Photo of Philip Highfill
  • Professor of Accompanying and Coaching
  • Director, Oberlin Arts & Sciences Orchestra


  • BA, Yale University
  • MM, University of Illinois
  • Piano studies with Ylda Novik, Theodore Lettvin, Irwin Freundlich, and Donald Currier
  • Vocal accompanying studies with John Wustman


Winner of the Chopin Young Pianists Competition at age 16, Philip Highfill studied piano with Ylda Novik, Theodore Lettvin, Irwin Freundlich, and Donald Currier, accompanying with John Wustman, and conducting with Gustav Meier. He earned a BA from Yale College and MM from the University of Illinois.

His interest in the art song repertoire took him to Vienna as a Fulbright scholar, and he was active in the Austrian capital for a number of years as a concert accompanist, performing throughout Europe and the United States with many renowned singers, including Wolfgang Holzmair, Cesare Siepi, Rita Streich, Placido Domingo, Erie Mills, William Stone, Delores Ziegler, and Mary Ann Hart.

As a coach at the San Francisco Opera, Highfill prepared productions starring Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Kiri te Kanawa, Montserrat Caballé, Teresa Berganza, Simon Estes, James King, and Ingvar Wixell. He has taught at the Tanglewood Music Center, the University of Tennessee, and Vienna’s Hochschule für Musik; and conducted for Summer Opera Theater of Washington and the Panamanian National Concert Association. He has received research grants from the Joyce Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and H. H. Powers Fund.

At Oberlin, Highfill coaches singer-pianist duos, teaches surveys of the German Lied and French mélodie, organizes special projects on topics ranging from the songs of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Wolf to the poetry of Mallarmé, and is music director of the Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra. He has also served as guest conductor of the Oberlin College Choir, Oberlin Choristers, Oberlin Opera Ensemble, Finney Ensemble, and Black River Singers.

Hobbies, Interests

When not making music or teaching, Highfill likes to get outdoors. He has hiked and climbed in the Andes, Himalayas, high Arctic islands, and many wilderness areas in North America. He is married to soprano Rochelle Travis.