Chasing History

May 13, 2015

Daniel Hautzinger

Jake Street ’12 posed in front of organ

“I can’t think of a day in Oberlin when I wasn’t being challenged and learning something.”

So says Jacob Street MM ’12, a reference to his two years devoted to earning a master’s degree in historical performance at the Oberlin Conservatory, with an emphasis on harpsichord and organ.

At Oberlin, Street was met by enthusiastic faculty who sparked his curiosity and guided his learning at every turn.

“I knew almost nothing about the harpsichord when I got to Oberlin,” he says. That changed when he met Professor of Harpsichord Webb Wiggins, whom he calls “a really thrilling performer and teacher.”

Street also cites the inspiration he’s drawn from Oberlin organ professor James David Christie, with whom he studied while earning his bachelor of arts in music at the College of the Holy Cross. Christie is “just one of the best organ teachers and organists in the world,” Street says. Likewise, David Breitman, director of Oberlin’s historical performance program, inspired Street to study historical sources like manuscripts and treatises. And he fondly recalls hours of conversation in the office of music theory professor Brian Alegant.

“What really draws me to music is that I feel like I can use it to communicate with other people,” he explains.

Nowhere was this more evident than in Street’s studies in Oberlin’s Introduction to Music Criticism class, taught by guest faculty and professional critics Donald Rosenberg, Mike Telin ’84, and Daniel Hathaway.

“They invested so much time, and I learned so much from them,” he says. “And it’s that experience across the board with Oberlin professors.”

The music criticism course eventually led to Street’s entry in the inaugural Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, held on campus in January 2012. There, his work was singled out by a panel of the nation’s most esteemed classical music critics. He earned the grand prize of $10,000.

The award allowed Street to sample the musical culture at festivals in Aix-en-Provence in France and Glyndebourne in England. While in Europe, he visited the northern German city of Lübeck, former home of the great organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He participated in a competition there, met renowned organ professor Arvid Gast, and ultimately decided to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship to study there. And he got it.

“Lübeck is beautiful and historic, and has all these incredible historical instruments,” Street says of his experience.

Back from his year of Fulbright study, Street is now working toward a master’s degree in organ performance at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music.

“I think I’ll end up doing a lot of things: a church job, playing harpsichord in ensembles, traveling for solo performances, teaching, a lot of writing—and not just criticism," he says. "I really love all these things.”

His journey continues, with a grateful nod to the Oberlin faculty who set him on his path. “The professors would always give all the time they had, and they had so much time to give. It’s remarkable.”

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