Artist Recital Series Brings Star Power to Conservatory Stage

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Conservatory Artist Recital Series will return with three concerts spread across the 2022–23 academic year. Featuring a diverse set of Oberlin-associated performers who reflect a variety of post-Conservatory music careers, from Baroque bands to multi-instrumental recording artists, the series will provide a snapshot of post-Conservatory musical possibilities. The revived recital will not operate at the same capacity as the most recent series in 2019, which featured a more densely packed schedule.

In September, MacArthur Genius Award Winner and Vocal Performance alumna Rhiannon Giddens will perform alongside singer Francesco Turrisi in a collage-style acoustic performance featuring selections from their Grammy-award winning album They’re Calling Me Home, which delves into the concept of home as both a real and imagined place.

In November, the Oberlin-bred baroque ensemble ACRONYM will reimagine the works of antiquated 17th century composers into a program aptly called “Dreams of the Wounded Musketeer.” The New York-based ensemble gained notoriety for their sensitive presentations of fairytale myths in a present-day context.

The last concert, which is not until April, will feature acclaimed classical pianist Bruce Liu, winner of the XVIII International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland. Liu, a former student of Conservatory Piano Professor Dang Thai Son, will perform in Oberlin’s Finney Chapel, which will be his final concert before his Carnegie Hall Debut.

The series is returning to a mostly positive reception from students, who are itching to attend live concerts from contemporary stars.

 For third-year Conservatory pianist Kyra Lombard, who watched Liu perform at the Chopin competition last year, the chance to see him live provides a welcome example of pianistic virtuosity.

“I cannot wait to see Bruce Liu,” Lombard said. “I appreciated his playing at the Chopin Competition. It’s just incredibly mature and thoughtful and he has this innate sense of musicality.”

College third-year Felix Weber echoed this sentiment and noted the relative significance of Liu as a trail-blazing pianist who represents an earlier time of classical composition.

“It seems like good music, and I’m particularly excited to see Bruce Liu because of his dynamic and sensitive approach. He represents a ground-breaking generation of classical musicians. I’m so excited to experience the series because I’ve never seen it before,” Weber said.

Yet, for third-year College student Barry Zhang who spent time as a Conservatory student during the pre-pandemic era, the return of the Artist Recital Series feels woefully insufficient.

“Three performances across a year of school doesn’t really feel like a series — it feels more like three high-profile performances,” Zhang said. “I’m hoping that in future years it will be able to expand and really feel like a series.”

Zhang explained the unsettling feeling he encountered when he first opened the page featuring the artists who would perform as part of the series.

“I remember initially opening the page and wondering, ‘Wait, is this all there is to offer?’” Zhang said. 

For Conservatory Dean William Quillen, however, the return of the Artist Recital Series represents a much-needed reset. Quillen is looking forward to the return of the series alongside the other high-profile performances Oberlin Conservatory students will participate in, including the Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble’s trip to the Lincoln Center and the Oberlin Musical Union’s trip to Carnegie Hall.

“We are just so glad to have these performers make their way back to Oberlin,” Quillen said.