Get to Know Violin Professor Sibbi Bernhardsson

February 16, 2018

Conservatory Communications Staff

Sibbi Bernhardsson.
Photo credit: courtesy Sibbi Bernhardsson

Former member of the Pacifica Quartet reflects on his Oberlin student years and more.

Violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson ’95 joined the Oberlin string faculty in the fall of 2017. He has been planning and presenting great recital programs since his arrival, including a concert of Brahms and Mendelssohn quintets with fellow faculty members and a showcase of chamber and vocal works of Robert Schumann—with many more upcoming dates in the spring semester.  Bernhardsson takes the stage in a duo recital with longtime faculty pianist Peter Takács on February 28, 2018.

We sat down with the 1995 Oberlin graduate, former member of the Pacifica Quartet, and new Oberlin professor to hear about his student days, his perspective on the conservatory, and the inspiration behind his many collaborative projects.  

Who was your violin teacher at Oberlin? 

My violin teachers at Oberlin were Almita and Roland Vamos. Some of my best friends today are people I met as a student here at Oberlin.

There are some current faculty members that influenced me in a profound way while I was a student. Marilyn McDonald gave me wonderful chamber music coachings. Milan Vitek spent one year at Oberlin as a sabbatical replacement during my time here. He brought with him many great students, and I observed a few of his master classes, which impressed and inspired me a great deal. And Jim Howsmon performed with me and even recorded a CD with me.

What were some of your memories from your student days?

I loved how easy it was to focus and work hard here. I loved how easily all the great resources were available to us as students. I truly felt that the whole environment at Oberlin was set up for students to realize their full potential, if they were willing to take advantage of the opportunities here. I find that to be very much the case today.

I also remember fondly the conservatory intramural soccer team. (Especially the year we beat Spanish house in the finals and became intramural champions!)”

What do you admire about your students and colleagues here?

There is an overall level of commitment and a constant striving for musical excellence. My colleagues are fantastic in every way. There is a great culture here of helping students every step of the way and being available to them. The students impress me with their hard work, dedication, and their boundless energy and creativity.

You have scheduled several performances on campus this year. What kinds of repertoire are you programming?

When I gave up 17 wonderful musical years as a member of an international touring string quartet playing 90-plus concerts a year to take the job at Oberlin, one of the things I was excited about was having time to explore music I had not been able to study or perform. I have made myself a list of works—both core repertoire and a lot of contemporary music—I want to delve into over the next five years. 

Schumann is one of my absolute favorite composers—his intensely personal and intimate musical language speaks to me in a profound way. So, his D-minor piano trio, which I performed with Darrett Adkins and James Howsmon in November, and his second violin sonata, which I’ll perform with Peter Takács this month, are on that list of works.

And finally…What’s your favorite spot on campus?

My office! And, of course, Tappan Square.

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