Campus News

Remembering Robert Dodson, 11th Dean of Oberlin Conservatory

Educator, performer, and administrator helmed numerous major music schools.

October 27, 2023

Conservatory Communications

Robert Dodson, seated in the office of the dean.
Robert Dodson at his desk in Bibbins Hall, where he led the conservatory from 1999 until 2004.
Photo credit: courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

Robert Dodson was a talented cellist who devoted his long professional life to performing, teaching, and leading major music institutions. He was the 11th dean of Oberlin Conservatory, arriving in summer 1999 after serving as dean of the Lawrence University Conservatory.

Under Dodson’s tenure at Oberlin, the conservatory founded the Community Music School, which continues to provide an invaluable link between Oberlin’s campus and community more than two decades later.

In 2004 Dodson became provost of New England Conservatory, after which he also served for a time at Boston University. Early in his career, he lived for two decades in Canada, where he was a teacher and administrator at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and an 11-year member of the Vaghy Quartet.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he studied under Janos Starker.

In a 2000 story in the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Dodson celebrated Oberlin’s distinctive combination of a world-class college and conservatory. “Cherish that fact and make it part of your lives,” he told students. “Your mission here is to learn, not only pursuing mastery of the art and craft of music and seeking the wellsprings of your creativity, but by learning more broadly where we have been and where we might go, a quest that will immeasurably enrich your development as musicians and as members of the human community.”

In retirement, Dodson served as a volunteer fireman in Olive, New York. He died October 15, 2023. Learn more and share reflections on Dodson’s memorial page.

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