons during the 2020-21 academic year?

When possible, one-on-one instruction in the conservatory will take place with at least six feet of physical distancing and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment). In preparation for this mode of instruction, office furniture is being rearranged and plexiglass barriers are being added to all faculty offices. 

In some cases, one-on-one lessons will be moved to larger classrooms or rehearsal spaces. 

In other instances, lessons will take place in pairs of low-latency, high-fidelity, studio-to-studio audio/video transmission rooms installed around the conservatory. These will allow a faculty member and student (or an accompanist and a student soloist) to teach and interact in real time while in two separate rooms.

Musicians using technologically advanced learning space.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin Conservatory

In some cases, private study will take place online. These include instances where instruction must move online in accordance with particular needs of the student or teacher, or in areas or modes of teaching where accommodation for in-person instruction cannot reasonably be made.

All students should contact their studio teachers for more information on how their private lessons will take place in the fall.

How will secondary lessons be handled?

Secondary lessons will be available in most areas. Students should contact applied teachers for further information. In many cases, secondary study will be conducted remotely.

All student-taught secondary lessons will be remote. Practice space and instruments for secondary students will be more limited than usual, but every effort is being made to ensure that ample resources are made available.

Information on secondary lesson auditions will be posted on this page in advance of the fall term.


Will degree recitals take place this academic year?

Yes, junior and senior recitals remain an essential component of the student experience and will take place. There are ample recital dates and times available to accommodate recitals delayed from the spring 2020 term and the recitals that should take place in 2020-21.

Due to the revised academic calendar, students and teachers are encouraged to carefully plan recital scheduling and programming. In-person, on-campus classes and activities for the fall 2020 term will end at Thanksgiving Break.

Audiences will likely be limited to very small numbers of family members and close relations, as well as teachers and faculty who need to attend to assess the performance. All attendees, aside from faculty, must be pre-approved.

All recitals will continue to be live-streamed and available free to viewers around the globe.

Additional information about recital scheduling and policies for audience attendance will be announced soon.


Will audiences be permitted to attend performances?

All performances will be closed to the general public. We presently anticipate permitting small numbers of pre-approved audience members to attend specific performances (e.g., limited numbers of family members interested in attending their student’s junior or senior recital). This policy is pending continuing guidance from public-health authorities and public officials.

For additional information about audiences, please read the “Facilities” section below.

Will performances be live-streamed?

Yes! All performances, including junior and senior recitals, will be live-streamed during 2020-21. A complete list of all live-streamed events is available online.

In addition, we are preparing for the installation of streaming infrastructure to the Cat in the Cream so that we can broadcast live events from that venue.

Conservatory Classes

Most Conservatory classes will be designated as “hybrid” in the 2020-21 course catalog. 

Most academic classes, such as music theory and music history, will take place primarily online, with periodic small-group and/or individual interactions with the instructor.*

Most lessons, ensembles, and applied study will take place in person. Some remote engagement may also be required. Modes of instruction may change during the term based on activities within the class/ensemble and/or updated health and safety guidance. 

Students are encouraged to be in touch with faculty members, teachers, conductors, and/or the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory with questions. 

* One reason for shifting academic classes online is to create additional performance and rehearsal space for ensemble rehearsals, coaching, and private instruction.

How and where to sing safely is a prominent topic throughout the music world at the moment, and we are devoting extensive and ongoing attention to it at Oberlin. Voice majors are encouraged to stay in close contact with their teachers for the latest developments. As we plan for fall 2020, our primary goal is to provide the richest possible learning experience for students while honoring the primary importance of the health of everyone in our community.

We are closely monitoring ongoing studies in this area, and our voice faculty are in contact with top medical experts in the fields of performance medicine and the singer’s voice. Given what we understand about the virus and singing today, we are preparing for three approaches to singing and singing instruction:  

  1. Use of high-quality, low-latency technological solutions for lessons and collaboration
  2. In-person singing at large distances
  3. In-person singing outdoors (weather permitting)

Oberlin enjoys some advantages for doing these well: We have more large spaces per person than our peer institutions, and we have a nimbleness of execution that results from our relatively small size.

With regard to voice lessons and coachings, voice students’ studio teachers will be the best sources of up-to-date information on specific studio-by-studio plans. We have been installing built-in, low-latency room-to-room audio and video systems in the Conservatory to allow for high-quality learning experiences. We are testing software (SoundJack and Jamulus) that allows groups of musicians to collaborate in real time via audio, on campus and beyond. Given the essential nature of this one-on-one work, we are investing significant time and resources into getting it right. Additionally, as is the case with all private lessons, some lessons and courses may be conducted remotely, taking into account instructors’ and students’ individual needs. 

Extensive planning is underway regarding opera productions, choir and ensemble singing, opera theater classes, recitals, diction and literature classes, and more. For additional information, voice students should be in touch directly with their studio teachers or with Professor Greg Ristow, director of the Division of Vocal Studies.

Large instrumental ensembles in the conservatory—Oberlin Orchestra, Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, Contemporary Music Ensemble, Oberlin Sinfonietta, Oberlin Baroque Orchestra, and Oberlin Jazz Ensemble—will take place in person. In all cases, rehearsals and performances will adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Participants in Oberlin Orchestra, Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Oberlin Sinfonietta will be divided into two pools:

  • Oberlin Orchestra and the Contemporary Music Ensemble
  • Chamber Orchestra and Sinfonietta

Each term, students will be assigned to one of these two pools and play in one or both of the two groups within that pool over the course of three cycles (three concerts).

Because of physical distancing requirements and other factors, students will be assigned specific pieces within those ensembles to not exceed the maximum number of players recommended by public-health authorities and government officials. This will result in several small and midsize groups. In order to address this unusual number of smaller groups, rehearsal blocks will be three hours in duration. However, each individual student can expect to rehearse for a maximum of two hours per rehearsal. Every effort will be made to accommodate class schedules as well as alignment with chamber music groups.

The Division of Conducting and Ensembles will host an online town hall meeting this summer to address large instrumental ensemble plans and answer questions from incoming and returning students, as well as parents.

Full details about Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra have yet to be determined, but will be communicated as soon as possible. Questions about the A&S Orchestra can be directed to Tiffany Chang.

Oberlin Jazz Ensemble members should contact Professor Bobby Ferrazza for details.

Baroque Orchestra questions can be addressed to Professor David Breitman.

Chamber music will take place in person, and arrangements are being made to ensure ample time and space for rehearsing and coaching in rooms that can safely accommodate appropriately distanced chamber groups. Chamber music questions can be directed to Professor Kirsten Docter.

Practice Space

How will practice space work?

All conservatory students will have access to practice space this fall in one of two ways:

  1. Students who major in instruments that might readily and easily be transported (flute, clarinet, oboe/English horn, bassoon, saxophone, violin, viola, cello, horn, trumpet, trombone, guitar, and voice) will be assigned to single-occupancy dorm rooms in which they may practice. This dormitory-based “music-making community” will be located in a dorm less than one block from the conservatory and will house almost entirely conservatory students.
  2. Students who major in instruments that are not readily transported (piano, percussion, bass, tuba, harp, organ, and historical keyboards), or with pre-approved instrument-specific needs, will be assigned to a specific practice room in Robertson Hall. We anticipate assigning one or two students per practice room. Students may practice only in their assigned rooms.
Will Robertson practice rooms be open to anyone else in the fall?

A limited number of Robertson practice rooms will be reserved for conservatory students with instruments that might readily and easily be transported (flute, clarinet, oboe/English horn, bassoon, saxophone, violin, viola, cello, horn, trumpet, trombone, guitar, and voice) but who reside off campus in housing where practicing is not permitted. Students who believe that they may fall into this category should check with their roommate(s) and/or landlord to confirm whether they are permitted to practice in their place of residence. Conservatory students unable to practice in their off-campus housing who would like to request practice space in Robertson should contact the Concert Production Office at

In addition, a limited number of Robertson practice rooms will be made available to students from the College of Arts and Sciences. Booking procedures for these practice rooms will soon be made available by the Concert Production Office.

What if I am an Arts and Sciences student studying music?

We are working with the Office of Residential Education Housing and the Dean of Students to expand the amount of practice space in dorms around campus and create additional clusters of practice spaces in campus buildings available exclusively to A&S students next year. Additional information is forthcoming.

The conservatory instrument depot, which loans out instruments to A&S students at no cost, will be fully operational next year.

Facilities Access

How will access to the Conservatory work?

The Conservatory will be swipe-accessible to all faculty, staff, and student OCID holders on campus. The Conservatory complex will continue its normal operating hours of Monday-Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to midnight. Individuals without a current, active OCID will not be permitted in the Conservatory without prior approval. For approval, please contact the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory at

Will the Concert Production Office be open?

Yes, the Concert Production Office will be open for students to book junior and senior recitals, rehearsal time in classrooms and concert halls, and self-record sessions in all recital and concert halls. Contact Concert Production at

How will the Conservatory Library operate?

The Conservatory Library plans to provide all students, faculty, and staff with reference help, circulation and reserve services, classroom instruction, and materials paged from our collection. A more complete outline of the entire library system’s fall term plan will be available soon on the Libraries homepage FAQ.

Will Conservatory students have access to lockers?

Unless specified otherwise, students in the conservatory will still be able to request a locker for 2020-21 by contacting the Concert Production Office at

Will the reed rooms be accessible?

The oboe and bassoon reed rooms will be open. They will be limited to a maximum capacity of two students per room at any given time. Time in the reed room will be scheduled on a rotational basis by studio faculty for students needing access to these spaces.

Please contact Professor Walters and Professor Pattison for more information on these spaces.

For questions about the clarinet room, please contact Professor Hawkins.

Will the TIMARA studios be accessible?

The TIMARA studios will be open to majors, minors, and students enrolled in TIMARA classes. Students outside any of these categories requesting access should contact Abby Aresty; requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis. TIMARA majors and minors are encouraged to stay in touch with TIMARA faculty and refer to department-specific information.

Will the Kohl Building computer lab be open?

The Kohl computer lab will remain open and accessible via swipe card to students in the Jazz Department.

Will audiences be permitted at concerts?

Pending additional guidelines from public-health authorities or public officials, we presently anticipate permitting very small numbers of pre-approved audience members to attend specific performances. Limited numbers of family members or close relatives will be permitted to attend their student’s junior or senior recital, with prior approval through the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory.  

Audience members will be required to practice strict physical distancing, wear masks, and follow all health regulations required by the campus and public-health authorities and government officials, including seating arrangements and restricted-capacity plans defined by the conservatory. 

Conservatory faculty members who must attend performances to assess students’ work will likely attend recitals and other performances on an as-needed basis.

All performances will continue to be live-streamed and available free to viewers around the globe.

Conservatory Winter Term

  • Conservatory/double-degree seniors who require an additional Winter Term (WT) credit or who wish to complete an additional WT project may choose from the following options: 
  1. Individual project in August with faculty sponsor
  2. One of the August group projects listed in the WT catalogue
  3. Individual or group project completed in May 

Note: Graduating seniors are strongly encouraged to complete remaining Winter Term projects in August. If May is preferred or necessary, please contact Associate Dean Catherine Sherman to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place for graduation.

Note: First-year students may also be able to participate in May WT projects (pending availability and capacity), but not for additional WT credit.

  • All other conservatory/double-degree students wishing to complete a WT should plan to do so in May; both individual and group projects will be available. 

Note: It is not yet known whether on-campus projects will be possible.

  • Winter Term Credit
  1. Only full-credit WT projects will be offered during the 2020-21 academic year (no half-credit)
  2. XARTS and FIG funding will be available for May WT projects.

Conservatory Placement Tests for Incoming Students

Conservatory placement tests and class-piano auditions for fall 2020 will be administered remotely during the summer, primarily in July. Conservatory staff will be in touch with students to schedule these placements.

Note: A piano audition is not required if the student has no previous piano experience. This audition is to determine placement for non-piano majors who need to take piano as part of their major program. Students should see their Conservatory “Major Grid” regarding piano and all course requirements.

Incoming students also will complete the Conservatory Writing Assessment. The Conservatory Writing Committee will send an email to students about the assessment later in the summer.

Please contact us:

Jeanne Rosecrans

  • Theory and Aural Skills
  • Piano (auditions for non-piano majors)
  • Music History (by request, not required of all students)

Julie Baker

  • Jazz Theory and Aural Skills

Office of the Associate Deans

  • Conservatory Writing Assessment


Conservatory Orientation programming will begin in early August and run until the start of classes. Most programming will be remote; however, some in-person auditions will be scheduled for conservatory students in the days just before the start of classes. Conservatory staff will contact students with audition details.

ConPALs programming and Jazz Bootcamp will take place. More information will be available soon. For questions about these programs, contact Associate Dean Chris Jenkins at

Visit Orientation for New Students for updates.

Advising and Registration for Incoming and Returning Students

Incoming and returning students will register for courses the week of August 10.  Students will receive specific information regarding advising periods and registration times.

Incoming Conservatory students will be pre-registered in Conservatory core courses (e.g., Lessons, Theory, and Aural Skills) and will register for fall 2020 only.  Returning Conservatory students will register for both fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. By default, returning Double Degree students will register fall and spring semesters, unless specific educational plans require alternate arrangements. RAP # will be required for registration approval. A refreshed 2020-2021 Course Schedule will be available the third week in July.

All students will be able to make schedule adjustments. Schedule adjustment periods will be noted in the Academic Calendar. Fall schedules can be adjusted through September 10.  Students will have opportunities to make changes to their spring and summer semester schedules later in the academic year.

Students are encouraged to review their respective Conservatory major grid before scheduling courses.

Additional details about advising, registration procedures, and related dates will be communicated later this summer. Students may contact the Office of the Associate Deans at with questions.

Double-Degree (DD) Students

May double-degree students enroll in all three terms during the 2020-21 academic year?

Oberlin students will be permitted to enroll in only two of the three terms offered during the 2020-21 academic year. We recognize that the shift in the Academic Calendar may create particular concerns for double-degree students. All double-degree students are encouraged to consult with their advisors, the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory, and staff in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Academic Advising Resource Center (AARC) to discuss their academic plans and progress to degree completion.

To facilitate academic planning, DD students should review their Degree Works audit and their respective conservatory major grid.

What support is available for double-degree planning?

Double-degree students will want to work closely with their academic advisors to plan their course schedules and ensure timely progress to degree completion.

For additional support, double-degree students may contact the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory at and College of Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Resource Center at Students may also send an email directly to:

Summer Term 2021 in the Conservatory

While the conservatory will not be fully in session during Summer Term 2021, we expect to offer classes, ensembles, and lesson opportunities specifically for Arts and Sciences students, particularly musical studies majors and those engaged in the new interdivisional minors. The details of these offerings will not be available in the list of courses published in July, but will be made available in time for the registration add/drop periods that will take place during the academic year. Students with specific questions about degree requirements should contact the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory at