Rubin Institute Continues Support of Young Music Critics

October 31, 2016

Erich Burnett

The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism

Three students from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music participated in the 2016 Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, held October 20-24 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In the same month, a former winner of the Rubin Prize secured a prized interim position with a major daily newspaper.

This year's three participating Oberlin students were Claire Coleman ’17, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in economics and Russian who also plays oboe and sings in early music and jazz ensembles; Christine Jay ’17, a double-degree student majoring in voice, baroque flute, and comparative literature; and Neil McCalmont ’19, who is pursuing college majors in classics and musical studies.

Lucy Caplan, a PhD candidate at Yale University, earned the top prize of $10,000, which is intended to support continuing study in the field of music criticism over the next two years. In addition, she will be offered an internship with San Francisco Classical Voice, a Bay Area music publication.

The Everyone’s a Critic Audience Review Prize of $1,000 went to John Masko, a graduate student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The biennial Rubin Institute was founded in 2012 at Oberlin Conservatory as a means of supporting and sustaining the craft of music criticism. It is made possible through the support of Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co. During each institute, esteemed music critics and musicians take part in panels and performances, and Rubin Fellows hailing from numerous renowned colleges and universities are hand-selected for participation.

The 2014 winner, former Oberlin College student Zoë Madonna ’15, begins a 10-month stint as classical music critic at the Boston Globe on October 31. The opportunity came about through a collaboration between the Rubin Institute, the San Francisco Conservatory, the Anna and Gordon Getty Foundation, and The Globe. She will serve as a sabbatical replacement for regular critic Jeremy Eichler, who is a fellow this year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

Stephen Rubin hopes the partnership will serve as a model for other newspapers, and Globe editor Brian McGrory adds: “We could not be more delighted to participate in this novel experiment with such worthy partners."

Among the performances reviewed by this year’s field of 17 fellows was the Oberlin-founded International Contemporary Ensemble, which includes Oberlin Associate Professor of Violin David Bowlin ’00; the San Francisco Symphony; San Francisco Opera; and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

The 2016 writers panel included Alex Ross of the New Yorker; Anne Midgette of the Washington Post; Heidi Waleson of the Wall Street Journal; John Rockwell, formerly of the New York Times; Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle; Tim Page, formerly of the Washington Post; and Stephen Rubin.

Since 2014, the Rubin Institute has taken place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Jacob Street ’12, a former master's degree student in historical performance at Oberlin, won top honors at the inaugural Rubin Institute, followed by Madonna in 2014.

Learn more about the Rubin Institute at

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