Oberlin Gives Students in the Arts and Sciences a New Path to Musical Education

March 10, 2020
Communications Staff
Violin section and conductor
A performance by the Oberlin College Arts & Sciences Orchestra conducted by Tiffany Chang ’09. Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

New music minor draws upon extensive conservatory resources and campus-wide passion for music.

Oberlin’s liberal arts students will have a new way to tap into the world-class musical education offered by the Conservatory of Music next year, as the institution launches a new music minor.

The music minor is the latest in a wave of new academic offerings Oberlin has introduced in recent months, drawing on the institution’s historic strengths in a new way for 21st Century students. December saw the announcement of five new interdisciplinary programs that include Music and Cognition, Music and Popular Culture, Interdisciplinary Performance, Arts and Creative Technologies, and Arts Administration and Leadership. Since then Oberlin has announced new integrative concentrations in journalism and in business, for students in both the college and in the conservatory.

These new programs grew out of the One Oberlin recommendations, which were based on extensive data about what students want in a college experience and need for life after college.

Elizabeth Hamilton, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says Oberlin attracts many Arts and Sciences students who can’t imagine a life in which music doesn't figure prominently in their undergraduate experience.

“The new music minor opens doors to formal study across a range of musical approaches,” she says. “The conservatory and college enrich each other, and now that students can draw so much more from each division, the creative and intellectual opportunities are unsurpassed.”

The music minor is based on a flexible set of course requirements that allow students to create their own paths of study, including rigorous training with conservatory faculty. The minor can be fulfilled by completing 20 credits with courses chosen from three of five areas of study: solo performance, ensemble performance, academic studies, creative practice, and professional development or any class or credit-bearing project in the Division of Pedagogy, Advocacy, and Community Engagement (PACE).

As designed, the minor increases the quantity and quality of private lessons and performance opportunities in the conservatory for college students, who can choose to take private lessons—instrumental, vocal, or composition—in genres ranging from classical to jazz to electronic music. They can participate in large ensembles such as Musical Union, Arts and Sciences Orchestra, Javanese Gamelan, and Brazilian Ensemble. They can also take advantage of Oberlin's robust small ensemble culture and perform in traditional chamber music or small jazz groups.

The music minor builds on and formalizes the longstanding, varied, and robust participation of arts and sciences students in conservatory study and enhances the overall musical culture of the campus at large, explains Peter Swendsen ’99, the conservatory’s senior associate dean for academic affairs and an associate professor of computer music and digital arts.

“Arts and sciences students consistently engage in private lessons, ensemble performance, classes, and special projects in large numbers,” says Swendsen. “Accordingly, we’ve designed a highly flexible minor to accommodate a wide variety of interests, from creative practice and performance to music scholarship and community engagement. Along with our musical studies major and our five new interdisciplinary programs, the music minor completes a unique suite of options for musically engaged undergraduates that only Oberlin can offer.”

The music minor recognizes that love of music and preparation for careers in music-related fields exist at many levels beyond the conservatory, says Alexa Still, associate professor of flute.

“Just as double-degree students enjoy impressively diverse friendships throughout the institution, the college music minor will bring conservatory and college students closer in classes and creative collaborations that will enhance everyone’s Oberlin experience.”

The new program announcements are complemented by an expanded and refocused Winter Term, designed to link Oberlin’s unique academic strengths with cocurricular opportunities that will help connect their distinctive educations to fruitful careers and lives.

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