Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute Comes as Warm Surprise this Winter

Meghan Farnsworth, Staff Writer

History will be made during the flash-freeze that is Oberlin during Winter Term. Professional musicians, writers and students aspiring to fill the shoes of admired journalists and critics will have a chance to convene in the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. Student writers may celebrate, or derail, the performances offered through their unique observations and impressions. With a special panel of professional music critics present, the students’ work will be judged and critiqued.

This panel will consist of four esteemed music journalists: Alex Ross, critic for The New Yorker and Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book The Rest is Noise; Tim Page, professor of journalism and music at the University of Southern California and past critic for The Washington Post; Anne Midgette, current critic at The Washington Post and former critic at The New York Times; and Heidi Waleson, critic at the Wall Street Journal. Jeremy Denk, OC ’90, creator of the music blog “think denk: the glamorous life and thoughts of a concert pianist,” will also be present alongside the other four. Students participating in the institute, or fellows, will be hand-selected through the Intro to Music Criticism Seminar taught during the fall ’11 semester by local music critics Daniel Hathaway and Mike Telin, OC ’84, of, and Donald Rosenberg, critic at the Plain Dealer.

The fellows will have viable material to pull inspiration from. Four out of the nine concerts in Oberlin’s 2011–2012 Artist Recital Series will occur on consecutive days between Jan. 18–22, the duration of the Rubin Institute. These concerts will feature performances by revered musicians, including the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst, pianist Jeremy Denk, Apollo’s Fire and the International Contemporary Ensemble.

At the start of each concert, one of the critics on the venerable panel will provide a pre-concert talk, including details about the performance and the in’s and out’s of the music journalism world. By elucidating the qualms of writing and speaking about music, each critic will discuss program notes, blogging, vlogging and pre-concert speaking.

After each of the four concerts, students are to write a review that will be workshopped by the critics the following day. Each student’s piece will also be featured publicly for audiences to read on the institute’s website.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, an informal lecture on creation, performance and reception of music in the 21st century will be given by Pulitzer-Prize winning composer David Lang, Jeremy Denk and flautist Claire Chase, OC ’01, founder of ICE. A question-and-answer session will follow.

The institute will culminate on Jan. 22 by awarding $10,000 cash prize to a fellow chosen by Conservatory Dean David H. Stull and Stephen Rubin, the benefactor of the institute. The prize will be disbursed over a two-year period with the intention of furthering the study of music criticism.