Live Stream Webcasts Expand Audience for Conservatory Performances

Anne Buckwalter

Never fear if your greatest study abroad opportunity falls during the same semester as a recital you’d love to see, or if your family cannot travel to see you in an important performance. It is now possible to watch many Oberlin performances from anywhere with an internet connection. Last year, five of the main performance spaces on campus were outfitted with webcast capabilities. Many concerts in Finney Chapel, Kulas Recital Hall, Warner Concert Hall, Clonick Hall and Fairchild Chapel can now be viewed online.

According to Paul Eachus and Ryan Miller, director and assistant directors of Conservatory audio services, cameras other video equipment has been added over the past five years in order to facilitate streaming. Additionally, student engineers who work for Conservatory audio have expanded their skills to include camera operation and video transitions.

Currently the webcast program is used for faculty and guest artist recitalsm as well as chamber music concerts; performances by large student ensembles such as the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Contemporary Music Ensemble and Oberlin Jazz Ensemble are streamed, in addition to other select events.

One stipulation of the webcast service is that the webcasts are only available concurrently with the live performances. According to Eachus and Miller, “hosting and producing ‘on-demand’ recordings of concerts involves more complicated copyright and mechanical licensing issues, as well as additional resources for archive management.” The limit on these webcasts’ availability, however, is a minor drawback to a program that is dramatically expanding the audience of every performance. Eachus and Miller said that the large ensemble concerts typically draw 100–400 viewers. Audiences of notable size are especially common for Musical Union and orchestra performances.

With the webcast program in place at five performance venues (and, upon the completion of Stull Hall, a sixth), many concerts will continue to be streamed from miles or continents away. There is one important source of untapped potential, however, that would likely draw additional viewers: the students of Oberlin. Attendees of individual or small group student performances can expect to see friends of the performers sitting on an aisle, video mechanism in hand. Often these video jobs convey only the basic gist of the performance and may have poor audio, and/or video, quality as well as a significant amount of audience noise. However, Eachus and Miller said there are currently no plans to add student performances to the webcast program.

Access remains the key issue. For now, students have the chance to see some amazing performances via webcast. However, the Conservatory may someday break out of the mainstream with its live streams.

Upcoming live concerts are listed online at