Arts and Sciences Orchestra Resurrected

Daniel Hautzinger, Staff Writer

From jam sessions that stretch into the early morning to mix tapes that students regularly share with one another to jam bands that spontaneously pop up all over campus, it’s pretty clear that many Oberlin students have some sort of experience with making music. Having a world-class music conservatory alongside to a liberal arts college obviously contributes to the rich and raucous musical vibe of the Oberlin campus, but its not only Conservatory students who are adding to the din: Many College students are also talented and experienced musicians.

Sadly, the musical proclivities of College musicians have been a bit overshadowed by the towering talent and dedication of Conservatory musicians. College musicians have had fewer opportunities than they may have at other small liberal arts colleges to participate in college-organized ensembles. That’s where the Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra steps in to fill a vital role. Until this year, there was no formal full orchestra available to non-Conservatory students. For the many College musicians who continue to progress with their instruments throughout their time at Oberlin, taking private lessons and Conservatory classes, the Arts and Sciences Orchestra provides a place for them to showcase their artistry.

The Arts and Sciences Orchestra evolved out of an ad hoc student-led orchestra with the same name, combined with two now-defunct ensembles for College students and community members, the College-Community Strings and College-Community Winds. In the wake of the discontinuation of those two formal groups and with the encouragement of strong student interest, Professor of Accompanying and Coaching and former College-Community Strings conductor Philip Highfill decided to reform the Arts and Sciences Orchestra. The auditioned ensemble rehearses once a week on Tuesday evenings, and can be taken for credit. It will focus on standard repertoire and will avoid pieces played in the same year by Conservatory ensembles to ensure diversity of programming.

One of the aims of the ensemble is to consist primarily of College students., and the orchestra is currently composed of 50 College students and one Conservatory student (a harpist whose part was needed). This year, the Arts and Sciences Orchestra will present three concerts: two in the fall semester and a longer program in the spring. The orchestra’s first program will feature Associate Professor of Piano Haewon Song as the soloist in Mendelssohn’s G minor Piano Concerto, and the spring concert will include orchestral arrangements of Schubert Lieder with vocal solos by Associate Professor of Singing Tim LeFebvre. There are also hopes for collaboration with the Musical Union. The formation of this ensemble affords College students greater access to the distinguished faculty of the Conservatory and the chance to experience the thrill of performing with world-class musicians.

Music is an essential part of Oberlin’s culture. As such, it is important that there are opportunities for everyone, both Conservatory and College students alike to participate in any type of music that piques their interest. Diverse musical passion has been able to support a steel drum group, a gamelan, numerous choirs, jazz bands, early music and contemporary music ensembles. Surely, the Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra will fare just as well.

The orchestra will make its debut performance next Thursday at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel, with a program featuring Bizet’s Carmen Suite no. 1, Fauré’s Pavane and Sicilienne and Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G minor.