Louise Zeitlin started taking violin lessons when she was 5 years old. She can still see the rows of cookies and sweets that welcomed students and guests after each holiday concert. The experience left a lasting impression. Now, as a teacher of viola and director of the Conservatory’s Community Music School, her students are leaving lasting impressions on her. And of course treats after recitals are a must. Learn more about Zeitlin in this installment of Who Am I?
Full Name: Louise Zeitlin
Job title(s)? Director of the CMS and Associate Professor of Community Engagement at the college.
How many years have you been at Oberlin? Since 2007
What does your job at the Community Music School (CMS) entail? Pretty much everything except for the billing and bookkeeping—those are done by my assistant Jeanne Rosecrans. My duties include all the details of keeping the program running, hiring teachers, placing students with teachers, building and overseeing all programs, writing grants, cultivating individual donors, putting on fundraising events, in-house concerts, outreach concerts and much more! I am lucky though, to have great help from other departments in the conservatory and college.
What exactly is the CMS? This is the 20th anniversary of the CMS. It stands for Oberlin Community Music School, and it is exactly what the name says. We have private lessons and music classes for anyone in the Oberlin community and beyond who are interested in learning music. Our youngest students are toddlers and our oldest is 98! We offer scholarship assistance to those who qualify. A big part of our mission is to serve all students despite financial resources.
What do you enjoy most about your work at CMS? Watching our students perform in recitals and the strength that it takes to do so is, in my mind, akin to being in the Olympics! All the work that it takes to run a school is rewarded when I watch our students perform.
What is one thing you would want people to know about the Community Music School? Our school is for everyone no matter your age, economics or level. All you have to have is an interest in music!
Did your family play a role in your work? My mother was a violinist and a well-known teacher of children in the Boston area. When she passed away in 2014, my father, brothers, family, and friends raised money to establish an endowed fund in her memory. It is called the Aideen N. Zeitlin Memorial Fund and it generates one full scholarship for a CMS student annually. We are continuing to collect funds in the hope of establishing a second scholarship in her name.
What instrument do you play? I am a violist. I love teaching the viola. My students bring tremendous joy to my life! I spent a large part of my earlier career performing.
Favorite movie? Dr. Zhivago. I guess I’m a romantic at heart. I also love the photography of the beautiful, snowy landscape scenes.
Favorite childhood memory? When I started violin lessons at age 5, it was in a big group. We had a holiday concert each year and my memory from those concerts was rows of tables in a school cafeteria covered with cookies, brownies, and cakes. The sugar, the colors, and the shapes were a child’s dream! I am careful now to always celebrate after our recitals.
Best vacation ever? I grew up in Boston and each summer my family would go to the beach on Cape Cod. My husband, children, and I continue this tradition and we all love it!
Any recent achievements you would like to tell us about? The Journal of the American Viola Society recently celebrated “Fifty Extraordinary Leaders in Fifty Years” with an article that featured me as a former secretary of the publication.
Hobbies? Swimming, hiking, biking, bonfires, lying in the sun.
Nickname(s)? My family calls me Lou.
Favorite food? Sugar, I love sugar. It should be good for you!
Favorite quote or personal philosophy? Try to find the good in every person and every situation.
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