Campus News

The Sounds of Music

April 16, 2014

Marvin Krislov

Spring in Oberlin features the usual wonders of flowers blooming, grass growing, birds singing, and the sun shining more frequently and with waxing conviction. But Oberlin’s springtime awakening is accompanied by something you won’t find or hear at other colleges—the sounds of music—jazz, classical, bluegrass, rock, folk, world, you name it—being practiced, played, and performed all over campus.

Music permeates Oberlin life. And not just at the Conservatory. Time and again, students in the College of Arts & Sciences have told me that Oberlin’s abundance of music—the concerts, the recitals, the master classes, the opportunities for students to perform in formal and informal ensembles, and the jam sessions—was a key factor in their decision to study here.

As the weather warms up and we can open windows and begin spending time outside again, that abundance becomes even more visible and audible. On Thursday, April 17th, the annual Colors of Rhythm performance will take place beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Finney Chapel. It features, dance, music, and spoken word pieces performed by students of color to honor and celebrate their heritage.

At the Conservatory, spring is high season for junior and senior recitals, as well as ensemble performances. Tuesday night, for example, I enjoyed the Oberlin Percussion Group’s concert led by their director, Professor Michael Rosen.

In spring, the Con’s practice rooms, venues, and even some of the stairwells are filled with students and faculty practicing for recitals and performances. Walking through there is like sampling from a vast smorgasbord of genres, composers, and instruments.

In nice weather, the same can be said for our campus. If you walk or bike around town some sunny afternoon, you might hear a student band doing a sound check for their gig at the Sco. The sound of the mighty Oberlin Orchestra rehearsing pours from Finney Chapel’s windows and doors. Over in Bosworth Hall, the Collegium Musicum is rehearsing in Fairchild Chapel, one of the most beautiful, and acoustically perfect spaces on campus.

Next door at First Church, you might hear their choir, in which Oberlin faculty, staff and students and graduates sing, preparing for Sunday services. Elsewhere, student jam sessions are taking place in nooks and crannies all over campus—I’m told the laundry room in South has special acoustical qualities—and in the Arboretum. Wander into the basement of Warner Gymnasium—home to our theater and dance departments—and you might hear Oberlin Steel, our steel band, spreading some Caribbean warmth to speed winter’s retreat.

I don’t know of any other small college that can rival Oberlin’s music scene. Because we live here, it’s easy to take for granted the incredible wealth of musical offerings—whether it’s the Cleveland Orchestra playing Finney every year or your roommate or friend rocking their senior recital. But if you listen closely on a sunny day, it’s easy to remember that music at Oberlin isn’t commonplace, it’s everywhere and it’s great.


The Ecolympics, our annual campus-wide competition to reduce energy and water consumption is going strong and will run until April 25. The competition is part of the Campus Conservation Nationals, a water and electricity reduction competition for colleges and universities throughout North America. I encourage everyone to find ways to reduce their energy consumption during the competition and throughout the year.

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