October 26, 2017
By Erich Burnett
Baritone singer-professor Timothy LeFebvre
Baritone Timothy LeFebvre performs in Oberlin's Finney Chapel, with Raphael Jiménez conducting. Photo credit: Dale Preston ’83

Associate Professor Timothy LeFebvre never strays far from the stage.

By the time Associate Professor Timothy LeFebvre found his way to Oberlin in 2010, the Pennsylvania native with the rich baritone had cultivated a vibrant performance career and a profound love of teaching.

Seven years into his life at the conservatory, that hasn’t changed.

On a campus that celebrates its many versatile faculty performers, LeFebvre is among the most active of them all. In his time at Oberlin, he has taken the solo spotlight virtually every semester, singing repertoire from the canon and recently written works, with nearly every large ensemble on campus. And he has done it everywhere from Finney Chapel to Warner Concert Hall to First Church.

And he’s doing it right now: LeFebvre will sing Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra in Finney Chapel on Saturday, October 28.

Two weeks later, on Saturday, November 11, he will take on Schumann’s Liederkreis with collaborative pianist Tony Cho in a recital in Kulas Recital Hall that also features a faculty piano trio with violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson ’95, cellist Darrett Adkins ’91, and pianist James Howsmon.

And in April 2018, he’s on the books for David Liptak’s 1992 composition Ancient Songs with the Oberlin Sinfonietta.

All of these performances will be live-streamed on oberlin.edu.

“It is a pleasure to collaborate with my talented colleagues and to share our performances with students," LeFebvre says. “We are very fortunate to have access to world-class performance venues at Oberlin. After many years of traveling and performing in a variety of spaces, I feel very much at home in Finney Chapel and Warner Hall. Their acoustics fit my voice very well.”

Even as he takes a sabbatical from teaching this fall, LeFebvre can be found in his third-floor studio in Bibbins Hall, preparing for engagements on campus and elsewhere.

This season he is performing as a soloist primarily in oratorio works in locales ranging from New York to Kansas. On November 18 and 19 he appears with the Wichita Symphony in Haydn's Creation. In December he’ll do a series of Messiah appearances with the Toledo Symphony, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and the Binghamton Philharmonic. In January, he will sing Schubert’s complete Winterreise—a two-part cycle of 24 songs that was orchestrated by Hans Zender in 1993—with the Finger Lakes Chamber Orchestra. It’s a feat he hasn’t undertaken in 17 years. Then it’s back to oratorio work with a Bach Festival performance of the St. Matthew Passion with the Arcadia Chorale in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on March 18.

If it all sounds like a handful, that’s exactly as LeFebvre likes it.

“Besides keeping active as a singer and maintaining my contacts in the business, it is important for my students to see their teacher being active as a performer,” he says. “I often share my experiences with them so that they understand how the business works. From contracts and negotiating fees, to getting return engagements, and understanding rehearsal and performance expectations—it is very valuable for them to hear about my real-world experiences.”

LeFebvre is also coordinator of the conservatory’s Vocal Seminar for first-year students. With a long list of guest experts, the course is intended to supply each new voice student with an education in everything they will need to know about being a professional singer—apart from actually singing. Topics include wellness issues such as fitness and voice care, and professional development pieces encompassing résumé building, developing and maintaining contacts, managing a freelance business, and tax considerations.

“All of our students are very talented, but what makes them different from students at other institutions is that they bring a high level of commitment and passion to the voice studio,” he says. “Teaching voice at Oberlin is definitely not a passive process. The students always challenge me to teach in continuously evolving ways to meet them where they are. I often say that every student is a class unto themselves, with different learning styles and different needs. I have done my job if they become their own best teachers when they leave Oberlin.”

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