How They Get To Carnegie Hall
January, 2007. A bitter cold night in New York City. The Oberlin Orchestra is playing Carnegie Hall. I’m not much of a classical music person. I freely admit that I did not take advantage of all the music that surrounded me while I was at Oberlin. I didn’t know quite what to expect, except that I would be in a warm place for a few hours. Then the music started and I was blown away. This group of students - in their late-teens and early 20’s - exhibited professionalism, maturity, poise, confidence and grace-under-pressure that was thrilling to experience.
Music For The Master
September, 2008. Stephen Sondheim and Frank Rich open the 2008-2009 Convocation Series with a “conversation” at Finney Chapel. I am a big-time Sondheim fan, and that day at Oberlin was shaping up to be a very special one for me. I attended a 90-minute informal Q&A in the West Lecture Hall earlier in the day; was fortunate enough to meet both Sondheim and Rich at a reception at President Krislov’s house; and was of course looking forward to listening to them talk for another 2 hours in Finney. But before the conversation started we were treated to a group Oberlin students and a piano accompanist performing a medley of approximately 12 Sondheim songs. Like their orchestra-mates at Carnegie Hall, these performers - a mix of voice and theatre majors - were amazing. They sang some of the more difficult songs in the Sondheim canon and nailed each one - fully knowing that he was backstage listening to them. Pressure? Courage? Gutsy? Aplomb? Amazing! Despite meeting Sondheim and hearing him speak for almost four hours over the course of the day, these students were the most impressive part of the day.