Athletes and musicians share plenty in common, from their determination to perform at the highest levels to their strategies to stave off anxiety.
At Oberlin, they’ve even shared a gym: One year ago, the athletics department offered up its wide-open spaces for use by conservatory students, as sports seasons were canceled and musical instruction was retooled for an age of social distancing.
Out of that shared experience—and inspired by the return of the Olympic Games in the summer of 2021 and the winter of 2022—violin professor Sibbi Bernhardsson devised a season-opening festival that links the worlds of musicians and athletes, as well as the influential culture that exalted them both.
“Music, Sports, and the Enduring Influence of Ancient Greece” features concerts, symposiums, sporting events, and more taking place throughout Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10. The programs draw upon resources from across the campus, including conservatory musicians, college and conservatory faculty, student athletes, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum.
“I love sports, and I’ve always been interested in the many similarities between music and sports,” says Bernhardsson, an avid fan of soccer and a former longtime member of the Pacifica Quartet. Every Tuesday last year, Bernhardsson held his violin studio classes on the auxiliary basketball courts of Philips Gymnasium, across campus from the conservatory. He and his students felt right at home. “Oberlin’s conservatory students and its athletes have more in common than perhaps anyone else, in terms of time management and so many other factors,” he says.
This year’s celebration marks the third time in recent years Bernhardsson has opened a new academic year with a festival of music and more. In fall 2018, he organized “Creative Arts and Music in the Shadow of War,” a commemoration of the centenary of World War I; in fall 2019 he followed it with “End of Life, End of Time,” an interdisciplinary examination of mortality and the late-career works of artists across the creative spectrum.
For Bernhardsson, programming this year’s festival came with no rigid constraints. “As we celebrate hosting public events again, I was looking for music that was fun, or beautiful—or fun and beautiful,” he says with a grin. “That’s the only thing I’m looking for in the repertoire!”
The schedule of events is as follows:
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9
Faculty Recital I: 1:30 p.m. (Warner Concert Hall)
Conservatory faculty and staff present music by Beethoven, Handel, Mendelssohn, and Haydn. Performers include cellist Dmitry Kouzov and pianist Yulia Fedoseeva (Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 5); soprano Katherine Jolly and pianist Kyung-Eun Na ("E pur così in un giorno...Piangerò la sorte mia" from Handel’s Giulio Cesare); bassoonist Drew Pattison and pianist Brian Alegant (Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, Op. 109); and the Oberlin Trio, which features violinist David Bowlin, pianist Haewon Song, and cellist Kouzov (Haydn’s Piano Trio in D Major, Hob. XV:16). Between selections in the program, creative writing professor Robin Beth Schaer will recite poetry related to the festival’s themes, penned by poets ranging from the classic to the contemporary.
Symposium I: 4 p.m. (Stull Recital Hall)
The following topics will be explored:
“Athlete-Heroes and Civic Politics in Ancient Greece”
Oberlin College classics professor Kirk Ormand explores examples of athletes from the ancient world who were worshipped as heroes and commemorated with statues and ongoing religious rituals. The presentation also addresses ways in which these athletes often used their status as athletic victors to influence local politics in their home city-states, much as today’s athletes often become societal influencers.
“Musicians and Athletes: United in Commitment”
A panel representing the conservatory and athletics discusses the many common themes in the lives of Oberlin musicians and athletes, from their dedication to performing at their best to their strategies for overcoming performance-related stress. Included are conservatory professors Bernhardsson and Jolly, psychology professor Paul Thibodeau, head softball coach Sara Schoenhoft, and head lacrosse coach Kim Russell. They will be joined by student lacross player Caroline Lee and softball player Caley Dunlop.
“Herodotus Goes to the Olympics”
Classics professor Ben Lee explores the non-athletic cultural events that were a vital part of the ancient Olympic festival: religious feasting, art, even oratory and readings by famous historians of their contemporary work.
Family Field Day: 5:30 p.m. (Heisman Field House)
Students from Oberlin’s varsity teams as well as the Conservatory Council of Students lead athletic and musical activities for children.
Faculty Recital II: 7:30 p.m. (Warner Concert Hall)
Day 1's evening performance includes pianists Angela Cheng and Alvin Chow (Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, arranged by Kyoto Yamamoto, and a movement from Carlos Guastavino’s Tres Romances); violinist Bowlin and pianist Tony Cho (Stravinsky’s Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss); violist Peter Slowik (Hindemith’s Sonata for Solo Viola, Op. 25, No. 1; violinist Francesca dePasquale and pianist Scott Cuellar (Mozart’s Six Variations for Violin and Piano, K. 360); and the Verona Quartet, Oberlin’s ensemble in residence (Reena Esmail’s Ragamala). Between selections in the program, creative writing professor Chanda Feldman will share poetry related to the festival’s themes.
Listening Party: 10 p.m. (Warner Concert Hall)
Three varsity athletes will share their pregame playlists, and three conservatory musicians will share the sounds that inspired them to pursue lives in music. Featured will be Darien Knowles (men’s basketball), J.T. Starke (men’s lacrosse), and Vianca Dagnino (softball).
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10
Faculty Recital III: 1:30 p.m. (Warner Concert Hall)
The program includes flutist Alexa Still and pianist James Howsmon (performing Aaron Jay Kernis’ Air for flute and piano); pianists Peter Takács and Cuellar (Debussy’s Six épigraphes antiques for piano four hands); cellist Darrett Adkins and pianist Cheng (Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70); pianist Cheng, violinist Bernhardsson, violist Kirsten Docter, and cellist Kouzov (Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60); and vocalist La Tanya Hall and guitarist Bobby Ferrazza joining forces for a jazz set. Feldman once again will share poetry between pieces.
Symposium II: 4 p.m. (Stull Recital Hall)
The following topics will be explored:
“Alcimedon: An Olympic Victor from Aegina”
Classics professor Chris Trinacty offers a reading of a poem by the Greek poet Pindar about an Olympic victor from the island of Aegina. By connecting this young man to mythological heroes from the island and stressing his familial honor, the presentation illuminates Greek values and the historical situation of the time (460 BCE).
“Diversity and Inclusion in Oberlin Athletics”
Representatives from numerous Oberlin athletic teams discuss the work Oberlin has done, how they have handled various challenges related to students’ social-justice initiatives, and underscoring the ways in which today’s athletes use their platform to bring attention to important social issues. Featured panelists include women’s basketball coach Stephany Dunmyer, director of track and field and cross country Ray Appenheimer, and admissions counselor and former Oberlin athlete Ana Richardson ’18.
“Reimagined Approaches to Music Theory”
Music theory professor Megan Kaes Long discusses influences related to the implementation of Oberlin's new music theory curriculum and examine how music theorists around the country are responding to the recent critique of music theory's historical bias toward the Western European tradition.
“Cheating and Magic in Ancient Sports”
Classics professor Drew Wilburn traces the origins of today’s sports scandals to the pervasive instances of cheating perpetrated by early athletes. Even before the first Olympiad in 776 BCE, mythical heroes had cheated in sport and gotten away with it. This talk explores foul play in ancient sports in Greece and Rome, focusing on how magic could be used to ensure a win and defeat one’s enemies.
Faculty Recital IV: 7:30 p.m. (Warner Concert Hall)
Performances include flutist Still (Eve Beglarian’s I will not be sad in this world for flute and electronics), baritone Timothy LeFebvre and pianist Takács (Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée), the Verona Quartet with pianist Cuellar (Grażyna Bacewicz’s Piano Quintet No. 1), and an ensemble featuring faculty trombonist Jay Ashby and percussionists Jamey Haddad and Pablo Rieppi, alongside guest percussionist Dylan Moffitt and student musicians from the conservatory’s Performance and Improvisation program (performing works by Edu Lobo and Claudio Roditi). Between musical selections, Schaer will recite poetry.
On Saturday, TIMARA technical director Abby Aresty and students from the Crafting Sound Lab will present the sound installation Gratitude Showers near the east entrance to Bibbins Hall. (Powered by solar energy, the work is best experienced during midday.)
Oberlin’s Allen Memorial Art Museum will join in the fun as well: Curators Alexandra Letvin and Hannah Wirta Kinney have prepared a self-guided tour accessible using the museum’s cell phone app. It features works of art from across the collection related to the festival’s themes: Learn how ancient Greek athletes removed dirt and oils from their bodies after competition with a bronze scraper and explore the continuing resonance of Greek mythology in later European and American paintings. The museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays (closed Mondays).
As the fall 2021 semester begins, plans are in place for Oberlin students and faculty to perform live concerts with audiences—a significant step closer to normal compared to the previous year, when most performances were recorded for virtual audiences and strict social distancing guidelines were enforced.
Likewise, Oberlin sports are back to full competition with spectators welcome, and athletes will be in action on campus throughout the weekend: women's field hockey plays DePauw on Saturday (11 a.m.) and Earlham on Sunday (noon); the volleyball team takes on St. Vincent College Saturday at 3 p.m.; Women's soccer hosts Wittenberg Saturday at 4 p.m., followed by men's soccer vs. Wittenberg at 7. Visit GoYeo.com—the Oberlin College Athletics website—for details on each event.
Through October 18, all Oberlin College and Conservatory students, employees, and guests are required to wear masks indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. Learn more about Oberlin’s COVID-19 policies and precautions on the ObieSafe website.
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