College-UNITAR Partnership to Kick Off with Carnegie Hall Performance

President Ambar and Dean Quillen met with Conservatory orchestra and choir members in Finney Chapel during a partial City blackout to inform them that they would be performing before the U.N. in December. (Abe Frato)

On Sept. 29, the College announced its partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Global Foundation for the Performing Arts. These partnerships are currently operating under a memorandum of understanding agreement but will come to represent various initiatives as they develop.

Representatives from the U.N. initially reached out to Dean of the Conservatory and Professor of Musicology William Quillen to explore the possibility of a partnership. According to President Carmen Twillie Ambar, the specifics of the partnership will be worked out by going through each section of the memorandum in phases. 

“What we’ve agreed to do is to take each one of the sections of the MOU and start to work on the details,” Ambar said. “I think each one of the MOU sections will be finalized as new initiatives are developed. So I would expect that the more formal arrangement around something like [the] English as a second language [program] will happen pretty quickly. And every time we develop something new, that’s when they’ll have their tightness.”

The English immersion program will welcome international students to Oberlin’s campus during the summer and may start as early as next year according to Chief of Staff David Hertz. Other elements of the partnership may advance even sooner. 

This December, Conservatory students will perform at Carnegie Hall in front of the U.N. General Assembly. Sudents will perform “Piano Concerto No. 2,” by Sergei Rachmaninoff “Fanfare on Amazing Grace” by Adolphus Hailstork, and “Symphony No. 9” by Ludwig Van Beethoven. 

“We will be working very quickly to get this started because we want to move forward with the partnership as quickly as possible,” Hertz said. “And that’s why, for instance, we’ve already agreed on this concert to take place in New York at Carnegie Hall in December.”

Both the choir and orchestra will perform Beethoven’s ninth symphony. The symphony carries particular significance to the U.N. and Carnegie Hall; according to Quillen, in 1949, Leonard Bernstein led the Boston Symphony’s rendition of Beethoven’s ninth symphony — along with several other pieces — in front of the U.N. in Carnegie Hall, inaugurating a longstanding tradition in which this symphony was often performed before the U.N. when it gathered in New York. 

However, according to President Ambar, this tradition was placed on hold and will be reinstated by the upcoming Conservatory performance.

“I don’t know how long they had discontinued the concert, but they hadn’t done it in a while. And so this is a reinstitution of this tradition,” Ambar said. “And the other powerful thing is that previously when they did these concerts in the past, it had always been professional orchestras. And so what is different about this decision is, and this came out of our discussion around this partnership, we thought wouldn’t it be great if the kickoff of this partnership was the Oberlin Orchestra and Choir performing at the concert?”

Dean Quillen (Abe Frato)

Both Quillen and President Ambar expressed the expansive nature of the possible results from this partnership.

“Really, the goal is a much broader institutional partnership that is not only relegated to specific courses or specific seminars or sorts of things, but really a much, much, much bigger, longer, lasting institutional partnership,” Quillen said. “Literally every time we talk, new horizons open up over the conversation just now… So I think that as we’re thinking about it, it is, yes, very specific discrete courses, potentially, but it’s also much more about this relationship between the two institutions.”

College and Conservatory administrative staff have discussed the potential implementation of study abroad programs, online courses, and programs during the academic year, but many of the specifics will remain unclear until the partnership develops further. 

“I think when we’ve explored possibilities, it’s been a range of discussions such as, ‘What if we created programs that were specifically designed for the U.N. that Oberlin students could participate in?’” Ambar said. “And so I would say that initiatives like that are way down the line and further down the line the next year. But when we’ve talked about it, it’s been about making sure that the relationship is one that is really valuable for current Oberlin students as well as future students.”

See “Orchestra, Choir to Perform at Carnegie Hall this December” for more information about the upcoming Carnegie Hall concerts.