The Oberlin College Choir rehearses at Oberlin Conservatory. Photo by Will Roane

Oberlin in The City, Part 2

From the cornfields of Ohio to the East Coast’s bustling musical metropolis. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour took place January 15-19 with students and faculty a in residence in New York City, collaborating with a handful of renowned alumni on four concerts throughout the city. The residency kicked off with the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble performing standards and originals at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on January 15. On January 18, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, headed to the DiMenna Center for Classical Music to give the world premiere of John Zorn’s The Tempest with Joshua Rubin (Oberlin class of ’00) on clarinet. Also on the program were three works by Oberlin alumni: Altar of Two Serpents by Mario Diaz de León (’04); Dirge of Réjà Vu by Tom Lopez (’88); and Christopher Rouse’s (’71) Compline for flute, clarinet, string quartet and harp, featuring flutist Claire Chase (’01), 2012 MacArthur Fellow and founder of International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). The following day brought two concerts: an afternoon program at the Upper East Side’s Brick Church featuring Oberlin Baroque and the Oberlin College Choir under the baton of Jason Harris, followed by the Oberlin Orchestra’s evening concert at Carnegie Hall. The latter event included the New York premiere of another Rouse work, Iscariot, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major with Jeremy Denk (’90) under the direction of Raphael Jiménez.

Below, students offer their thoughts on the eve of the tour.



Katie Skayhan ‘15
College Choir

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Today, the campus is buzzing for our upcoming departure to New York! With an extremely successful Orchestra Preview last night still fresh in my mind, I expect a superlative performance in Carnegie Hall this Saturday night. Not only were the Conservatory students enlightened by this performance, but so were other students and faculty. I’d like to give a shout-out to the track team for showing their support at the event! I think Maestro Raphael Jiménez, pianist Jeremy Denk, and the various members of the orchestra produced inspiring performances that set the bar extraordinarily high for the upcoming weekend.

Many friends have already left the quiet campus for the bustle of the Big Apple. Quite the collection managed to send off the first bus of Oberlin students. Hugs and words of farewell—intermixed with the loading of suitcases and instruments outside of Finney Chapel—made for a sentimental scene. Meanwhile, the rest of us are scrambling to pack and pull together anything that must be attended to in the last few hours. With a nine-hour bus ride ahead of us tomorrow, anticipation and excitement are raging. Granted, many of us will be sleeping most of the way. However I overheard a few students inside Gibson’s deli today carrying on about the perfect road-trip snack and everything else needed for a successful journey. It’s hard to believe that this time tomorrow we will be in Manhattan!

Yesterday also marked the last rehearsal for the Oberlin College Choir. We tied up the loose ends and successfully worked through our pieces in Warner Concert Hall to help acoustically simulate our performance for at Brick Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Dr. Harris, our conductor, shared a sentimental story of his youth, how he found inspiration and his calling to music through a local touring group in California. He explained that we are lucky to know how important and life-changing a performance can be. Even one song can change the path of someone’s future. I feel blessed to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about the success and continuation of inspirational music in everyday life.

At long last, the culmination of all the hard work in rehearsals is about to pay off. The final moments before departure are breathtaking and incredibly exciting. I’m sure I’m not the only one saying, NEW YORK HERE WE COME!!!


Julia Farbstein ‘15
College Choir

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It is 1:08 p.m., which means it is now sixteen hours and 52 minutes until we leave for the Big Apple! It is funny, we have been in rehearsal for nearly two weeks but it didn’t hit me that I was actually leaving tomorrow…and I haven’t started packing! This Winter Term has been so busy; I suppose I haven’t had the time to get excited about this tour until just now!

This month I am doing three Winter Term projects: the New York tour with the College Choir, chorus rehearsals (that start as soon as we get back from New York) for the spring semester opera Die Fledermaus, and a class called “Singing in Czech.” My head has been swirling with romantic, passionate, and patriotic music that I didn’t know existed from all of these fabulous Czech composers. The language itself isn’t so difficult to read but adding the melodic line can be challenging, along with the nuances of the language and the textual stresses!

Yesterday we had our last official choir rehearsal before driving off. It is so incredible to hear all of the little details that are finally coming together, like putting the last stitches into a new dress—pulling the string tight and tying the knot. At the end of the rehearsal Dr. Harris (our conductor) told us the story of how he came to love classical music. He said that he went to a choir concert and it changed his life. He had never heard music like that before and it was the turning point for him where he knew he wanted to go to music school. Then he told us that we had the power to do just that. He believes in us, he believes that we have the capacity to move someone—to show them the love in music, the joy it can foster. He is convinced that we too hold the potential to shape someone’s life.

I left rehearsal that day feeling humbled with the knowledge that Dr. Harris knew exactly how I felt every time I perform, whether that was on a stage, in my parent s’ living room, or in the subway. He somehow knew that for us performing wasn’t about the applause or the flowers, but about doing our own kind of public service.

My brother is an EMT. Recently he decided that he wants to go to nursing school and work on emergency helicopters. When I first heard this news I was almost ashamed at the fact that he was choosing to dedicate his life to saving other lives and I was learning how to sing. But then I realized, in a way, we both save lives everyday…just in a different way.

Sixteen hours and 29 minutes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

We drove away from sleepy Oberlin, Ohio at 6:26am and began our tour. We were informed of two very important things. One: our bus driver drives the orchestra and chorus for Broadway shows including Lion King, Dream Girls and many others. Two: the bathroom on the bus is for “emergencies only…definitely no number two.” With that, our driver clicked his seatbelt and we were off. Everyone was a little rowdy for the first ten minutes but people quickly switched off their overhead lights and curled up during the small window of time we had before the sun rose. Once I’m up, I’m up. So I listened to a Creedence Clearwater album I hadn’t heard in a while.

Now the sky is light blue, and there are little patches of clouds that almost look like they have been tacked up there by a first-grader. We are flying along. All I can see are snow-covered trees and the “open road.”

We must really be in the middle of nowhere: my iPhone doesn’t even know where we are!

New York, here we come!


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