The Oberlin College Choir performs under Jason Harris at NYC's Brick Church. Photo by Michael Lynn

Oberlin in The City, part 3

Two weeks later they’re still feeling the buzz. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour took place January 15-19 with students and faculty 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 share their reflections of the tour.

Katie Skayhan ’15
College Choir

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The reality of a 5:30 a.m. departure and our nin-hour bus ride to New York was rather daunting at first glance. However, the endless country roads and scenery blossomed into the magnificent New York skyline. The gasps and girlish screams that ensued as we entered the city were all too endearing. Everybody was overwhelmed by the tangibility of New York life. The skyscrapers looming ominously, the tang of exhaust and the smell of Halal and other various specialty food carts immediately invigorated our tired, stiff bodies.

After unloading all of our gear, everybody split up. Some went to their rooms to nap or grab a little dinner before getting ready for the CME concert. I was a tad more adventurous and managed to run to the Metropolitan Opera in time to snag some amazing Orchestra level “student tickets” for myself and a couple of friends. Despite the brisk cold, standing outside the Met was breathtaking. You could just taste the anticipation of the weekend on a Friday afternoon.

We were exhausted by the time we made it back to the hotel, but it was totally worth it. An amazing evening of authentic Cuban cuisine, companionship, and a classy trip to the Met (a first for most of us including me) was definitely one for the record books. Also, a shout out to the CME folks who had two incredible sold-out performances. Oberlin was already on its way to making a statement in the city.

Timothy Weiss leads the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble and violinist David Bowlin (Oberlin class of 2000) at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Photo by Jonathan Rodgers.


We retreated to the hotel for a quiet evening as the Choir/Baroque and Orchestra concerts were Saturday night. Saturday was full of entertainment. A brief walk through Central Park, delicious New York bagels, and rehearsal was just my morning! When we made it to the Brick Church, we ran the pieces and settled down for a little lunch before our performance. I never imagined so many alumni to have been in attendance. While applying some last minute touches to makeup and hair, I met some amazing vocal performance graduates from the 1960s. These wonderful ladies told all of us girls how inspirational it was for them to see us out and performing. Many of them were still performing successfully and told us to never give up hope. Witty banter quickly followed in regards to dorm conditions, classes, weather and so much more. We connected immediately. Oberlin is truly a special family. The College Choir and Baroque ensemble blew the audience away. We got amazing feedback after the concert and everybody was excited to head back to the hotel and get to dinner as well as the Orchestra concert. I was spoiled by my friend Julia’s parents who took us to an absolutely fabulous Italian restaurant. I truly felt that I was living the high life in New York City.

Words can’t even describe the orchestra concert’s insanely awesome success. The surreal reactions of the audience as the orchestra swelled within the room, the alternations of melody, and intertwining sectional chemistry suggested high quality professionalism and preparation. I felt blessed to have watched some of my best friends make their Carnegie Hall debuts. The smiles on their faces as the final movement of the Firebird suite soared into the room were unbelievable. Many heads turned around smiling at the overwhelming support of the Oberlin community up in the rafters of the building.

The little reception after the concert brought everyone together and made for quite the merry-making and tender Kodak moments with friends and family. Following the little party, everybody headed home to change and then a night out on the town to savor all the last little bits of New York that were left to explore in the time available. I’ll leave it at that.

We made it home safe and sound after a little delayed start from New York on Sunday. Living what felt like five days in three days was kind of insane, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I spent a weekend with my best friends in one of the world’s greatest cities! All I can say is thank you Oberlin. What an incredible experience I’ll treasure forever.

Alexa Ciciretti ’13
Cello Performance
Contemporary Music Ensemble and Oberlin Orchestra

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since our Carnegie Hall performance! It was one of the most thrilling nights of my life. I would try to express how I felt in words, but that’s the amazing thing about music to me: it can express emotions that words simply cannot. Those moments onstage are something that we will all have in our hearts forever, but is a fleeting moment in time that can never be recaptured. That is what is so special about performing.

As I sit here writing this, I am listening to a recording of our performance in Finney Chapel at Oberlin (a day before we left for New York City). I am astounded at what a high level of musicianship we were able to achieve in less than two weeks of rehearsal.

The CME concerts at the DiMenna Center were also extremely successful. It was one of the latest concerts I ever played—we weren’t done performing until after midnight! I was really glad we were able to play two concerts so more people were able to see us perform. It was inspiring performing on the same concert as ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble). Their level of musicianship is certainly something to aspire to.

It’s back to normal at Oberlin Conservatory, but Oberlin Conservatory has never been “normal” for me. It is my home, a place where I have been fortunate enough to make music with my friends for four years. Carnegie Hall was just icing on the cake.

Anthony McCain ’15
College Choir

Monday, January 28, 2013

These past few weeks have been incredible. Period. Words can hardly express the gratitude I have towards Oberlin, Jolyon F. Stern, Dean Stull, and several others for making events like this tour possible for us students. I am extremely proud to be a part of something so magnificent and I am humbled to have been able to play a small part in it all. I guess this is the part where we give ourselves a pat on the back and acknowledge our success, struggles and everything we’ve learned from this rare experience.

We DID IT!!!!

After the hard work, rehearsals, and the long road trips, the time finally came.  We stepped up to the plate and gave a beautiful performance. This small group of selected students was chosen to step outside Oberlin’s walls into the “real world” and “sing our song,” and we certainly did just that. We represented the exquisite artistry that Oberlin is known for and just that quickly proved something. We proved that it doesn’t matter where you come from, who you are or what hardships conveniently present themselves in front of your path from time to time. What’s important is your reaction to the situations, how hard you work, and how far you are willing to push yourself past your physical and mental limitations to get where you want in life. Something I’ve grown to learn is that in the world we live in, things are seldom handed to you. You have to work hard for what you stand for because this is your life and no one is going to fight your fight for you.

Music is something that we all share a passion for here at Oberlin, and I think that the entire world shares a connection through the universal language of music. The language, style, and type does not matter as much as the community being involved in the music and our societies supporting the music no matter what because I don’t know who, what, or where I’d be without music in my life. Even the oldest civilizations known to man are said to have some form of musical expression, and that’s why it is so important to keep music alive in us, as well as among our loved ones and each other. Music can change the world.  Music is the gateway to endless possibilities and it keeps dreams alive. It is the communication of history, feelings, religion or just pure messages or emotions that sometimes cannot be put into words. We are living and pursuing the dream—the music.


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