Claire Coleman ’17
“In trying to redefine myself in a new place and establish my new identity as an Oberlin student, I soon realized that what had once made me stand out instead now connected me to everyone around me.”
From deconstructing Wagner to discussing Kendrick Lamar, music is the lifeblood of Oberlin and the undercurrent that holds us together as a community. My experience here has been one of redefining my identity within this community of musicians. I, like many students, chose to attend Oberlin in large part due to this music culture. All my life, I considered myself a musician and found that music made me unique and set me apart from others. I grew up in a musical family, with parents who met through orchestra and who supported and encouraged my participation in bands, choirs, orchestras, and music camps throughout the years. My identity as a musician was incredibly important to me, and I jumped at the chance to attend college somewhere where I could continue to grow musically as well as academically. I did not apply for the conservatory, and never intended to make music my career, but I relished the opportunity to pursue music in my free time at a world-class conservatory.
Upon arriving at Oberlin, I realized quickly that music no longer made me different. Almost everyone I knew was musically proficient in some capacity, regardless of whether or not they were in the conservatory. From hip-hop aficionados running radio shows at WOBC to TIMARA students pushing the boundaries of contemporary music to Broadway fans directing student-run musicals to organists immersing themselves in historical performance, music provides the foundation upon which many connections emerge.
In my first months of trying to redefine myself in a new place and establish my new identity as an Oberlin student, I soon realized that what had once made me stand out instead now connected me to everyone around me. I attended weekly Jazz Forums at the Cat, joined the Round Midnight a capella group and Collegium Musicum, and immersed myself in the music that surrounded me. I enjoy being around musicians who are so much better than I will ever be, and who help me grow just by singing next to them. I forged deep friendships through musical experiences like singing in ensembles, in the car, attending concerts of all genres, and discussing music of all forms at length. I pursued my interest in early classical music while simultaneously forging a relationship with new genres, jazz in particular. Musical immersion became normal and routine.
Studying abroad this past semester, I was reminded that Oberlin’s musical culture is unique and special. I desperately missed attending house parties where student band R.A.I.G shook the floor with animated jazz-fusion and hip-hop beats. I missed the constant stream of recitals, concerts, and casual jams that fill each semester. I missed how Collegium Musicum rehearsals every Monday and Wednesday let me take a deep breath of early choral music in the midst of my busy Oberlin schedule. When I graduate in one year’s time, I know that I will never again have the opportunity to be surrounded by such incredible talent and widespread love of music and art. I will savor the moments of my final year and remain eternally grateful to Oberlin for creating this community.
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On working with composer Helmut Lachenmann
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