Up Close with Senior Concerto Winner Christa Cole ’17

Violinist's February 25 performance with the Oberlin Orchestra concludes a year of concerto preparation.

February 10, 2017

Conservatory Communications Staff

Christa Cole with orchestra.
Photo credit: Julie Gulenko '15

Violinist Christa Cole ’17 is bracing for graduation and her launch into graduate school. But first, she will have the opportunity to check off another Oberlin milestone: the performance of a complete concerto with the Oberlin Orchestra and conductor Raphael Jiménez. Cole is one of four Oberlin Conservatory students to win the 2016 Senior Concerto Competition and the subsequent performance honor. On Saturday, February 25, at 8 p.m., she will take the stage at Finney Chapel with the Oberlin Orchestra—this time as a soloist—for Shulamit Ran’s Violin Concerto, which Cole began learning almost exactly one year ago.

“I played another piece by Shulamit Ran—Inscriptions, for solo violin—on my junior recital, and really loved working on it. One day a week or so before that recital, Darrett Adkins, one of the cello professors here at Oberlin, asked me if I’d heard Ran’s violin concerto. Unaware of the piece, I gave it a listen later that week, and really just fell in love—I listened to it over and over again and knew that I wanted to learn that concerto next!”

Christa Cole.
photo courtesy of Julie Gulenko '15

Cole is excited to conclude her final year in Oberlin with this performance at Finney Chapel. She is especially fond of how Ran chooses to begin the third movement. “The second movement culminates in a huge, dramatic climax, and then the orchestra cuts out, leaving the solo violin to begin the third movement with a beautiful, melancholy, lonely melody that slowly develops over the course of the movement. It’s really just an amazing moment."

Cole looks forward to following a new path this fall through doctoral studies in music theory. She has no plans to put her instrument down and will continue to study privately, as music has played an integral role in her life for as long as she can remember. Having grown up in the company of her musical parents and five instrument-playing sisters, she was hearing and making music since the age of 3, when she began piano lessons. "My parents always made it a priority (and still do) to take my sisters and me to classical concerts, and that’s definitely influenced my life as a musician," she says.

When asked about some of the highlights of her Oberlin experience, the Boise, Idaho, native has many to share. "I had the chance to play in a quartet with three of my friends for a year and a half (we called ourselves the Ginkgo Quartet). That experience shaped my time at Oberlin in so many ways. Spending so much time with the three of them both in and out of rehearsals, including living and playing together in Boston one winter term, brought us so close together and definitely resulted in lifelong friendships."

"I’ve also loved having the opportunity to play so many different kinds of music—from taking Baroque violin lessons, to playing in Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble, to learning all sorts of chamber music. I’ve also been inspired by my wonderful music theory professors. I’ve learned so much and have developed a real passion for music theory.”

Cole will miss many things when she leaves Oberlin this spring, including brunch (and tots) from the Feve. “I’ll also miss my close friends and so many of the amazing professors here—particularly my teacher, David Bowlin; my music theory mentor, Brian Alegant; and the ensemble directors, Raphael Jiménez and Tim Weiss. I’m excited to be in a new place, but there are just some people and places that make Oberlin really special, and I’ll miss that for sure.”

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