Oberlin student musicians will take to the stage of New York City’s Carnegie Hall in December for a closed concert before the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The performance is part of a wide-ranging new partnership between Oberlin, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research New York Office (UNITAR NYO), and the Global Foundation for the Performing Arts (GFPA). Announced in September, the relationship is intended to promote improved access to education for students around the world and to enhance quality of life through higher education and arts training.
The Oberlin Orchestra and Oberlin College Choir, joined by performers representing the conservatory ensembles Musical Union and Oberlin Gospel Choir, as well as musicians of the United Nations, will share the stage of Carnegie’s Stern Auditorium. The concert, held in conjunction with the U.N.’s 77th General Assembly, bears the title “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges.” It features works spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries: Adolphus Hailstork’s vivacious curtain-raiser Fanfare on "Amazing Grace;" Sergei Rachmaninoff’s peerlessly popular Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18; and Ludwig van Beethoven’s groundbreaking Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, commonly known as the “Choral Symphony.”
The December 2 concert is a private event presented for the U.N. A public performance of the Carnegie Hall program is scheduled for Oberlin’s Finney Chapel on Tuesday evening, November 29.
“At Oberlin, we believe deeply in the power of music, and the arts more broadly, to foster connections between individuals and facilitate expansive new opportunities and access,” says William Quillen, dean of Oberlin Conservatory. "We are deeply honored to join in the global conversation with our partners at UNITAR and the GFPA, and we are so very proud to share our belief in the transformative power of music through this remarkable concert experience for our students.”
Annual concerts are a U.N. tradition, though previous performances have typically featured only professional musicians. This year’s event is made possible through the support of the U.N.’s presenting partners: the Member States of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hungary, Monaco, Oman, Rwanda, and Singapore.
Created in 1963, UNITAR is dedicated to developing high-quality learning opportunities for United Nations delegates. The organization believes that a sustainable world is one where people can escape poverty and enjoy decent work without harming the earth's essential ecosystems and resources. UNITAR’s partnership with Oberlin represents the group’s first major foray into undergraduate cultural arts education. A longtime partner with UNITAR, the GFPA promotes education in the arts and support to individuals engaged in the performing arts through cross-cultural exchange.
Oberlin is one of a small number of U.S. institutions of higher education invited to take part in the initiative—and the only higher ed partner focused on undergraduate study.
The partnership will create new opportunities for students worldwide to know and discover Oberlin. The first students selected through the program may begin as early as fall 2023. The agreement may also extend to the implementation of joint programs based on performance, research, conferences, and other experiences. A separate facet of the partnership, focusing on teaching English for speakers of other languages, is also being developed and would be hosted at Oberlin.
The December 2 concert at Carnegie Hall will be led by Oberlin Professor of Conducting Raphael Jiménez. It features artist Byron Wei-Xin Zhou as piano soloist for the Rachmaninoff, as well as four accomplished international vocal soloists: Oberlin Conservatory alumni mezzo-soprano Kathryn Leemhuis ’05 and tenor Joshua Blue ’16, and a pair of world-renowned artists invited by UNITAR, baritone Marco Chingari and soprano Sarah Tisba of Italy.
“We could not be more excited by the invitation to participate in such a special event,” says Jiménez, who also led the Oberlin Orchestra in Carnegie Hall performances in 2019 and 2013. “Every aspect of it makes it a unique experience for our students: the occasion, the venue, the audience, and the repertoire, which includes the awe-inspiring Beethoven Symphony No. 9. I cannot think of a more appropriate occasion and place to play this universal hymn of brotherhood.”
“Music is a universal language and a powerful tool for cultural exchange. Its many positive spirits are the elements required for transformative solutions, and it will help to lead us through this watershed moment,” says pianist Zhou, who performed a solo recital for the 2021 U.N. Gala at Carnegie Hall. “As a musician, I firmly believe that utilizing music could promote the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and eventually lead us to a better future.”
For Oberlin’s student musicians, the December U.N. concert marks the first of two engagements at Carnegie Hall in a span of less than two months: The orchestra and choral ensembles return for a public performance in Stern Auditorium on January 20.
Learn more on the United Nations Partnership page at Oberlin.edu.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) was established in 1963 pursuant to a United Nations General Assembly resolution. UNITAR is governed by a Board of Trustees with the mission to develop the individual, institutional, and organizational capacities of countries and other United Nations stakeholders through high-quality learning resources. Rooted in the goal of enhancing global decision-making and supporting country-level political and social action, UNITAR provides innovative learning resources to individuals, organizations, and institutions, with established programs offering advanced degrees in international leadership, diplomacy, law, and policy, as well as science and business. The partnership marks UNITAR’s first major program in arts and cultural education.
Oberlin College and Conservatory uniquely combines a world-class conservatory of music with a top-ranking liberal arts college. An independent institution in Ohio, Oberlin was the first college to grant undergraduate degrees to women in a coeducational program and, historically, has been a leader in the education of African American students. The Oberlin community is known for its commitment to social and global engagement and diversity. The Conservatory of Music provides flexible programs to prepare students as professional musicians and teachers of music. Deeply committed to academic excellence, Oberlin’s College of Arts and Sciences offers a rich and balanced curriculum in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and natural sciences. Recognizing that diversity broadens perspectives, Oberlin is dedicated to recruiting a culturally, economically, geographically, and racially diverse group of students. Oberlin aims to prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives essential to confront complex issues and to create change and value in the world.
The Global Foundation for the Performing Arts (GFPA) is an international foundation with a mission to provide valuable artistic education and professional support in service of those in the performing arts while fostering a global community and enabling cross-cultural exchange. A longstanding partner of UNITAR, the foundation is dedicated to supporting the performing arts, particularly in the realms of classical music and ballet through education, mentorship, and collaboration. GFPA is centered in the belief that young artists deserve professional guidance from experienced musicians in order to remain true to their artistic practice. The foundation provides advice to artists, competitions, and institutions dedicated to rewarding the world’s future performers. It has been a long-term partner of UNITAR.
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